Pot roast is a daunting food because there's so much of it, but what if you could make it new and interesting for days on end? Good news: you can! Let's review how to cook it so that the roast retains as much moisture as possible, how to store it to stay fresh for days, and how to create a bevy of meals out of this single, inexpensive cut of meat.
First of all, what is a roast? It can be one of multiple cuts of beef, including chuck, rump, brisket, and tri-tip. What all cuts of roast have in common is that they are tougher, more muscular parts of the cow that benefit from long and slow cooking. If cooked like a steak they'd be very tough, but when braised or baked, they are quite tender. The slow and long cooking helps a roast's tough sinew melt.
The best way to cook a pot roast is to involve some liquid and aromatics for a technique known as braising. You can do this in the oven in a baking dish, on the stove in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot, in a slow cooker, or in a pressure cooker. Choose liquids such as chicken or beef stock, tomato puree, and/or soy sauce, and aromatics like thyme, rosemary, garlic, onions, ginger, and/or shallots. Season and sear the roast first in a pot on the stove to caramelize the outside if desired; that will result in a better looking and better tasting end product.
To Store your Roast: Let your roast cool completely before slicing or chopping—that ensures you don't lose any of its juices. Store it in airtight containers or tightly sealed freezer bags. If storing it sliced or chopped, baste with a small amount of the braising liquid to help it stay moist. Remember to always cut against the grain for the most tenderpieces. Store excess cooking liquid in an airtight container or jar for later use.
Now that you've got a pot roast, what can you do to make it exciting day after day? Below are some suggestions that are sure to be crowd-pleasers:
Put Arby's to Shame Sandwiches: Toast some buns, thinly slice your roast, and heat up the basting juices you saved from cooking for an au-jus experience that is heavy on protein while remaining free of the additives found in fast food.
Stew on This: When you make beef stew, the bulk of the time needed isn't in cooking the vegetables, but in cooking the meat. Potatoes, carrots, and celery are ready to go in about a half hour, tops, and can be cooked in broth into which you throw the chucks or roast when they're done. Add condiments on top like minced onions or scallions, and you have a slow cooked taste that's weeknight friendly.
Chili Cook-Off: Canned beans, jarred or canned tomatoes, and some fresh peppers make fast work of chili when you add your cooked beef to it. Get chili on the table in under a half hour with this hack!
Pot Pie Muffins: Cornbread is one of the fastest from-scratch batters to make, but of course you could go for pie dough as well. Cook carrots, peas, and diced root vegetables on the stove with leftover cooking liquid, then add chopped roast. Let cool and scoop both cornbread batter and the roast mixture into muffin tins and bake.
Easy Empanadas: A simple pastry filled with meat, this one can be crafted in just a few minutes if you use pre-made pizza dough. Mix minced roast with chile powder, then scoop a small amount into a circle of dough and shape into crescent moons for a Spanish-inspired treat that works as an appetizer or main course.
Fajitas: Heat sliced roast with sautéed peppers and onions, then serve alongside tortillas, sour cream, and guacamole. It's Tex-Mex on the quick, with fresh whole food ingredients!
Shepherd's Pie: Get your meat and potatoes in one dish—with a bonus if you served mashed potatoes with the roast on a previous night and have some left! Pair chopped roast with minced cooked vegetables and some cooking liquid, and add a mashed potato topping.
Patty Melts: A more filling sandwich than straight roast beef, the addition of cheese and mushrooms makes this dish feel quite hardy. Just pile sauteed mushrooms and onions, cheddar or colby cheese, and sliced roast beef onto buttered bread and grill.
Eggs & Hash: Sunny side up or over hard, eggs can be cooked however your family likes them best in this dish. A hash of chopped roast with sauteed potatoes and onions makes a great landing ground for any dripping yolks!
Beef Minestrone: One of the beauties of minestrone soup is that there are no rules; it's a tomato-based soup into which you can add any pasta, beans, meat, and veggies that you love. Swap out ground meat or meatballs for chopped roast, and be as inventive as you'd like with the other ingredients. You can even cheat and start with a pre-made tomato soup base.