Chef Brannon Soileau of The Culinary Institute of America explains that it’s easy to make a moist, delicious pot roast from an inexpensive cut like a shoulder blade or bottom round — you just need to braise the meat. (Braising means to cook a tough cut of meat in a liquid for a long period of time.) To begin, he starts with a trimmed and tied shoulder blade and, after seasoning it with salt and pepper, sears the meat in a minimal amount of fat in a very hot pan. The idea here is to develop a beautiful brown crust and also create a fond, which is the browned material at the bottom of the pan that will form the flavor base for the gravy. Once all sides are browned, he removes the roast and examines the fat at the bottom of the pan. If it’s burnt, discard and start with new fat. If it’s golden, you’re fine to continue to the next step, which is adding roughly chopped celery, carrots, and onions.
Chef Soileau caramelizes the vegetables, stirring frequently, then adds tomato paste and cooks it until it turns darker in color. He adds red wine to deglaze the pan and simmers the mixture until it becomes nice and thick. Here’s where you can add garlic if you like it — chef Soileau adds three whole cloves. He returns the roast to the pan and adds stock 1/2 to 3/4 of the way up the roast. (He uses veal, but beef stock will work well, too.) After adding a bay leaf to season the meat, he covers the pan with a tight-fitting lid and places it in a 350-375F oven for 3 hours. Every 15 minutes, he turns the meat to ensure that all surfaces are making contact with the liquid. The goal is a fork-tender roast. Once you achieve that, remove the roast from the liquid, cut off the strings and let the meat rest while making the gravy.
To make the gravy, skim off any grease with a ladle, then place the pan over medium heat and add a cornstarch slurry (cornstarch mixed with cold water). The ratio is generally 1 oz to 1 quart of liquid. The gravy will thicken quickly. Once it’s at the consistency you like, serve it with your roast.
For 60 years, The Culinary Institute of America has been setting the standard for excellence in professional culinary education. In this video series, experienced chefs and educators show you how to tackle essential cooking techniques.