Slow cooker pot roast made by simmering chuck roast in savory gravy until fork tender. The beef is browned first to create a flavorful crust then creamy potatoes, onion, and carrots cook alongside the meat for a complete dinner.
Pot roast is a classic recipe of protein, vegetables, and sauce that all cooks in one pot. The ingredients gently simmer in a slow cooker, so dinner’s ready when you need it. The preparation is relatively easy, but I recommend browning the beef before slow cooking to maximize flavor. It’s an additional step that’s worthwhile to do if you have the time.
Homemade gravy is created in the same pan as the seared beef for a savory sauce that complements the dish. Robust vegetables like potatoes and carrots cook with the roast because they can stand up to the long cooking time and keep their shape.
Which roast is best for a slow cooker?
The best cut of meat to use for the slow cooker is a chuck roast, specifically the chuck eye roll. This large boneless primal cut is located at the shoulder area and is known for its strong beefy flavors. Due to it’s naturally higher amounts of connective tissue and marbeling, low and slow moist-heat cooking methods like braising and stewing work best.
Brown the meat before placing it in the Crock-Pot
Searing the meat in a hot pan with a high smoke point oil creates a flavorful crust and beautiful deep brown color due to the Maillard reaction. Make sure to dry the surface of the meat with paper towels to remove any excess moisture which could cause steaming instead of browning. You can add raw beef directly to the vessel although, in my opinion, the end product is not as flavorful.
How do you make a pot roast in a Crock-Pot?
- Cut the potatoes and carrots into large-sized pieces, so they stay intact as it cooks for hours.
- Make a nest for the meat, using the cut pieces of carrots, potato, and thyme.
- Season well and sear the chuck roast first for more flavor, then transfer to the Crock-Pot.
- Make a pan gravy from the drippings after searing the beef. Add this to the slow cooker to use as a braising liquid.
- Avoid continually removing the lid to keep a moist and heated environment in the slow cooker.
- Check for doneness of the meat and vegetables towards the end of cooking.
- Cook until the meat is well done and reaches an internal temperature of about 210ºF (99ºC).
Making a pan gravy
There is a ton a flavor left in the pan after searing the beef, don’t let it go to waste! To incorporate the meat juices, fond, and richness from the fat, I use the renderings to make a pan gravy that’s added to the slow cooker.
Sauteing the onions in the drippings also caramelizes them for a sweeter taste. The garlic and tomato paste are lightly fried to add depth to the sauce. Balsamic vinegar is reduced to soften the tartness and enhance the flavors of the gravy. To thicken the gravy, a roux is made using flour and butter then beef stock is added to create a pourable consistency.
Braise the pot roast in the slow cooker
The slow cooker works like a dutch oven but uses electrical elements to heat the cooking vessel to a stabilized simmering point around 209ºF (98ºC) for the Crock-Pot brand. The only difference between the high and low setting is how quickly the food inside the pot reaches the simmer point.
The gravy gets added to the slow cooker, but it will not cover the sides of roast at first. Over time the beef braises and the juices from the meat accumulate and the vegetables soften. The liquid will increase, going about halfway up the sides of the beef and helping to cook and tenderize the food in the enclosed environment.
Cut the meat across the grain
When the meat is done cooking, cut the large roast into slices. The muscle fibers run down the meat in longer bundles. Look for the grainline, and cut the beef perpendicular across the grain. This helps to break up the protein and make it easier to chew.
I like to serve the pot roast with the simmered vegetables, a sprinkling of fresh parsley, and sauce. If you’d like a thicker sauce, transfer it to a pan and reduce until the desired consistency is reached.
More slow cooker recipes
How long does it take to cook?
The key to making the pot roast fork-tender is cooking until well done. The connective tissue and fat that runs inside the roast need to reach 210ºF (99ºC), for an extended period of time, about 1 hour, to fully melt and transform. The cooking time is about 4 to 5 hours on the high setting or 7 to 8 hours on low.
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Slow Cooker Pot Roast
- 12 ounces carrots, peeled and cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
- 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
- 5 sprigs thyme
- 3 pounds chuck roast, or chuck roll, excess fat trimmed
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 ½ cups yellow onions, 1-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 ½ cups unsalted beef stock
- 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
- Add potatoes, carrots, and thyme to the slow cooker.
- Dry surface of the chuck roast with a paper towel.
- Season with 1 ½ teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper, evenly seasoning all sides.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil, once hot, add the beef to the pan. Sear until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to the slow cooker and reserve the pan and drippings.
- Heat the skillet to medium and add onions, saute until lightly golden and tender, 2 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds.
- Add balsamic vinegar and saute until reduced and coats the onions, about 1 minute.
- Add tomato paste, stir and cook for 1 minute. Transfer onion mixture to the slow cooker.
- Heat skillet over medium-high heat, add butter and flour, whisk to combine, cook for 30 seconds.
- Gradually add beef stock, vigorously whisking to create a smooth and lightly thickened sauce, about 1 to 2 minutes. The liquid should be near a boil to thicken, increase the heat if needed once all of the stock is added.
- Add soy sauce and ½ teaspoon salt to the sauce, taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Add sauce to the slow cooker.
- Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on "High" setting for 4 to 5 hours, or "Low" Setting for 7 to 8 hours. The vegetables should pierce easily with a fork and the meat should be tender when sliced.
- Serve with vegetables, sauce, and garnish with parsley.
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