Incredible Pot Roast from Cook’s Illustrated

When I lived in Texas as a child, my grandmother Rosamond used to make pot roast with carrots and potatoes most every Sunday. I moved away when I was 9, and I remember coming back to visit and telling my grandmother how much I missed her after-church meal. I’m sure she smiled and said thanks, but what sticks out in my mind even more is what my dad told me after she left the room. He said,  sotto voce, “Do you really miss that? You know, it never was really very good.”

Well, even if it wasn’t, I still missed it. And pot roast will always remind me of my grandmother. So when I was paging through a million magazines in the car too and fro Boston, I ripped this recipe out of Cook’s Illustrated. Now, I haven’t used many of their recipes recently — they’re just too darn fussy. But this one out because it looked pretty straightforward and very delicious. I was right on both counts. What would grandmom have said?

One cool thing about this pot roast — and something I wouldn’t expect as a recommendation from Cook’s Illustrated — is that you don’t have to sear it. After rigorous testing — this is Cook’s Illustrated, after all — they found that it really didn’t make much difference. So why bother? Why bother indeed.

So you start with butter.


Carrots and celery:

Beef broth, tomato paste and herbs.

This recipe also suggests you cut your roast in half and salt it on all sides. This brings out the beefy flavor and makes it quicker to cook, too. Tie it up into a “loaf shape.”

Cook your mirepoix down:

For a while. Then add the broth:

Then nestle the meat into the pot:

And into the oven it goes. You cook it for about three hours, then add your carrots, potatoes and parsnips. You cook for another hour or so, and pull those out:

Oh my god that’s good:

You put all the leftover juice and vegetables into the blender, and add more stock if you need it. Blend, then put back on the stove and add vinegar:

Now you’ve got yourself one hell of a winter supper.

Classic Pot Roast with Root Vegetables

Serves 6 to 8. Published November 1, 2010. From Cook’s Illustrated.

Our recommended beef broth is Rachael Ray Stock-in-a-Box Beef Flavored Stock. Chilling the whole cooked pot roast overnight improves its flavor and makes it moister and easier to slice; for instructions, see “Make-Ahead Pot Roast.”

1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) boneless beef chuck-eye roast , pulled into two pieces at natural seam and trimmed of large knobs of fat
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions , halved and sliced thin (about 2 cups)
1 large carrot , chopped medium (about 1 cup)
1 celery rib , chopped medium (about 3/4 cup)
2 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
1 cup beef broth , plus 1 to 2 cups for sauce (see note)
1/2 cup dry red wine , plus 1/4 cup for sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 sprig plus 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
Ground black pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 pound carrots , peeled and cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
1 pound parsnips , peeled and cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes , peeled and halved lengthwise, each half quartered

1. Sprinkle pieces of meat with 1 tablespoon salt (1½ teaspoons if using table salt), place on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet, and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.

2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Heat butter in heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add carrot and celery; continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes longer. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in 1 cup broth, ½ cup wine, tomato paste, bay leaf, and thyme sprig; bring to simmer.

3. Pat beef dry with paper towels and season generously with pepper. Using 3 pieces of kitchen twine, tie each piece of meat into loaf shape for even cooking.

4. Nestle meat on top of vegetables. Cover pot tightly with large piece of foil and cover with lid; transfer pot to oven. Cook beef for three hours flipping halfway through cooking, and add carrots, parsnips, and potatoes. Continue cooking until beef is fully tender and sharp knife easily slips in and out of meat, about 30 minutes to 1 hour. Once pot roast and vegetables are fully cooked, transfer large pieces of carrot, parsnip, and potato to serving platter using slotted spoon, cover tightly with foil, and proceed with recipe as directed.

5. Transfer roasts to cutting board and tent loosely with foil. Strain liquid through mesh strainer into 4-cup liquid measuring cup. Discard bay leaf and thyme sprig. Transfer vegetables to blender jar. Allow liquid to settle 5 minutes, then skim any fat off surface. Add beef broth as necessary to bring liquid amount to 3 cups. Place liquid in blender with vegetables and blend until smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer sauce to medium saucepan and bring to simmer over medium heat.

6. While sauce heats, remove twine from roast and slice against grain into ½-inch-thick slices. Transfer meat to large serving platter. Stir chopped thyme, remaining ¼ cup wine, and vinegar into sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon half of sauce over meat; pass remaining sauce separately.


  1. Mmmmmm Grandmom’s pot roast! One of my favorite memories too. It WAS good! What would she have said? Maybe, “This is delicious, but my recipe is much easier. (She had to get it in the oven before Sunday School and church)!

  2. Ha ha Janie! I bet you’re right!

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  4. My favorite pnanini to make is a good deli roast beef with mustrooms, roasted red peppers, swiss cheese and spicy mustard on a nutty whole wheat bread. Yum!! But yours looked great too. I will have to try subbing blue cheese!