One of the most popular slow cooker dishes for many is the humble pot roast – the long cooking process turns even the toughest cuts of meat into a tender, mouth-watering meal waiting for you at the end of a long day.
It seems like such a simple meal to prepare, but there are a few key tips you can do to make it a real success.
In this article, you will find my seven top tips to make the perfect pot roast in your crockpot and turn it into an amazing meal your family will love.
Discover why those cheap, tough cuts of meat are the absolute best for slow cooking and what to do with the leftover sauce at the end (hint: don’t throw it away!).
1. Brown The Roast First For Color And Flavor
My first top tip is to always brown the roast before putting it in the slow cooker for a beautiful look and taste.
Browning the roast first gives it a gorgeous caramelized color thanks to something called the Maillard reaction and boosts those meaty flavors. Plus, it creates a rich base for your sauce or gravy and is simple to do.
To brown the roast, let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes and season well as this will help it form that lovely crust we’re looking for.
Meanwhile, heat a splash of oil in a large skillet over high heat and once it’s hot, sear the roast on all sides until it has a deep, golden-brown crust.
As soon as it’s ready, take it off the heat and place it straight into the slow cooker pot before moving on with the rest of the recipe.
2. Cook On Low For Tender, Moist Meat
Worried about overcooking your roast in the slow cooker? Just cook it on low and it will be fine no matter how long your day is.
Using the low heat setting over a longer amount of time (rather than using high for a shorter period) allows the meat to become tender and juicy without overcooking.
High heat, on the other hand, can result in the roast meat ending up a bit tough and dry if you leave it too long, but not tender enough if cooked for a shorter time.
So, avoid using the high setting for pot roasts and instead opt for low and slow to enjoy a fork-tender meal.
3. Add Vegetables Later To Avoid Mushy Veg
To avoid softer vegetables turning into mush, add them later in the cooking process.
Root veggies like potatoes, carrots, and onions can go in with the meat at the start as they often take longer to soften. But even these can be added later if you find they get too soft.
More delicate vegetables like green beans or peas should be added in the last hour or two of cooking. This way, your more tender veggies will be perfectly cooked without becoming a mushy mess.
If you’ve not got any fresh veg in the store cupboard and have to use frozen instead, note that this will add more water to the sauce so allow for that. Mix them in later to prevent the vegetables from overcooking, and account for the temperature dropping slightly.
4. Use Tough, Cheap Cuts For Tender Meat
Another top tip is that surprisingly, the cheaper, tougher cuts work best for a slow-cooked pot roast rather than leaner, more expensive types of meat.
Why? Well, it’s because they have more fat and collagen fibers that melt and unwind to become amazingly tender and flavorful after a long cooking time.
Some of my favorite top cuts of beef for your slow-cooked pot roast are:
- Chuck Roast: Coming from the shoulder area, this cut has a nice amount of marbling, which makes it tender and flavorful when slow-cooked.
- Round Roast: From the rear leg of the cow, this cut is leaner than chuck roast but still tenderizes well when cooked slowly at low temperatures.
- Brisket: This cut is from the breast or lower chest of the cow and is known for its rich, beefy flavor. Brisket needs a long cook time to become tender, making it perfect for roasting in a crockpot.
5. Don’t Add Too Much Water To Cover The Meat
Adding too much water to your pot results in a very watery sauce and also dilutes the flavors, which is a common mistake if you’re new to slow cooking.
Instead, add just enough liquid to come about halfway up the sides of the roast. You can use beef broth, wine, water, etc.
The slow cooker’s lid will trap any moisture produced during heating, creating steam that helps cook the meat and keeps it moist without needing to add excess liquid.
In fact, some crockpot recipes I’ve come across only call for a few tablespoons of stock or sauce – you can even slow cook without liquid if your ingredients will release water.
So going easy on the water is definitely the better option when it comes to slow cooking pot roasts.
6. Thicken The Sauce To Make A Gravy
Another great tip for you to try is instead of tipping all those lovely leftover juices down the drain – turn the sauce into gravy.
Simply transfer the cooked roast and veggies to a serving dish and cover to keep them warm.
Then strain the leftover cooking liquid and pour it into a saucepan, bringing it to a simmer over high heat.
To thicken the sauce, the usual method is to use a slurry made by whisking together equal parts of cornstarch and cold water in a small bowl. Take the slurry and slowly whisk it into the simmering liquid. Continue cooking until the sauce reaches your desired consistency.
If you prefer, you can also use a roux made from equal parts butter and flour for a lovely rich gravy.
Once the sauce is thickened, season it with salt and pepper to taste, and serve it alongside your tender pot roast and vegetables.
7. How Long For A Slower Cooker Roast
When working out the timing for your slow cooker pot roast, the main thing you need to think about is the weight of your cut of meat. Here are some general guidelines for cooking times of beef cuts such as chuck, brisket, or round:
- For a 1 lb roast: Cook on low for approximately 6-7 hours
- For a 2 lb roast: Cook on low for approximately 7-8 hours
- For a 3 or 4 lb roast: Cook on low for approximately 8-10 hours
Keep in mind that these times may vary depending on your specific slow cooker model and the cut of meat you’re roasting.
Usually, the meat will be falling apart, melt-in-the-mouth tender so it’s easy to tell it’s cooked.
But if you’re unsure, just check the internal temperature of the roast with a meat thermometer before serving to ensure it has reached a safe minimum temperature:
- Beef, lamb, and pork roasts should be cooked to at least 145°F (63°C)
- Poultry, including chicken and turkey, should be cooked to a minimum of 165°F (74°C)
That’s it, those are my top 7 tips for cooking the perfect pot roast in your slow cooker. By following these useful tips, you’ll be able to create a flavorful, tender pot roast in your crockpot that’s sure to impress your friends and family.
Remember to brown the roast first, cook on low, add vegetables later, and don’t be afraid to use those cheap, tough cuts of meat for the best results.
So break out your slow cooker, grab your ingredients, and prepare to make a pot roast so tender and flavorful that it’ll have everyone asking for seconds.
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