There are two ways to cook a roast of beef: the slow, dry way with no lid on the pot, called oven roasting; or moist, with a top and slow, called pot roasting or braising.
The Canadian Beef Information Centre (BIC) has found that 65 percent of consumers are not clear on the difference between an oven roast and a pot roast. It says oven roasters go topless (do not use a lid), go dry (do not use liquid in the pan) and go low (roasting at 275 F/140 C) to best achieve restaurant-quality roasting.
Interestingly, 47 percent of consumers in BIC studies covered their oven roasts with a lid and 55 percent used liquid in the pan. Adding liquid and covering with a lid is a pot roast method and is more suitable for less tender cuts of meat.
I have found that consumers are not sure what cuts of meat should be cooked using which method. I also believe that many cook a roast of beef the same way from habit or family tradition, no matter what the cut.
BIC has developed a rating system that
will help you select oven roasts based on
- Five star cuts are the most tender – tenderloin, rib, rib eye, strip loin, top sirloin and prime rib.
- Three star cuts are a little less tender – sirloin tip, tri-tip and rump.
- Two star cuts are the least tender but can still be oven roasted – outside round, inside round and eye of round.
Many grocery store meat departments now include labels on their meat that note how best to cook that cut.
Economize and tenderize
Pot roasting tenderizes the meat, which means you can select a more economical and less tender cut of meat such as a blade roast, cross rib, top blade, bottom blade boneless, shoulder or brisket.
A tender roast is produced by the combination of slow cooking with a liquid, which often contains an acid such as tomatoes, vinegar or wine, and using a tight lid to keep the moisture around the meat.
The texture is different than that of an oven roast and the meat is uniformly cooked – medium or medium-rare is not an option.
Oven-roasting best practices
A combination of culinary and consumer research has helped the BIC develop oven-roasting best practices that will produce the most juicy, tender oven roasts possible using four easy steps of season, sear, reduce and stand.
I shared this information with a friend and she tried the following steps. Her husband said it was the best roast she had ever cooked. What better recommendation can you get?
- Season the roast. Pat it dry and rub all over with seasonings such as salt and pepper. You can also use grainy mustard, Worcestershire sauce, chopped garlic, fresh rosemary and thyme, seasoning salt or dry oregano. Place, fat side up, on a rack in a shallow pan. No water is necessary. Insert oven-safe meat thermometer into the centre of the roast, avoiding fat or bone.
- Oven sear by placing an uncovered roast in a preheated 450 F (230 C) oven for 10 minutes. If you are not around to turn it down, skip this step and roast at a constant 275 F (140 C). This is especially good for the less tender two star cuts, and smaller roasts of less than two pounds (one kilogram). Allow approximately 15 percent longer cooking time.
- Reduce heat to 275 F (140 C). Cook to the desired doneness, removing from oven when the roast is 145 F (63 C) for medium-rare and 160 F (71C) for medium to well done.
- Cover with foil and let stand for at least 15 minutes. Roasts can stand 20 to 30 minutes before carving into thin slices.
Cook times are guidelines only and vary with ovens, roast type and shape. Roasts may be done up to 30 minutes sooner or later than estimated times. Use a meat thermometer to judge doneness.
An oven roast is usually served with potatoes and gravy. This can be a thin pan juice or a thickened gravy.
Pan jus or au jus
Heat roast drippings in the roasting pan over medium-high heat, adding two cups (500 mL) of broth. Stir up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Thicken by cooking until broth reduces. Strain, if desired, and skim off fat; return to pan, heat and season to taste. Add a splash of heavy cream or balsamic or wine vinegar, if desired.
- To thicken the pan jus with cornstarch, gradually stir together equal amounts of cornstarch and cold water. Note: one tablespoon (15 mL) cornstarch thickens one cup (250 mL) of liquid. Whisk into pan jus and bring to a boil, cooking just until thickened.
- To thicken with flour, mix together two tbsp. (25 mL) flour and two tbsp. (25 mL) soft butter, making a smooth mixture.
Note: two tbsp. (25 mL) flour thickens one cup (250 mL) liquid.
Gradually stir the flour and butter mixture into the simmering pan jus, bring to a boil, whisking until thickened.
- An alternate way to make flour-thickened gravy is to remove the roast from the pan and drain off all but two tbsp. (25 mL) of the fat from the pan. To this add two tbsp. (25 mL) flour. Mix until smooth and then cook, stirring constantly for one minute.
Gradually add one cup (250 mL) beef broth and one cup (250 mL) of water.
Cook, stirring up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Whisk until the gravy boils, thickens and reduces, about five minutes.
Just brown the meat and flavourings, add liquid, cover and simmer with vegetables. The meat and vegetables make a one-pot meal that can be cooked in the oven or simmered all day in a slow cooker.
Start with a three to four pound (1.5 to two kg) pot roast such as blade, cross rib, top blade, bottom blade boneless, shoulder or brisket. Use a heavy, deep pot with a tight-fitting lid, such as a Dutch oven, pasta pot or heavy
Pat roast dry and season all over with salt and pepper. Heat two tbsp. (25 mL) of vegetable oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown meat, searing on all sides by turning with tongs until browned all over, about eight to 10 minutes. Searing intensifies the meat flavour, enriching the liquid for a rich beefy flavour. Remove roast to a plate; set aside.
Cook the flavourings
Add about one cup (250 mL) of mixed diced vegetables such as carrot, celery, onion and garlic to the pot. Cook for two to three minutes over medium heat, until lightly browned, adding more oil if necessary. If vegetables start scorching, add a splash of water to the pot.
Deglaze the pot
Stir in a quarter cup (60 mL) broth or red wine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot, known as deglazing. Stir in one to two cups (250-500 mL) cooking liquid such as broth, canned tomatoes, soup or broth-red wine blend.
Return roast to the pot. Liquid should be less than one-third up the side of the roast. Adding too much liquid will result in a sauce that is diluted and weak flavoured.
Cover and cook
Cover tightly with lid and slow cook on top of the stove over low heat or in 325 F (160 C) oven. Cook for two hours, checking occasionally to make sure it is still simmering. Top up liquid if pot cooks dry. A tight-fitting lid locks the moist heat in best. If the lid is too loose, make a tight seal between the lid and pot with a layer of foil or parchment paper. Oven cooking is best to maintain a constant simmer.
To use a slow cooker, place the browned meat, flavouring, vegetables and deglazing liquid in the cooker. Reduce cooking liquid by a third to a half and cook according to slow cooker instructions.
Turn roast over after cooking two hours. Scatter three to four cups (750 mL to one L) of vegetable chunks such as mushrooms, green beans, potatoes, parsnips, winter squash or carrots around the roast. Add more liquid if needed and return cover.
Cook until fork-tender; finish the sauce.
Cook an additional 45 minutes to one hour until vegetables and meat are fork-tender. Meat is fork-tender when it gives way when lifting the roast with a fork.
Remove roast and vegetables to platter; tent with foil to keep warm. Strain sauce, if desired, and skim off surface fat. Return sauce to pot.
Taste; if flavour is weak, simmer vigorously to reduce.
Finish sauce by stirring in one to two tbsp. (15-25 mL) chopped fresh parsley, heavy cream, balsamic vinegar or red wine. Season to taste. Thicken with cornstarch, if desired. To thicken, gradually stir together equal amounts of cornstarch and cold water. One tbsp. (15 mL) cornstarch thickens one cup (250 mL) liquid. Whisk into sauce and bring to boil, cooking until just thickened.
Cook now, eat later
Pot roasts taste better when made the
day ahead. While making Sunday’s supper, oven braise a beef pot roast and you’ll have Monday’s meal ready, too.
Refrigerate cooked pot roast overnight in its braising sauce. The next day, skim fat from the sauce and thinly slice roast crosswise; place meat in ovenproof casserole.
Heat sauce and pour over meat. Cover and heat in 350 (180 C) oven for about 25 minutes.
Source: Beef Information Centre, www.beefinfo.org.
Betty Ann Deobald is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and one of four columnists comprising Team Resources. Send correspondence in care of this newspaper, Box 2500, Saskatoon, Sask., S7K 2C4 or contact them at email@example.com.