Basic Beef Pot Roast

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves

    6 to 8

Appears in

Cooking One on One

Cooking One on One

By John Ash

Published 2004

  • About

The ingredients list calls for thickly sliced carrots, celery, and onions; when I’m teaching this dish and homey ones like it, I tell students to take the vegetables and “just whack them up”—the rougher the better.


  • 3 pounds beef tri-tip or boneless chuck roast
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups thickly sliced onions
  • cups thick celery slices
  • cups thick carrot slices
  • ¼ cup slivered garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 3 cups hearty red wine
  • 4 cups homemade beef or chicken stock or your favorite canned broth
  • 3 cups canned diced tomatoes with their juice
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 3 tablespoons chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as basil, parsley, and chives
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water or wine (optional)


Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Trim all visible fat from the beef and season it with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or casserole, and over high heat, brown the meat well on all sides. Remove the meat from the pot and set it aside. Place the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic in the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables just begin to color and the onions are translucent.

Add the pepper flakes, wine, stock, tomatoes, bay leaves, fennel, and herbs and bring it all to a simmer. Return the meat to the pot, cover it, and place it in the oven for 2 to 2 ½ hours, or until the meat is very tender and almost falling apart. (How can you tell how tender it is? Poke at it with a fork.)

Remove the meat from the pot and set it on a cutting board. Strain the liquid from the vegetables. (I suggest setting a colander in a big bowl or pot and scooping the vegetables into it first. Then you can probably lift the cooking pot and safely pour the liquid through the colander.) Let the liquid sit for a few minutes while the fat rises to the surface. Using a shallow spoon, skim off and discard as much of the fat as you can. Return the liquid to the original pot and boil it over high heat until it is reduced by approximately a third (just use your eyes) to concentrate the flavors. If you like a thicker, more gravy-like sauce, you can thicken the liquid by stirring in the cornstarch mixture. Taste the sauce, and season with salt and pepper if you think it needs it.

Best Cuts for Pot-Roasting and Stewing

You can substitute all kinds of meats other than those called for in a recipe. The approach is basically the same if you are using pork shoulder or butt in place of the beef chuck or lamb shoulder. This chart lists the cuts that I think are best for pot-roasting, but be sure to ask your butcher too. Butchers, like hardware store owners, can be a little intimidating to the insecure shopper, but a relationship with one is well worth cultivating.
Beef Veal Lamb Pork
Chuck Chuck Shanks Loin
7-bone pot roast Chuck roast* Shoulder* Pork loin*
Chuck roast Blade roast Breast Blade end pork loin
Blade roast Brisket or breast Boneless leg of lamb roast
Chuck-eye roast Boneless breast Short leg Sirloin roast
Cross-rib roast* Sirloin Lamb neck‡ Shoulder
Brisket Sirloin roast* Shoulder*
Whole brisket Top round Boston butter
Brisket first cut Other Leg (fresh ham)
Brisket front cut Rump roast Whole or half leg*
Sirloin† Shoulder roast Shanks
Tri-tip Shanks
Sirloin roast
Short ribs
Flank steak
Bottom round
*Available bone-in or boneless.
†Can be used, but today’s beef is leaner so cuts from the chuck are preferred.
‡Very flavorful, but not much meat compared to bone.

Slice the meat and return it and the braising vegetables to the pot. At this point, you can refrigerate or freeze the pot roast. As it chills, more fat will rise to the surface and congeal, making it easier to remove. Warm it through on the stovetop and serve: meat, vegetables, sauce, and all.