The term “pot roast” is, strictly speaking, somewhat misleading. Actually, it is not a roast, but rather a piece of meat, poultry or game braised in a pot on top of the stove or in the oven.
The pot is usually covered, but sometimes part of the cooking is done without a cover. A pot roast always includes some liquid. This may be liquid from added vegetables and seasonings or broth, wine, cream, water or tomato juice. A few pot roasts call for large amounts of liquid — these are really boiled dishes.
As a pot roast should be cooked slowly for some time, this is an excellent way to use the less tender cuts of meat. Old fowl and game birds are pot roasted to bring out the flavor and, at the same time, to tenderize them.
Be cautious in pot roasting American meats. Most cuts, even the less tender, are marbled with fat and not as tough as European meats. Although they need time, they do not call for the many hours of cooking given in older recipes or recipes from Europe.
The type of meat you’re cooking and its temperature also affect timing. Prime grade meat will not take as long to cook as choice or good grade. Meat that has been standing at room temperature does not require as much cooking as a cut that has just been taken from the refrigerator.
The type of pot you use will also influence the cooking time. Heavy cast aluminum takes longer than iron, for example, yet enameled iron or pottery does not cook food as fast as very heavy tinned copper.
Hence it is impossible to give definite cooking times for the recipes that follow. You must test the meat and use your own judgment.
Basic beef pot roast recipe
Any meat pot roast will gain flavor if you add a calf’s foot, pig’s foot or veal knuckle to the pan. Pork skin cut into small rounds and added to the pot makes a richer sauce. Chicken pot roasts are more flavorful if made with a veal knuckle.
Many of these dishes are improved if made a day in advance. Skim off the excess fat before reheating. Allowing the pot roast to stand overnight gives the meat and seasonings a chance to mellow and blend.
How to serve leftover pot roast
Braised meats make good cold cuts for lunch or supper or for sandwiches. They are also tasty made into a salad with cold potatoes, hard-cooked eggs, tomatoes, onions and greens.
Diced meat, combined with potatoes and onions, makes a delicious hash. Add some of the sauce or gravy to moisten the mixture and cook it down in a heavy skillet until it is well blended, hot and crisply browned.
Ground cold pot roast combined with seasonings and blended with mayonnaise or sour cream is a flavorful sandwich filler.
Braised chicken or game birds are excellent served cold; or the meat may be diced and mixed with mayonnaise and seasonings as a salad.