Saturday, April 19, 2014

Balsamic Beef Pot Roast ~ In a Crock-pot?

I was skeptical when a friend insisted this was the best way to make a beef pot roast. As you may know, I have always made the classic Yankee pot roast in the traditional manner, which begins with browning the beef in a hot Dutch oven where it remains during slow roasting in the oven. But after my sister indicated that she often made beef roast and even beef stew without browning and sealing the meat first, I was curious if this method would actually work and result in something as good as the traditional braise.

Julian's Balsamic Beef Pot Roast
To my pleasant surprise, the results were quite good. The flavors are enhanced by the balsamic based sauce, but they are subtle and not overpowering. I suspect the dark sauce also takes care of the browning I was concerned about. You will note in the photos that the meat appears to be much more browned on the top and sides, just as if it had been prepared by searing it in a hot pan first.

I've made this several times now and it works equally well in a crock-pot (slow cooker) or a Dutch Oven/roasting pan with lid. Neither require any pre-browning or searing. Everything goes in raw for this recipe. You can decide which you prefer based on 1) the size of your meal and available device and 2) the amount of time you have for cooking.

Crockpot vs. Black Roasting Pan
Slow cookers vary somewhat in temperature, but generally the "low" setting is about 200F degrees and the "high" setting is about 300F degrees.  A U.S. standard oven can be set more precisely for temperature.

I tend to make my version of this with potatoes, carrots and optionally mushrooms and cabbage. When I'm using the cabbage I must use my large roasting pan, as not even my Dutch Oven is big enough. If I'm making this for shredded beef, for which this recipe works well, the crock-pot is my go-to favorite, as it is if I'm just making dinner for two. I know some people prefer to put everything in the for cooking at one time, and you can do this. But as you'll see below, I prefer the vegetables to be added half way through cooking to retain flavor and shape.

American beef pot roast cut is my favorite for this recipe, although certainly an English pot roast cut would work equally well.  I've also used other cuts of beef that are typically tough and require long slow cooking.

Ingredients
3-5 pound boneless beef roast

1 cup beef broth
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey or brown sugar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped

Optional
1 pound baby carrots
2 pounds red potatoes, cut in half
12 ounces white button mushrooms
1 small head cabbage

Instructions

Place the roast into your slow cooker, Dutch Oven or roasting pan.

Stir together the remaining ingredients to make the sauce. Wash and prepare the optional vegetables if using. Pour the sauce over the beef and roast as noted below. Cover with lid. Set the vegetables aside for addition later as noted below.

Option 1: Crock-pot on Low Setting (8-10 hours)
On a low setting, the slow cooker will retain most all of the moisture as compared to other techniques. If you have all day, this is a good option. Half way through cooking, add the optional vegetables (after about 4 hours).  Check the vegetables and meat for tenderness at 8 hours. When tender remove meat and vegetables from the slow cooker. The remaining sauce will likely be high in fat. Remove the fat using a gravy separator or fat mop. Thicken to use as gravy or save for another use.

Option 2: Crock-pot on High Setting (4-5 hours)
On the high setting, the slow cooker will evaporate some liquid during cooking, although not as much as the typical oven/roasting pan. After about two hours, add the optional vegetables if using. If not, make sure to check the roast about half way through and again in the last hour, to see if additional liquid is necessary. At least one inch of liquid should always remain in the bottom of the crock-pot. Add water or beef broth as necessary. Check the vegetables and meat for tenderness at 4 hours. When tender remove meat and vegetables from the slow cooker. The remaining sauce will likely be high in fat. Remove the fat using a gravy separator or fat mop. Thicken to use as gravy or save for another use.

Option 3: Oven: Set to 350F degrees (3-4 hours)
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. After about two hours, add the optional vegetables if using. Check the roast hourly, to see if additional liquid is necessary. At least one inch of liquid should always remain in the bottom of Dutch Oven or roasting pan. Add water or beef broth as necessary. Check the vegetables and meat for tenderness at 3 hours. When tender remove meat and vegetables from the pan. The remaining sauce will likely be high in fat. Remove the fat using a gravy separator or fat mop. Thicken to use as gravy or save for another use.

Julian's Balsamic Pot Roast with Cabbage, Potatoes and Carrots


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