How To Braise A Pot Roast

11/04/2011 02:37 pm ET | Updated Aug 31, 2012
  • Kitchen Daily

Chef Brannon Soileau of The Culinary Institute of America explains that it's easy to make a moist, delicious pot roast from an inexpensive cut like a shoulder blade or bottom round -- you just need to braise the meat. (Braising means to cook a tough cut of meat in a liquid for a long period of time.) To begin, he starts with a trimmed and tied shoulder blade and, after seasoning it with salt and pepper, sears the meat in a minimal amount of fat in a very hot pan. The idea here is to develop a beautiful brown crust and also create a fond, which is the browned material at the bottom of the pan that will form the flavor base for the gravy. Once all sides are browned, he removes the roast and examines the fat at the bottom of the pan. If it's burnt, discard and start with new fat. If it's golden, you're fine to continue to the next step, which is adding roughly chopped celery, carrots, and onions.

Chef Soileau caramelizes the vegetables, stirring frequently, then adds tomato paste and cooks it until it turns darker in color. He adds red wine to deglaze the pan and simmers the mixture until it becomes nice and thick. Here's where you can add garlic if you like it -- chef Soileau adds three whole cloves. He returns the roast to the pan and adds stock 1/2 to 3/4 of the way up the roast. (He uses veal, but beef stock will work well, too.) After adding a bay leaf to season the meat, he covers the pan with a tight-fitting lid and places it in a 350-375F oven for 3 hours. Every 15 minutes, he turns the meat to ensure that all surfaces are making contact with the liquid. The goal is a fork-tender roast. Once you achieve that, remove the roast from the liquid, cut off the strings and let the meat rest while making the gravy.

To make the gravy, skim off any grease with a ladle, then place the pan over medium heat and add a cornstarch slurry (cornstarch mixed with cold water). The ratio is generally 1 oz to 1 quart of liquid. The gravy will thicken quickly. Once it's at the consistency you like, serve it with your roast.

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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Chef Brannon Soileau from the Culinary Institute of America, and I'm going to show you this kitchen basic: how to braise a pot roast.

In this braise, we're braising a shoulder blade that we have trimmed and tied. Bottom round would be another great selection for a pot roast. Braised items are tough cuts of meat that become very soft and tender. We're going to start off with a high heat, because we want to create a crust all over the outside of the meat; we want to brown the meat very well. We want to season the roast. I'm going to start very simply with salt and pepper. When you season, season high! Don't season from right on top of your product; get your hand up high so that you evenly distribute the salt and pepper.

I have a high heat on my pot, a minimal amount of fat, and we begin to sear. That's exactly what you want to hear: you want to hear that meat starting to sizzle. Searing is going to leave some drippings and color on the bottom of the pot. That's known as a 'fond' - we're creating a fond. We create fond for two reasons: good flavor in the pot, for the sauce, and also texture on the meat.

Once all sides have been nice and browned, remove the meat. Assess the fat in the pan. If you burned it up, if your heat was too high and you didn't control the heat, and you burned your fat, discard the fat and continue to the next step I'm about to show you. Also look at the fond we've created on the bottom of the pot. That's exactly what we wanted to create for flavor and color.

Aromatics! I'm using celery, carrot, and onion in this case. I'm going to go with about a cup of aromatics into the established fond and oil that's in the pan. If I didn't have enough fat in there, I could add a little more - but I happen to have just the amount I want. I coat the vegetables with fat lightly , make it shine a little bit, and I continue down the road with caramelizing. To caramelize, we are pulling certain sugars out of vegetables by using minimal heat and high fat. You can see they're getting caramelly, we're getting good color on the vegetables. Now we're going to do what's known as a pince. We're going to caramelize with tomato paste. I've got about six ounces of tomato paste that I"ll throw into my caramelized vegetables, and we're gong to cook it lightly. I want to caramelize it a little bit, until it gets brick in color. This happens pretty quickly. You don't want to burn the caramelization of the aromatics, and you don't want to burn the pincing of the tomato product.

Now I've pinced, it's brick-like in color, and now we're going to deglaze. We've created fond on the bottom, and now we're going to remove it with red wine, about a cup of red wine. To deglaze is to remove a fond that's been created from high heat - searing or caramelization - by a liquid: red wine, in this case. My red wine goes in, and I continue reducing the red wine until it gets kind of a sludgy consistency. Notice I'm scraping the sides of the pot off, removing the fond we've created for good flavor and good color. We're getting nice and thick now. After this time, you can choose to put garlic in, if you like. I like to put the whole clove in; I like the character and the rusticity of the garlic, when you get a whole clove. I put my garlic in; that was three cloves of garlic. Now you see that sludgy consistency.

We move on! We return the meat, and now you want a good quality stock. Brown veal stock is what I'm using. You could use beef stock - some type of a stock. Any braise you make, any braise you cook, halfway to three quarters up with liquid on the product that's being braised. We're going to bring it back up to a simmer, and you can begin seasoning the liquid. Bay leaf may be one type of spice or aromatic you want to add. Once I hit a simmer, put on a tight fitting lid and we're going to pop it into a 350 or 375 degree oven for close to three hours, in that ballpark. Every fifteen to twenty minutes I want you to go inside and you're going to turn the meat, rotate it so it cooks evenly. In the oven we go.

It's been just under three hours now, braising time. I've been rotating the meat every fifteen, twenty minutes. How do I know it's about time to come out? I need a braise to be fork-tender. When it is fork-tender you can pull the fork out, and the meat releases. Now we're talking about done! Our braise is done, and I have to cut the strings off. We tied it so that it cooked evenly, and we have to cut those strings. Our meat is braised, we're ready to roll - and now we have to finish the gravy.

You may have some grease that comes around the outside. You want to skim that grease off. Use the full circumference of the ladle, and just push anywhere you see a little bit of grease pooled up. Then you want to put the heat back on the gravy. It's too thin right now to serve as gravy. You want to thicken it up a little bit. You're going to take some water and rehydrate your cornstarch. You want to incorporate the cold liquid until it looks like heavy whipping cream on the back of a spoon. One ounce of pure starch, in weight, thickens one quart of liquid. That's how it's supposed to look; if it looks like the thickness of heavy whipping cream, you're in the right ballpark. Now I'm going to incorporate it slowly into the base of my braising liquid, bring it back to a simmer, and that'll thicken pretty much immediately. Kill the heat, ring the dinner bell.

That smells wonderful. Bring on the mashed potatoes!