Pot Roast

pot and fire
The pot and the fire

Pioneer Method!

A Pot Roast is about the easiest thing in the world to make and there about as many pot roast recipes as there are cooks who make them.   Since part of the theme of this site is doing things the old fashioned way, I thought I’d begin with cooking a pot roast over an open fire. It’s still pretty easy.  First of all, you need to build a nice fire.  You don’t want it huge, just one that will stay hot for a couple of hours.  Use wood!  For heaven’s sake, if you’re going to cook on an open fire, don’t use charcoal either.  That’s for wimps.  The next thing you will need is a cast iron pot and a rig to hold it above the fire.  You can usually pick one of those up at Cabellas or any outdoor supply store.  The first thing you do is is heat up the pot.  It wouldn’t hurt to have a long wooden spoon.  Plastic spoons will melt and metal spoons will get too hot to handle.   To check if your pot is heated, throw a few drops of water in it.  If it sizzles away instantly, then it’s hot.  Put about three table spoons of oil in the pot just to cover the bottom and keep the roast from sticking.    Season the roast on both sides however you want.  It will take a total of one teaspoon each of salt and pepper to ensure good flavor.

Open Fire Grate
Open Fire Grate

Then drop the seasoned roast in the heated pot and seer it on both sides so that their a lovely deep brown color.  Add a quart of water (4 cups) and stir it to get all the drippings from the meat mixed in well.  Once the meat starts to boil, you will want to keep it on a slow boil, so you will have to keep moving it to the cooler parts of the fire or sometimes you can mess with the fire and settle it down a little.  This is not like a crock pot you can just leave alone for a several hours.  You have to keep your eye on it to make sure the water doesn’t boil away. If it does, just add more.  You should not need to add seasoning again.  Remember, it’s only the WATER boiling away.   Let it simmer for about 90 minutes then add the onions, carrots, and potatoes.  Cover again and let it simmer another 30 minutes to an hour.   That’s all there is to it.

This would be my grate of choice if you want to use a separate pan to make gravy.  Start with a cast iron pan, make a slurry and use stock from the pot to make gravy.

My Mother-in-Law’s Method

She basically used the Pioneer Method except she just did it on top of the stove.  Basically, it’s just a boiled roast, but it is always moist.  One of the advantages of this method is if a person likes beef and noodles, there is enough liquid in which to boil the noodles too, omitting the need for gravy.

My Own Mother’s Method

She would seer her roast in a frying pan and then transfer it into a roasting pan and pop it in the oven for a few hours, adding only a cup or so of water.  The one thing most pot roast recipes have in common is that you add the vegetables, usually onions, carrots and potatoes, about an hour before serving.  I sometimes add parsnips and celery just to give it a little different flavor.  If you add them at the start, they get too mushy to eat.  So this recipe is baked in the oven for about two or three hours depending on the size of the roast.  When it’s all cooked, remove the meat and vegetables.  Then I strain the drippings and fat into a Pyrex measuring cup (Plastic will melt).  Then use the strained liquid to make the Roux.  The advantage to this method is that it makes a more full flavored gravy because it’s not as watered down.  A Roux is done with the fat from the meat.

The Crock Pot Method

Usually, when I don’t feel much like cooking and I need a hearty meal later in the day, I use the crock pot.  Because this is so simple.  Plop your seasoned roast into the crock pot, open up a can of Campbells French Onion soup and pour it over the roast.  Add a can of water. Or instead, you can use the dehydrated Liptons Onion Soup.  It makes more liquid.  Set the crock pot temperature and in about four hours your roast is done.   I like this recipe for the leaner cuts, like a rump roast because it doesn’t dry out.  This method is good because it makes a good au jus.  If you have some one who really really likes au jus, you can add one of those envelopes of au just mix and the recommended amount of water.  Then you will have loads of it for things like French Dip sandwiches.

Pressure Cooker 

This is a lot like the Crock Pot method, except it’s much quicker; about half the time.  Another nice thing about the pressure cooker is that you can cook several roasts at a time.  You still have to seer the roast, because this is how you get the dark color for your gravies and sauces. So add your onion soup or whatever liquid you want.  Put the lid on and seal it.  Bring the pressure up to 15 psi and keep it there for about 40 minutes.  Release the pressure, remove the lid, add the vegetables and bring the pressure back up to 15 psi for another 20 minutes.  I do this when I want to can some beef.  I can add all those lovely vegetable that give beef roast it’s savory flavor so when I put it in jars, the meat keeps that good taste.  Or, you can cook up several roasts in a fraction of the time and just use them for leftovers later.  But that’s another post for my next blog: POT ROAST LEFTOVERS


I’m all about being creative with food.  There are a number of things a person can do to change the flavor or a roast.  Some ingredients you might want to consider adding in these recipes are bacon, green peppers, lots of black pepper, bay leaf, garlic, cabbage or even sauerkraut.


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