Mistakes everyone makes with pot roast

Middle class America grew up on pot roast. If you're one of those children for whom pot roast was on the regular, rotating menu of dishes that mom (or dad) made for the family, then maybe you cynically assumed pot roast was easy to make. You might have thought to yourself, "There's dad (or mom), throwing a hunk of meat in the slow cooker with some potatoes and carrots because they don't really feel like cooking tonight." That doesn't mean that you didn't love your parent's pot roast. Somehow, this large wad of meat, typically beef, was uniformly juicy, tender, and practically melted in your mouth.

Now that you're all grown up and have tried to relive fond childhood memories by making this meal yourself, you probably learned the hard way that it takes more than a functioning slow cooker to make a tender, flavorful pot roast. There are a few common mistakes that you're probably making, so we're here to help you recover some small part of the magic of your childhood.

Don't choose a pricey cut of beef

First, choose the right cut of beef. You need a part of the cow that got some exercise — something tough, lean, and laced with a lot of tendons or ligaments. This connective tissue is not good for a fancy steak, but when cooked properly, pot-roast style, that sinewy stuff breaks down to add tenderness and richness to your roast (via The Kitchn). Recommended cuts are the chuck (shoulder), brisket (chest), and round (hind legs).

Before putting your roast in a slow cooker or a sealed pot in the oven, brown all sides of the meat (via The Kitchn). This extra step will boost the flavor of your pot roast because it creates what cooks like to call "browned bits" that stick to the bottom of the pan. Deglaze those bits with liquid, but don't use boring water or beef broth. Add another flavor dimension with red wine, with maybe some tomato paste. Keep the liquid in the pot during the slow cook.

Cooking time is important

Timing is important when adding the vegetables to your pot roast — those potatoes and carrots, or maybe onions or mushrooms (via The Spruce Eats). It's okay to add them at the beginning if you're using a slow cooker. But if you're putting a pot or a dutch oven inside your oven, add the vegetables one hour before the meat is done.

The final pot roast mistake to avoid is either undercooking or overcooking the meat. The Spruce Eats recommends giving your meat the fork test. If the meat is still firm to the fork's touch, it's not done yet and will be tough and chewy. The meat will just twist off the roast if it's ready. But don't cook it too long, or it will end up too dry. Check your roast to make sure liquid is still in the pot. Depending on how big your roast is, check for doneness after two or three hours.