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Chuck roast on a stovetop and tender... is this possible?

I made Marcella's Pot Roast of Beef with Garlic, Anchovies, Vinegar and Pancetta from Marcella Says last night. It calls for a 2.5 lb. chuck roast to be cooked on the stovetop, covered, for about 2 hours and 15 minutes, or until tender. Well, mine never got tender! I've only ever cooked chuck in the oven, so I'm just wondering if this method would ever make for a tender roast? Has anyone had experience with this? Also, any ideas on how to salvage the meat? It was not what I would consider edible last night, though my husband would probably chew on it! :-)

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  1. Katie Nell, it is possible to cook larger cuts of meat on the stovetop until tender. However, I think the cooking time was rather short for a 2 1/2 pound solid hunk of meat. I would have cooked it for about four hours. How much total liquid was there, by the way? Were you cooking it at a simmer or at a boil? Did you turn it at all during the cooking process (I always turn pot roasts during cooking, so that each end of the roast has been immersed in the cooking liquid at some point).

    What I'd do is cut the meat into stew-sized chunks and put it back on the stove in its original liquids for about 1 1/2 hours. If the meat is not totally submerged, I'd add some stock to cover.

    1. Maybe too short a cooking time, maybe too low a flame? Recipe times for things like this can never be precise, you say it "never" got tender. How long did you keep cooking it? You can certainly make pot roast on the stovetop, though it needs a little more watching than in a very low oven.

      1. I always make my pot roast on the stove. The key is low and slow. You want it to simmer, not boil (boiling will make it tough). I usually cook mine 3-3.5 hours and it's always perfect.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Janet from Richmond

          Is there any particular reason you always do it on the stove or have you just always done it that way?

          1. re: Katie Nell

            That's the way my Mama taught me....hehehe. Seriously, I feel like I have more control over it on the stove top and can adjust seasonings, temp, timing of the veggies, etc.

            1. re: Janet from Richmond

              Do you cut yours up or do you just leave the whole roast as one?

              1. re: Sweets83

                I leave it whole. I made this last weekend!

            2. re: Katie Nell

              I've heard that in Italy, kitchens didn't usually have ovens until fairly recently (bread baking was supposed to have been done in communal ovens), so most traditional Italian recipes are done on the stovetop. So this method makes sense to me for one of Marcella's recipes.

              1. re: Nettie

                Absolutely true. People would take their lasagne or other baked dishes to the communal ovens after the bread baking. Even today, stovetop cooking is much more common in Italy.

          2. I probably ended up cooking it for 3 hours, maybe slightly more. I kept it at a low simmer, per the recipe, and I flipped probably every 30 min., maybe more. I just felt like it was drying out at the point I finally stopped (by the way, we ended up going to Taco Bell- ick!) There wasn't much liquid at all to start with- besides the roast, it's just 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 4 flat anchovies packed in oil, 2 garlic cloves, 4 T. olive oil, 2 T. water, 2 T. dijon mustard, and 1/4" thick pancetta cut into 6- 8 pieces, and that's it. Once the meat started cooking and releasing the juices, it probably at least tripled the liquid in the pan. Maybe it was boiling at some point and I didn't notice? I really religiously flipped it though!

            7 Replies
            1. re: Katie Nell

              I flip mine once an hour. And I brown the meat in olive oil, remove it and saute a chopped onion and 2 cloves of garlic. I add about 1 cup of red wine and let it reduce down some and then add 6-8 ounces of coffee, 1 small can of tomato sauce, paprika, Lea & Perrins, Tabasco, Herbs de Provence and salt and pepper. I bring that to a boil, put the meat in, reduce the heat and simmer (checking frequently to make sure the heat is right). After 2 hours or so, I throw in a bag of baby carrots. 30 minutes later I throw in 8 oz. of fresh mushrooms. After 20-30 minutes, I take the roast out and let it rest and mix 2 T cornstarch with 2T cold water and add to the gravy and let it thicken and then pour the gravy and veggies over the roast (which I slice while the gravy is thickening) and serve over mashed potatoes or wide egg noodles.

              1. re: Katie Nell

                Katie Nell, I think there was probably an insufficient amount of liquid to begin with. When braising, the liquid should come at least one-half to two-thirds up the thickness of the meat.

                By the way, chuck is a cut of meat that never comes out fork tender no matter how it's cooked; in my experience, it's always chewy. I'm told that my uncle used to call my bubby's chuck roasts "bully beef."

                Oh, and with reference to my previous post about cutting the meat into stew-sized chunks, you're probably better off slicing the meat fairly thin and immersing it into the stewing liquid, adding some more sweated aromatics and stock/broth/wine to cover. This would allow for more sauce-to-meat exposure and would increase the chances of getting a tender product.

                1. re: FlavoursGal

                  The stracoto recipe I use from Giada is always *very* tender with chuck, but it is in the oven too. I will try your suggestion tonight and see how it goes... I already have the spinach gratin and garlic mashed potatoes done from last night, so I need to do something with it! Thanks for the help everyone... I'll update tomorrow.

                  1. re: FlavoursGal

                    Chuck can certainly become fork tender, and depending upon cooking time, can even disintegrate- and that's as tender as it gets. We use it a lot as cholent meat, when we have cholent. The biggest problem with chuck is not the connective tissue but rather the fat content. If it were possible, I'd separate the meat and intact vegetables from the gravy, freeze and skim the gravy, then heat up the gravy again and add back the meat and intact vegies. A bit of fat adds a rich taste, but too much is just greasy.

                    1. re: ganeden

                      Interesting...I find chuck to be one of the leaner cuts of beef. I love to make cholent using flanken, but talk about fat!!!

                  2. re: Katie Nell

                    Sounds like little liquid to start off with. I don't know what size pan she recommended, but it's better if it's on the smaller side so that the liquid comes up higher on the meat. When I made her milk-braised pork, I had to add more liquid.

                    I find it interesting that so much juice was released from your meat. I made a Viet-style beef stew this weekend using cubed chuck roast that had been seared initially and not much juice leached out.

                    Agree w/ others that chuck roast can be tender on stovetop but that you need sufficient time and moisture. I like both oven and stovetop braising, but for some reason I find that stovetop tends to go a little faster if I'm pressed for time.

                    1. re: Katie Nell

                      As for the small amount of liquid, again, that's typically Italian. I had a cooking instructor relate a similar story when she demonstrated a recipe for a braised veal shank (stinco di vitello): her French training told her to cover it with liquid, but she tried to "fix" her Italian recipes by using more liquid, and they didn't work. I'll try to remember to look up the recipe she demonstrated and see how much liquid she used. I'm wondering if the temperature was too high, so the liquid boiling made the meat tough, and it boiled away too quickly.

                    2. It's "pot roast" after all, so it had better become tender with long braising. However, the cooking time was probably just way too short. Also, a heavy cast-iron or cast aluminum pot and good-fitting lid helps a great deal.

                      2 Replies
                        1. re: Katie Nell

                          I actually have done it both ways (but not this recipe), and when I do it stovetop, I use the Le Creuset. However, I cook it longer, and on low. My mom cooks it in her very old iron pot on stovetop for years, she's never done it in the oven. She tells me that sometimes it's not as tender & does it the same way all the time, so we thought maybe it has to do with the quality of the meat since she never changes her recipe/method. So, maybe try longer?

                      1. I cook chuck roast in the crock pot. I find that it becomes "falling apart tender" but its still chewy. The invidual strands fall apart but individually and collectively they are still chewy.

                        1. Chuck has more connective tissue than fat (except for the big "vein" of solid fat they usually don't trim out).

                          Fliiping every half our may actually have been the problem - with that frequent opening of the lid - especially over a very low flame - you may just have not gotten enough steady heat to cook it in the expected time. And if it was drying out, a little water added, as needed, might have helped to. Did you toss it? If not, you can try cooking it more - meat always goes through a very "tough" stage if you cook it past the initial rare/medium rare point - but then softens up again later on. (Not to be too gross, but it's a little like rigor mortis - first it's soft and flabby, then it hardens up, then it relaxes again later.)

                          1. Frequent opening (especially if more than a few seconds at a time) probably contributed to excessive evaporatation of water, too. If we don't see steam, we tend to think it's not happening, but water evaporates at a surprisingly faste rate even when it's just below a visible "simmer."

                            1. My mom did it on the stove and I follow suit. It gets very tender but you might not have had enough liquid or cooked it long enough. I think it is easier to finish it in the oven after browning--it does seem more forgiving because you don't have to worry about the amount of liquid as often or cooking it too fast.

                              1. Katie, I did this recipe recently and had similar results. It never got truly tender and I eventually gave up, fearing that it would dry out. However, it was tender enough and was really good the next day. I thought the sauce was really delicious.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: prunefeet

                                  Oh good, I'm glad someone else has made it too! I was kind of upset about it last night, so I didn't really disect it too much, (I tend to overreact when things don't go my way in the kitchen!) so I'm going to reinspect when I get home and possibly cook it a little bit more like FlavoursGal suggested.

                                  1. re: Katie Nell

                                    You know, I find that sometimes it just never gets to that really tender stage for me...don't know why. I am fully capable of freaking out if things do not go as planned in the kitchen too...I have been known to throw things, but I never throw anything more dangerous than a pot holder. In any case, I liked the flavors of this enough that I would do it again.

                                2. I do chuck roast on one of the burners of the two burner stove in our unit's kitchen at work. Takes ten minutes prep when I get in at 630 and is done for lunch at noon. Very tender. Yours probably needed more time.

                                  1. With long slow cooking the collagen or connective tissue between meat fibers melts. This lends juiciness to the meat and broth, and allows the fibers to separate. But it does not actually tenderize the fibers. The best thing to do with long tough fibers is to cut the meat across the grain.

                                    I recently bought some 'stew meat', already cut in chunks. It was pretty lean (round?), and cooked up (with chili style flavorings) a bit dry and tough. Cutting the pieces smaller helped some. I ended up shredding it by hand (while cold), In that form it has worked well as a soup base, wrapped in tortillas, and in migas (meat, poblano strips, eggs, and tortillas strips).


                                    1. Update... Even though I was extremely grumpy last night and wanted to just get a cheeseburger, I continued on with the chuck roast! I skimmed off all the fat that had risen to the top, sliced it up, put it back in the sauce, added water to cover, and simmered it for another hour. It ended up being fairly tender and the ironic part... I ended up liking it better than either of my sides! I still don't know if I'd make it that way again. I think if I were going to attempt it again that I would try to translate the recipe to cook in the oven. Oh well... at least I was able to save it! Thanks for the help everyone!

                                      1. Season with salt and pepper only. Sear the meat in a pan on high flame (both sides), then cover, cook on low heat for about two hours...onions help tenderize but add them later or they will dissolve. Add potatoes halfway through the cooking process.