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My braised/pot roasted beef/pork roasts always come out dry, hard

Hi there!

Been browsing Chowhound posts for the last year but this is my first time joining and posting! Excited to be part of this cool community. ; ) I only started cooking at home full-time for the last year or so. So, a lot of the intricacies of cooking techniques are new to me.

Sorry... this is a bit long... I'm new to all this!

I need help with braising/pot roasting... badly! (Is there a difference between the terms, BTW? It seems that oven roast/pot roast is used interchangeably as well. All so confusing for a newbie!!) I've already done a search on Chowhound for tips to help me but felt that I really need some personalized advice... hope you all don't mind.

I've attempted either a beef or pork roast almost once a week for the last couple of months and they never turn out right. I can manage to get portions of each roast to come out well, but not the entire piece of meat.

Right now, I have a 2.5 lb chunk of pork loin sitting in the fridge. This is a recipe I've tried 3 times now with beef chuck roasts: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Pakistan.... I looove the flavour of it so thought I'd try it with my pork loin.

This is the process I usually go through, cooking it in a pot: season with salt/pepper; brown on all sides; pour in liquid of choice, covering up to half of meat; cover and bring to a boil; turn heat down to a rolling simmer; let simmer for 2-3 hours... during this time I will open the lid to rotate the meat to different sides several times. Then, I serve it right away.

I'm suspecting these are the reasons for my failures:
- the cheap, thin-bottomed pot I'm using
- the heat is too high... but I have no idea how much of a simmer it's supposed to have?
- not cooking long enough... but I'm also afraid of overcooking
- shouldn't be lifting the lid to rotate the meat

ANY advice would be much appreciated by this newbie!

Thanks!

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  1. Pot roast is a braised dish.
    For Braising meats you need lots of connective tissue, a good amount of marbling,(pork loin does not fit this profile) and usually a low and slow cooking in a moist environment.
    If possible always sear your meats and deglaze the pan (you should have a good quality heavy dutch oven or the like). This adds depth and color to your sauce.
    No "rolling" simmer. just bring to a simmer and put in a 300-325 oven covered. Time has a lot to do with the cut of meat and the size of the cut. Most take from 2 hours up to 6hours
    Basting helps glaze the meat and reduce the sauce as well as giving you a chance to check for tenderness.
    When looking for recipes start with a trusted source. Not Betty- Joes favorite that you find posted on some random web site or recipe posting board.
    Braising is pretty easy and should yield great results when done properly. Good luck

    1. the cut of meat matters too. pork tenderloin is relatively lean and not your best cut to braise. that would do much better on a grill or roasting in hot oven.

      braises are for tougher cuts, like shoulder and shank. no need to get the liquid to boiling. just get it up to a gentle simmer and let it bubble away. with these kinds of meats it's almost impossible to overcook them. they should be falling apart tender and that may take several hours.

      3 Replies
      1. re: hotoynoodle

        Thanks chefj and hotoynoodle. I feel more educated already! Argh... I've been going to a local butcher shop for the last few weeks just so I could get this kind of advice on different cuts but the guys there who know this stuff are always too busy cutting up the hunks of meat to give me any advice... the workers who actually take my order don't know anything... hence selling me a piece of pork loin for my pot roast. Sheesh.

        chefj... thanks for giving me a totally justifiable reason for buying a new, good quality pan. Hopefully I can find one before the next pot roast!

        hotoynoodle: sooo good to know I can't overcook. But, is there any kind of general guideline for how long, at what temp, depending on how many pounds? It just hurts my head to try to figure out how to cook the hunks of meat I buy, if I always have to consider the type of meat (beef/pork), the cut, the weight, etc.

        1. re: LavenderPeony

          if i put the pot in the oven it's at about 300 degrees. the last time i bought pork butt, it was about 3 pounds or so, i think, and it took at least 4-5 hours to cook. buy a decent sized hunk of something. this stuff gets better as it sits, like soup, and will serve for several meals.

          think of the parts of the animal that work the hardest, like the shoulder and legs, and consider those for braising. they are also much cheaper cuts and packed with flavor. big bang for buck here with very little labor on your end. the heat does the magic.

          this may help you:

          http://www.gatewaygourmet.com/beef_cu...

          1. re: LavenderPeony

            I read through this whole thread and everything I was thinking got said ... except ...
            If you're spending your money in their shop, they have time to talk to you. OK, maybe you're hitting the shop right when they are the most busy. Then ask when would be the best time to come in to talk about preparing THEIR product well. It is to their benefit that you do that. If they still can't/won't help, spend your money elsewhere. You're paying a premium for going to their shop in stead of the big store plastic wrapped meat display cooler. A reasonable amount of extra service on their part is ... reasonable.

            I guess that sounds a little strident. The truth of the matter is that most of those people in specialty shops, butcher, fish monger, tea shop, like to talk about their product once they find out you are interested. You won't have to push them to get them talking.

        2. I agree with Chefj. I prefer the oven for braising. I especially think it is a good idea on your part because you have a thin bottomed pot. Stovetop is not good without a very heavy bottomed pot.

          You should probably flip it once or twice but you lose heat every time you do it. Does your pot seal well? If you end up with less liquid than you started with then your pot doesn't seal well.

          The other thing you could try. You could cover the meat with liquid. Technically, this becomes stewing not braising but most people actually stew when they think they are braising anyway.

          Even Cook's Illustrated says they can't tell the difference between stewed and braised meat. The biggest problem is there is too much liquid and it will take a while to reduce to a sauce or gravy.

          The advantage will be that the meat won't be dry on the side that wasn't soaking in liquid.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Hank Hanover

            Re having too much liquid and taking longer to reduce to sauce -
            If you don't have prime grade chuck, your meat can still dry out if you braise it for too long. What I do is remove the meat and vegetables as soon as it's fork tender, then crank up the heat to really reduce the liquid to a nice thick sauce. Then recombine.

            1. re: sbp

              Good point. Alternatively, shred the meat and gently simmer it in the liquid as it reduces. This is done with brisket. It allows an inherently dry-ish meat to absorb some juices.

              1. re: sbp

                jfood has never used "prime" only choice and this has never been a problem

                1. re: jfood

                  Silly me, I never heard the term before :) And I always remove the meat before reducing the liquid. Can't imagine doing it any other way.

                  1. re: jfood

                    It didn't use to be a problem for me, but I've had several (not all) occasions where a low-heat, slow cooked stew has yielded dry-yet-tender meat. As they've bred the fat out of all meats, it's become more of an issue. I don't buy prime chuck unless it's on sale (can't imagine paying $8/lb and up for stew meat), but it often is at Fairway.

                    1. re: sbp

                      This just happened to me this week making a green chile pork stew. I used cheap pork stew meat that looked a little lean, but I thought, whatever, I'll try it anyway. The meat turned out tender but so dry, and didn't add too much flavor either. The main taste was of the roasted peppers and onions and the chicken broth. So disappointing.

              2. Braise is a method of cooking pot roast is a recipe, so you can also braise veggies, like cabbage.

                Check this out:
                http://www.chow.com/stories/12026?tag...

                It's a good guide with pictures.

                Definitely you need to use "cheaper" tougher cuts of meat,as others suggested here. And use the saved money on a new good heavy pan. It really is a lifetime (and style) investment.

                Welcome to the Chow community.

                1. Too hot for too long. After browning, bring the meat and liquid to just bubbling, then cover and lower to where it quivers with only an occasional bubble, if any. For that amount of meat it should only braise for about 2 hrs. You have to keep checking - when it's fork tender to the core, it's done. Off heat and covered, it will still cook for a while. You can do it all on the stove only if you have a heavy enough pan. If you don't want to spend a lot on a Dutch oven, get the highly-rated (by Cooks Illustrated) 6.5 qt Tramontina enameled cast iron one at Walmart for around $40. Or check for bargains at Home Goods, Marshalls/TJ Maxx, and thrift shops or tag sales. Enameled is more versatile than naked cast iron because acidic ingredients impart a metal taste from the latter. Someone will surely tell you to brown on the stove in a skillet, then braise in a slow cooker. In that case you have to crack the lid open a bit during the latter part of cooking, to allow the liquid to reduce.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: greygarious

                    I got an induction cooktop range a few months ago. One of the really nice things is that I have a super-low setting. I can get it as low now on the cooktop as I've been able to in the oven.
                    PS: Mailing it soon :)