Super moist, fall of the bone meat...HOW!?
I went to this one restaurant in St. Mark NYC (cafe mogador) and they had the absolute BEST lamb I have ever tasted. It was so exceptionally tender and it just fell apart on the plate. It's a Moroccan restaurant, so I assume they use a tagine to cook it. Still, how come my food never comes out that tender? What are your secrets? I made some pot roast yesterday and it came out really chewy and tough. I cooked it at 300 degrees for about 2 hours half submerged in liquid, yet it didn't come out super tender. The ONLY time I was able to get something that soft was smoking pork shoulder for hours on end. Any ideas?
Part of the problem with "pot roast" is that it can be made from so many different cuts, some of which aren't really suited for it at all. If your meat is too lean, you'll never get that tender, fall-apart texture you're looking for. You want a cut that has a lot of fat marbled throughout, with some connective tissue (collagen) as well. If you get the right cut and cook it low and slow, you shouldn't have any trouble getting the texture you're after.
ETA: for braises, I actually like to go lower than 300. 250 and a longer cook time give me better results, but you have to be patient to really let the fat and connective tissues do their thing.
Agreed, choosing the right cuts is key. For beef pot roast, chuck roast is ideal. For lamb, use leg or shank (braised lamb shanks are amazing, and may be what you had at Cafe Mogador).
Also, cooking almost any type of meat at 300°F for only two hours is likely to result in chewy meat, braising generally takes longer. Just keep cooking it low and slow and check it every so often with a fork until you can see that it's reached the right degree of tenderness.
A tagine is not necessary, any pot that provides moist, steady, enclosed heat will do the job. Enameled cast iron Dutch ovens are great for this.
You said the magic words: "hours on end". You don't need a tagine to get tender meat, but it is a wonderful vessel for slow-braising. You can do that with other pots, particularly an enamel-coated cast iron vessel with a tight-fitting lid.
Marinades with sugar and acidic ingredients can help tenderize tough cuts of meat.
Most importantly, though, you must sear the meat to seal in flavour then braise SLOWLY in the bare minimum amount of fluid required to keep things moist during cooking. I like to sear on the stove, in the pot I'm going to use for braising. After searing, I de-glaze with wine or another liquid and reduce it to the desire level. At that point, I put a tight-fitting lid on the pot and braise the meat in a very slow oven for as long as it needs to get really tender.
One last tip: if you're cooking lamb shanks, be sure to trim the tendons down by the bottom of the shank, leaving clean, dry bone visible. I usually buy shanks that already have this done, so it's not an issue, but the one time I didn't and left shanks as they were, the tendons seized up and the meat was far less tender.
Unless I'm using some small cuts of meat, I never braise for fewer than 3 hours. So for one roast, you need to keep it going a long time. One trick, if you're not sure how long you'll need and you have some flexibility, is to start it super early and start checking it after 2 and a half or so. Once it's done, if you have hours before dinner, remove the meat, chill the liquid and then skim the fat. The day before is best!
Definitely seconding 250 degrees for at least three hours, if not longer (or a pressure cooker). Plus, fatty cuts with lots of collagen.
One thing that makes a major difference (this was discussed on America's Test Kitchen) is bringing the braise to a simmer on the stovetop before placing it in the oven. If you just put a colder braise in the oven, it can take an extra hour just for the braising liquid to come to the right temperature.
Finally, don't worry about overcooking it. If it's the right cut, and if it's not tender yet, just keep cooking. You'll likely want to bring the meat up to around 200 degrees (again, if it's the right cut).