Pot Roasting: Cant keep things cool enough?
I have been following pot roasting recipes (4lb beef chuck roast) to the letter and still find the meat quite dry. Generally speaking I have been roasting at 300, cast iron enamel pot with lid on (Le Cuistot), parchment paper under the lid and pushed down close to the meat to keep the humidity as high as possible. I have gone down to the bottom rack, taken the oven temperature down to 250 and still no dice. At 2 hours, the meat is quite dry. I am quite happy next time to try taking the meat out earlier but that doesn't sound like a a slow pot roast to me and I fear that perhaps the connective tissue would remain not yet broken down.
What I am wondering is whether the pot I use is retaining too much heat? I have noticed that the Le Creuset for example is not as thick.
In general, I find the recipes that I see for this kind of stuff to be quite inconsistent with each other regarding oven temperature and recommended cooking time. Any input on this would be wonderful. Cheers!
Steamed several hours until meat falls apart by fork is what I think of when the OP says Pot Roast. Can cook meat on vegetables up out of the slow boiling juice (like on: carrots, onion, celery, & potato). Inexpensive meat can be bought on sale for under $2 a pound. I often cut 3-5 pounds of roast into chunks so cooks faster removing some of the fat and connecting tissues. Or can leave whole and cook longer. I sometimes add more vegetables in the last hour or even minutes to steam depending on what cooking and the desired results (broccoli is good to me steamed about 8 minutes). Mexican-style meat (no veggies nearly all protein) for taco salad, enchiladas, tortillas, burritos, & tacos is a tasty favorite. On 10/11/12 I wrote how a recent beef roast was made: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/603778
Previous posters are right about your roast. Yes need liquid to braise / steam. The container lid should keep most of the slow boiling liquid's steam in (when drying out the bottom is a concern). Try to cook it longer sometime - maybe you are just to well-done so dry & tough not yet tender. Possibly more liquid cooked longer with give you more moist results. A four-pound chuck roast is a chunk. Knowing your real oven temperature is nice. Ovens usually vary from what the control says as well as cycle 50 degrees F or more. Cut and type of meat can matter - Texas Longhorn and Limousine breeds of beef have less fat, but are more tough especially when overcooked. Cooking is always an experiment using a recipe as a guide with variations based on your situation / ingredients. Try something different as what you are doing is not working. More information may help respondents help further.
A quick-read thermometer helps when cooking meat. Some meats with less fat get very dry if overcooked (including more expensive steak, pork loin, and boneless-skinless chicken breasts). Under-cooking, is the best way to have moist meat well done usually the way to have dry. Roast beef pink and steaks done medium rare taste best to me. Research the temperature to safely eat the meat you are cooking at. Remember, meat will continue to cook going up a few degrees after away from heat. Clear juices instead of cloudy are a good sign it is getting done enough for example when make roast beef for sandwiches, rotisserie, or steak.
Braising a tough inexpensive piece of meat in liquid a for a few hours will eventually break it down until falls apart. Try more experiments with cheap meat. Maybe with smaller chunks. I like the bottom liquid at a slow simmer not rolling boil when check on it - lid cracked thickens liquids concentrating flavors letting steam boil off. If run out of liquid by accident somehow cooking is bad, bottom burns too bitter for sauce use and meat dries out if not burned. Properly braised a few hours makes otherwise tough meats tender (same when slow smoked many hours). With two forks going opposite directions when done can easily make pulled pork, beef, chicken, ... Meat with liquid cooked in a mostly-closed container has a hard time drying out. Tin foil can be a friend in the oven when roasting meats including turkey to keep moist - then take off foil the last part of cooking to brown the outsides. Too much time is not good. For stew find a dozen hours is too long as the vegetables and meat are hard to tell apart in the semi liquid mush with all the nutrients long gone. Yes 2-8 hours low and slow is sometimes what it takes for the meat cook it until it falls apart. The body gets more nutrients out of carrots when slightly cooked than if totally raw. Vegetables often take less time than meat. Smaller chunks cook faster than big ones - and big usually holds together longer.
If you don't like dry meat, try meat with sauce instead of alone. Dry meat is not so dry with dip, in a broth, as part of soup, in stew, with sauce, out of ajus, or under salad dressing. Even breaded chicken tenders from the local deli taste alright with lots of home made ranch about once a month in a pinch (better yet sliced in a salad with meat as a treat).