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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!

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  1. how much liquid are you using?

    1 Reply
    1. re: magiesmom

      And check your oven temp with a thermometer to be sure you are really at the right temp!

    2. What cut of meat are you using? The structure and fat distribution/content is fairly important.

      2 Replies
      1. re: chefj

        OP stated 4 lb. chuck roast...

      2. 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).

        1. All good information and advice so far.
          ? Step #1 Are you getting a good sear on your meat prior to the braise,stew etc???
          The sear affects texture and moisture almost as much as flavor.

          5 Replies
          1. re: lcool

            How does sear affect moisture?

            1. re: paulj

              A really good sear and the stand time while you get all of your other prep done helps keep a time lock,release on internal moisture.Slows down the distribution to the pot if you will.
              A big deal with red game meat which lacks marbling.

              1. re: lcool

                you mean it 'seals in the juices'?

                1. re: lcool

                  Searing does create many flavor compounds, but it has been shown NOT to seal in juices.

                2. re: paulj

                  It does not in a long braise.

              2. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/668059
                Harold McGee on Braising
                "He says the oven temp should be around 250 and the lid left ajar"

                1. With reference to the dry meat....

                  I would question where you are purchasing your meat and whether you are selecting specific pieces of meat that have sufficient marbling.

                  1. I think other people have a better handle on the science than I do, but I brown in a pan, then add liquids, bring to a boil, and put in a 200 degree oven. It takes as long as it takes, I would not shy away from 4 hours or even more if I'm not yet content with the results. I don't think your pot is an issue. Can you just keep checking it one day and pull it when you are happy? Maybe make it the day before you want it so you are not waiting with a growling stomach? Pot roast is kind of idiosyncratic in that it is tough and dry if pulled too early; your best bet may be to keep prodding at it with a couple of forks and take note of when it is done to your liking.

                    1. Molly Stevens has a wonderful cookbook All About Braising. I braise pot roast and short ribs quite often with great results. I always prepare any braised meat dish 2 to 3 days before I plan to serve it.
                      My friends love to see me walk in there house with my big red Le Creuset Dutch oven. You want enough liquid to braise but so much that your boiling the meat.

                      1. Part of the problem may be the meat. Choice and select meats have become leaner and leaner. There are still fat chunks in a chuck roast, but less intramuscular fat than in years past. If you can find prime chuck roast, it should perform better, and the price shouldn't be that much more (not like prime strip steak or ribeye).

                        1. "Pot roasting" is an ambiguous term, in my book. If you're talking about braising a roast long and slow and super-moist, when that's what I'm after I reduce my oven temperature to 200 degrees for six or more hours. Sometimes a day. And there must be enough liquid in the covered roaster to come part way up the roast. Three hours doesn't sound like enough time to achieve "tender" to me. Not for a chuck roast anyway.