Pot Roast

Hormel Pot Roast with Au Jus on the left, Homemade Garlic Thyme Pot Roast on the right

Pot roast is such an easy, low-maintenance meal to cook for a large group making it a great meal to serve to a large number of guests around the holidays (as long as those guests are not vegetarian, of course!).  The only drawback of making a pot roast is the long time it takes for the meat to cook and become tender.  Whether you use a slow-cooker (as I did) or the oven, a pot roast is going to take at least a few good hours of cooking before reaching tender perfection.  I have noticed packaged pot roasts in the deli section several times and decided to test one of these pre-roasted beef out against a homemade version.  We do not eat large cuts of meat very often so I haven’t really developed my own pot roast recipe but I looked at lots of recipes and consulted some expert pot roasters for the recipe below.  This recipe turned out being pretty tender and tasty, but please let me know in the comments if you have any other tips or recipes for pot roast to supplement my own meager experience!

Pot roast with Garlic and Thyme

Serves about 4


1 3 pound boneless chuck roast, trimmed

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 Tablespoons canola oil

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup flour

3 cups beef broth

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon dried thyme

4 carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks

3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

2 medium onions, thinly sliced

2 ribs of celery, cut into 1 inch chunks

2 bay leaves

chopped fresh chives for garnish (optional)

1. Generously season the roast with salt and pepper.  Heat the canola oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat.  Brown the seasoned roast in the hot oil until it is browned on all sides, about 10 minutes.  Place the browned roast in the crock pot.

2.  Melt the butter in the same skillet used to brown the pot roast.  Add the flour and stir it until it just starts to brown, about 3 minutes.  Pour the beef broth into the pan, whisking constantly as you pour to avoid clumps of flour forming.  Cook the broth, whisking constantly, until it starts to bubble, a couple of minutes. Remove the bubbling broth mixture from the heat and whisk in the tomato paste and thyme.

3.  Nestle the carrots, garlic, onion, celery around the roast in the slow cooker and pour the tomatoey gravy over everything.  Add the two bay leaves to pot and then turn the slow cooker on low heat.  Cook for about 8 hours or until the meat is easily shredded with a fork.  Slice the roast and serve on a large plate surrounded with the vegetables and topped with the chives and pan juices,or serve the pan juices separately as a gravy.

Ingredients for homemade pot roast: Tomato paste, dried thyme, bay leaves, boneless chuck roast, carrots, onion and celery

For the store bought pot roast comparison, I decided to use Hormel Beef Roast Au Jus because it had far fewer preservatives and ingredients than the other brands.  While the homemade roast took about 30 minutes of preparation and many hours of cooking, the Hormel version was ready in about 10 minutes flat, and that was with the addition of steamed vegetables (recommended on the packaging).  If I had not added the steamed veggies the time would have been cut in half to only 5 minutes!  But is the flavor of this product compromised by the time savings?    All of the taste testers agreed that the homemade roast was significantly more tender and juicy than the Hormel brand roast, but we differed on what we thought about the flavor. Despite the relative dryness of the meat, I actually found the Hormel pot roast to be quite flavorful with a good amount of au jus that was also pretty tasty.  Others, however, described the Hormel meat as tasting “too salty” and “strange”.  The Hormel roast was also less attractive than the homemade.  The microwaving process gave the Hormel meat a dark, hard crust on the outside and sort of a shriveled appearance that was only slightly improved with the addition of colorful carrots.  I was also surprised how little meat there really was in the Hormel package once it was heated up.  Although the package says it contains one pound of pot roast, I think a lot of that was the juice and the meat seemed to shrink after being heated. One package of the Hormel roast would barely feed 3 people, and that is only if was supplemented with veggies and a side dish or two.

Bottom Line: Hormel pot roast would be a good option if you want some quick, pre-cooked beef for making sandwiches, burritos or enchiladas but it was not attractive or tender enough to serve as a main dish.  Although homemade roast beef takes many hours to cook, and costs slightly more than the pre-ccoked variety, it takes little effort and is much more tender and tasty.

The prices below do not include the vegetables used in these roast since you may choose not to include veggies with yours.  The price for the homemade roast does include the broth, flour and flavorings used in the gravy.

Homemade Pot Roast                                                                Hormel Pot Roast

Cost:  $5.20                                                                                        Cost:  $3.55

Time:  about 9 hours                                                                        Time:  5 minutes without veggies, 10 minutes with