Sometimes to gain confidence in cooking, you just need to walk through the steps that everyone else already seems to instinctively know. Truth is, others only know these steps because they walked through them enough times to know them. Cooking isn’t art. It isn’t science. Well, ok, it is technically science but basic cooking is something everyone can master and everyone should master unless you like a diet of Lucky Charms and Macaroni and Cheese. My husband needs not learn to cook.
Here is my classic roast in the crockpot – starting with frozen meat (because who in the world remembers to defrost meat?) and ending with a delicious dinner of roast, vegetables, and gravy.
Before we begin, let me just say something about this popular trend of putting onion soup mix in with your roasts. I’m sure it tastes lovely. But, really, have you read the ingredients? It’s onions, salt, cornstarch, and then a bunch of super processed stuff. I really must say that even the most beginning cook can add onions and salt without a packet to help them. And save the cornstarch for making gravy at the end.
Just put down the soup mix. You can do this even if our American food industry spends lots of money telling you that onions and salt are too hard for your busy life.
Note: I put the roast in on TOP of the vegetables. Why? Because I want the tasty drippings to go over my vegetables while they’re cooking. However, it is just as valid to put an onion in the bottom, roast on top of it, more onion on top and then add the vegetables.
The ingredient list:
3-4 celery stalks
1 fresh bay leaf
mushrooms (optional and to your liking. If only one person will eat them, only add one serving)
4 medium potatoes
Roast of your choice – approximately 2-3 lbs and preferably a fatty cut like a chuck roast.
Cut the onion into slices. Some people like wedges but I want the oniony goodness to spread around. If you chop or dice them, you will get the flavor of the onion but none of the actual onion because it will fall apart in the cooking process.
Cut the carrots into ½ inch logs. These are thick enough to not turn to complete mush but thin enough to turn into sort of mush.
Slice the celery stalks.
Slice the mushrooms.
Toss all of these into the bottom of your crockpot with the bay leaf, one cup of water, and a little salt and pepper. If desired, you can splash some Worcestershire sauce in with the water. It’ll step up your gravy a notch, though you can always add it directly to your gravy.
Slice the potatoes and add them on top of the vegetables. I prefer my potatoes in wedges, however to fit enough vegetables and meat in my crockpot to feed my family, I need to slice them. You really don’t want your crockpot more than ¾ full.
Add the roast. You can add it thawed or frozen. IF THAWED, I recommend browning it on both sides in a hot skillet on the stove before putting it in the crockpot. This searing really does improve the flavor. But it’s work and it’s time and you just spent it all cutting up onions instead of opening a package of dehydrated crap. It’s ok to skip searing the roast.
Salt and pepper both sides of your roast and if it has a pad of fat on it, cook it fat side up.
I’m aware the above picture is not fat side up. Thank you, blog posting consistency police. However, I did cook it fat side up. The fat side up dealio is just my thing. I’m sure plenty of smarter people will tell you why not to do that but doesn’t it make sense that you want to work with gravity and have the moistest part up and allow it to drip down to the driest side? Why would you want the dry side waving its ass in the air begging to get drier? I also roast my chickens and turkeys breast side down. I don’t get those oohs and ahhs with the golden skin when serving. I get them when everyone is eating a moist turkey breast and wondering how they’ve lived so long eating dried out meat every holiday.*
Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 6. When starting with frozen meat, I will often have it on low for 2 hours to allow it to more slowly defrost and then on high for 4-5 more hours.
Part of the slow cooking magic is in building up heat so do not take the lid off to check on your roast until an hour before it is supposed to be done. It should pretty much fall apart when you touch it.
When I finish mine – since I have the roast cooking on top of the vegetables – I remove it from the crockpot onto one plate, put the vegetables onto another, and then put the shredded meat BACK into the crockpot with the pan drippings and coat them well. This helps regain some of the moisture lost when cooking it on top of the vegetables. If you cook yours on the bottom, there is no need for this extra step. But my vegetables taste better. So there.
What to do with the pan drippings? You can use them to make gravy! Or you can save them to toss the leftovers back into so you have soup/stew the next day. Either way, you win!
*I’m a mind reader. I know that’s exactly what they are thinking.