You can truly set it and forget it when you cook a chuck roast in the slow cooker. A quick assembly in the morning allows you to enjoy a delicious, hearty dinner at night.
Serve the roast the first night with steamed potatoes and a Spinach Salad. The next day, tuck the leftover meat into Homemade Sub Rolls for easy roast beef sandwiches.
You’ve probably heard of the beauty of the slow cooker and what delicious roasts you could cook in one. But maybe it just hasn’t worked out for you.
Maybe your efforts have resulted in utter disaster. Tough meat. Jerky-like, chewy meat. Not even edible meat.
Maybe you gave up on roasts entirely.
Why Make This
It’s super versatile. The following are some tips to help you enjoy delicious pot roasts with all the ease of the slow cooker. With these steps, you’ll find opportunities to mix and match different flavors, based on the aromatics, spices, and liquids you choose, resulting in innumerable flavor combinations for your pot roasts.
It’s easy. Cooking a chuck roast in the slow cooker is quick and simple. Dinner will practically cook itself.
It’s delicious. Say goodbye to tough, dry roasts. This is a dinner you’ll be hoping for some leftovers!
This recipe is simple and versatile. You can mix and match different ingredients with your slow cooker chuck roast to create different flavor profiles. Here’s what you’ll need:
Chuck roast – Some cuts of meat are meant for braising, others are for dry roasting. If you use the wrong cut in the slow cooker, the texture will be off. I prefer the boneless chuck roast because it is easy to carve and fairly economical.
Aromatics – These are the items that add flavor and texture to your pot roast. Consider using any combination of the following: chopped or sliced onions, crushed or minced garlic, chopped or sliced shallots, chopped or sliced leeks, chopped or sliced carrots, chopped turnips, chopped or sliced mushrooms, and other hearty vegetables.
Braising liquid – water, beef or chicken broth, fruit juice, tomato sauce, wine, beer, or ale.
1. Brown the meat first.
Browning your roast in a bit of fat prior to placing it in the slow cooker is important as it creates the Maillard reaction, a process that increases the flavor components in the finished dish.
Salt and pepper the roast well and then brown it on all sides in a little hot oil or butter in a skillet. You can use bacon drippings as well.
Remove the roast at that point and place it in the slow cooker. As long as you prep the next ingredients immediately, it’s okay to let the roast sit for a few minutes.
2. Add flavor and aromatics.
Next you want to add some flavor. Saute some aromatics in the drippings left in the skillet.
Cook your aromatics on low heat until the onions are clear and the vegetables start to brown lightly.
3. Add a braising liquid.
Once the onions are tender and browned, stir in some liquid to deglaze the pan. Your choices include
By varying your aromatics, liquids, and spices, you can create a number of different flavor combinations for pot roast in the slow cooker.
As you add the liquid, stir it well with the aromatics and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. You can also add tomato paste, fresh herbs, and spices at this point.
4. Cook the pot roast in the slow cooker.
Finally, add this vegetable/liquid mixture to the roast in the slow cooker. Cover. Turn the heat on low and walk away for 6 to 8 hours.
The meat should be meltingly tender at the end of the cooking time. Remove it from the cooker and while it rests, you can create a gravy or a pan sauce with the remaining liquid.
Remember that you can incorporate the leftovers into any number of dishes, allowing you to cook once and eat three times.
Braising is when food is browned in fat, then cooked, tightly covered, in a small amount of liquid for an extended period of time, exactly like the slow cooker.
The best cheap cut of meat for braising is the chuck roast. I like to use boneless chuck roasts so that I’m not paying for the bone. However, using a bone-in cut may be cheaper per pound, and the bone may contribute a bit more flavor.
My experience is that just tossing a hunk of meat into the slow cooker is not going to result in the depth of flavor or tender texture that you will get if you brown the meat first. Yes, it’s an extra step, but it totally pays off in the end. It is worth the ten minutes and a dirty pan.
(And yes, those dump freezer crockpot recipes that tell you otherwise are nonsense.)
You don’t need a lot of liquid to cook a roast in the slow cooker. In fact, I often cook very fatty pork roasts without any liquid at all.
However, the liquid adds flavor and keeps a lean roast from getting dry.
At minimum, you only need about ¼ cup, though you can add more (up to 12 ounces) if you are relying on the drippings to create a gravy later.
Knowing how much it costs you to prepare a recipe can help you decide if it’s the type of recipe to make regularly or one you might want to save for special occasions. Let’s crunch some numbers and see how this recipe pencils out.
- olive oil – $0.25
- chuck roast – $7.98
- onion – $0.50
- shallot – $0.50
- mushrooms – $0.50
- liquid – $0.50
At a mid-range grocery store with non-sale prices, you can expect to pay about $10.23 to prepare this slow cooker chuck roast to feed 8. That works out to be $1.28/serving, a great deal for a hearty, home-cooked meal.
Save even more when you stock up on roasts when they are on sale. I’ve seen them at ALDI for $2.49/pound while the regular grocery store sale price is about $3.99/pound.
More Great Slow Cooker Recipes
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Basic Pot Roast in the Slow Cooker
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 lb boneless, beef chuck roast
- black pepper
- 1 onion sliced
- 8 oz mushrooms sliced
- 1 shallot sliced
- 12 oz ale can also use beef broth
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- In a large skillet heat the oil until shimmering. Season the chuck roast to taste with the salt and pepper. Sear the meat in the hot oil, turning it to brown all sides. Transfer the roast to the crock of a slow cooker.
- Add the onion, mushrooms, and shallot to the drippings. Cook, stirring until the onions are clear and the mushrooms are lightly browned. Add the ale and the tomato paste to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer this mixture to the slow cooker.
- Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high for 4 to 6 hours. The meat should be fall-apart tender.
- Serve the roast with the drippings.
This post was originally published on November 30, 2011. It has been updated for content and clarity.
Wonderful, neutral/versatile but not boring pot roast that made yummy sandwiches!
Hello! Thanks for leading me to this. I have a roast that I will need to use up by tomorrow. I’m wondering when you would add carrots and potatoes to the crockpot? Thanks in advance.
You can add them to the start like my mom always did, but they will get really soft. If cooking on low, I like to add about 3-4 hours before serving.
I use this method all the time with great results!! We add the potatoes and carrots to the crock pot as well.
In the winter, when it’s freezing in Nebraska, I use the same method in a Dutch oven in the oven and it works well that way too. The advantages are it warms up the kitchen and only one pan to wash!
I don’t get as good of results in the Dutch oven. What temp and time do you use?
And certain picky kids won’t eat the potatoes and carrots when cooked with the roast. Ahem.
I usually start at 350 for the first hour and then turn it down to 300 and cook it until there is alot of give in the meat when you stick it with a fork. I also add more liquid when I do it in the oven. Time wise pr0bably 3 ish hours and then I’ll leave it on warm till we are ready to eat Alot depends on the size of the roast.
For the picky kids put their potatoes and carrots in a baking dish!!
I will give it another go. And yes, I make veg, just cooked separate.
I tried a couple roasts in a crock pot and then gave up. I know March is going to be a busy month for us so was figuring roasts were going to be only on Sunday when I can check on them during cooking… I will be trying this for sure.
I find that the cut is really important. As long as it’s a braise-friendly cut, it should be good!
Oh.My.Goodness. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this!! I made it last week and it was HEAVEN. I am so excited that I finally made a yummy roast!! lol This will be a keeper for our family.
Yay! I was just thinking about this the other day and wondering how it went. Glad you enjoyed it!
I really struggle with roasts – for something that seems like it would be super easy, for me, it never has been. Could you please give me a little direction on maybe some sample spices that you might recommend – such as combinations and amounts? I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I need the truly basic info.. Thanks so much!
I usually do a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper, and then maybe a teaspoon of basil, oregano, or thyme. I think adding the other aromatics like garlic, onions, and mushrooms is important. Does that help?
Yes! Thank you! 🙂
I’m new to this and this recipe sounds wonderful! I would love to print it, but I don’t see a printer friendly recipe. Help!
There isn’t a “recipe”; it’s a method that you can follow on your own. It is really forgiving. As long as you get the right kind of meat, you can’t mess it up.
Awesome! The method of browning first made an alarmingly huge difference in the flavor. Great tip!
Yep. I am a big opponent to those crock pot meals that just dump. It’s just not going to taste as good if you don’t brown it first.
Stepping off my soap box….
This recipe is worth it’s weight in gold…we ate the best pot roast I’ve ever made last night after following your recipe. We used beer like you do in the photos, and the aromatics and nearly caramelized onions made all the difference. The gravy for this roast was to-die-for, and the meat was so flavorful and tender. I have been searching for seven years to find the right slow cooker pot roast recipe, and yours just nailed it! Thank you so much…this is divine dinner!!
@Brooke Kingston, fun! And the beauty is that it’s a non-recipe. You adjust the flavors to match what you have. You can make unlimited combinations with success. So glad that it worked well for you!
This was amazing! So tender & juicy! I buy beef in bulk, a quarter at a time from a local farmer, so I had to use a bone-in chuck roast but still it worked great.
Have you had good luck with any other kind of roast besides chuck? The chuck roasts around here are often very fatty. That’s living in the South…. =)
@Ellen, lately, cross rib roasts have been good.
Could you do all the prep stuff the night before and let it sit in the fridge to put it in the crock pot the next morning?
From a food safety perspective, chilling meat that has only been partially cooked can become an issue. The risk is that the meat would be at unsafe temps for a time.
One chef I consulted said that to sear the meat straight from the fridge for about two minutes on each side where the inside of the roast does not heat and then immediately chill could be fine. However, there is a small risk that you’ll have to decide for yourself.
Alternatively, you could leave the meat unseared and combine everything. It won’t have the exact same taste and texture, but it will still be good.
Thank you for posting this! I was just commenting to my husband on how I needed to start doing more meats in the crock pot, but I wasn’t sure how to do it.
Your recipe sounds delicious! I thought I’d add my own method to the mix. My roast falls to pieces too, but I like it like that! I put the roast directly into the slow cooker. Then I combine brown gravy mix with 1-2 cups of water and pour it over the meat. If I want veggies, then I cut up carrots, potatos and onions and put that in before the gravy. (I have also used dry onion soup mix but I prefer that with pork and the brown gravy with beef).
so… you don’t submerge the meat in water??? (sorry for the seemingly silly/dumb question but mom never used slow cooker in her so it’s still a mystery to me)
No, it’s very little liquid.
This is going to be Sunday dinner this week. Thanks for the tips!
I just began my love affair with the slow cooker this year. It has literally changed my life. I love this recipe and will put it on the menu for next week. Try one of mine – this is my fave: http://www.myjudythefoodie.com/2011/11/slow-cooking-beef-tips/
Thanks so much for sharing. looks great
My roast ALWAYS falls to pieces in the crockpot. I’d love to have a pretty roast like the one pictured:) I’ll have to try your method.
Just in time! I’m cooking a roast this weekend, and I was looking for new ideas….