This Is the Slow Cooker Balsamic-Red Wine Pot Roast You’ve Been Waiting For
A melt-in-your-mouth pot roast recipe that you can set and forget, plus, suggestions for what to serve with it, and how to use up those leftovers. That is, if there are any.
Photograph by Olga Ivanova
There’s not a whole lot of “weather” in Los Angeles where I live, so when the thermostat dips below 70, I immediately want to make the most of it — especially in the kitchen. Out comes the slow cooker. Out come the recipes for roasts and stews — and for the kind of stew-y roasts you can make in said slow cooker.
Yes, it’s pot roast weather, folks.
Pot roast is not something I ever grew up with. (Beef stew, yes; pot roast, no). It took me having my own home, and my own kids, and my own Sunday dinners, to understand what a travesty that was. And now I suppose I’m making up for lost time.
Perhaps there is a life lesson here, too. The humble pot roast is a genius way to use pantry staples like carrots and potatoes, turn a tougher, more-affordable cut of beef into something supple and delicious, and to warm the whole house from cooking all day. Except I don’t always have the energy to tend an all-day braise — which is why it’s the slow cooker to the rescue. I think it means that life doesn’t have to be perfect or fancy to be good, just like a good pot roast recipe. We make the best of what we’re given, and even if we take a shortcut or two, it’s gonna be just fine.
But I digress.
All of this is to say, few things are more comforting than a classic slow cooker pot roast, and comfort is what we need in these trying times. So let’s get cooking.
Jump ahead to:
Pot roast basics
Know how a pot roast differs from beef bourguignon or beef stew? Wondering what kind of wine to cook with? Common questions about pot roast, answered right here.
What is the difference between pot roast and beef bourguignon?
I think about this a lot. Is a classic pot roast recipe with red wine just beef bourguignon without the French accent, bacon, mushrooms, and pearl onions? Kind of.
The general spirit of these two main dishes is the same — a tough cut of meat, braised forever in broth and red wine, with vegetables and aromatics, for as long as it takes to release the collagen in the meat and create melt-in-your-mouth texture.
With a pot roast, the beef roast is cooked intact, and sliced before serving, and the liquid is thicker, like a gravy.
With beef bourguignon, the meat is cubed before cooking, and there tends to be more liquid. It’s more stew-like.
Both dishes benefit from the slow, low heat treatment of a Crock Pot or slow cooker. You can try the Instant Pot or a big old-fashioned Dutch oven, too, if that’s your jam.
What is the difference between pot roast and beef stew?
Also a good question, because the ingredient list can be more or less identical. A beef stew is, ahem, more stew-like, and is cooked on the stovetop for far less time. Because it’s meant to cook quicker, the beef is cubed, and the vegetables tend to be cut smaller as well. The texture of the stew is not gravy-like — it’s soupier. And beef stew is typically served on its own, with some delicious hunks of bread for dipping.
What kind of meat to use for a slow cooker pot roast
Chuck roast. Period. You want a nice thick well-marbled piece with lots of hidden collagen — and one that you can afford.
The chuck roast comes from the shoulder, and because it’s a well-used muscle, it’s a bit tougher to start. But a good sear and six hours in a slow cooker change all that.
What kind of wine to use for a slow cooker pot roast
I love the adage, if you like to drink it, you’ll love to cook with it. But obviously leave your aged Barolo for a special occasion.
For your everyday slow cooker pot roast recipe, most people lean on dry red wines, like Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. The folks at Cooks Illustrated did the research, bless them, and found that, in the end, Merlots can end up a bit jammy and Cabernet Sauvignons too oaky. The sweet spot for cooking with red wine are bottles that are fruity, smooth, and mellow — and winners include Côtes du Rhône and Pinot Noir.
You can go super cheap, but then that’s the flavor of your entire meal. There are plenty of good-tasting bottles around the $10 mark that got the job done.
Slow Cooker Balsamic-Red Wine Pot Roast
Photograph by Olga Ivanova
This slow cooker pot roast recipe, with red wine and balsamic vinegar, is a Yummly original created by Ashley Strickland Freeman, a Charleston, South Carolina-based recipe creator with a knack for creating comfort food that is undeniably, well, comforting.
Here, you start with a 3- or 4-pound beef chuck roast, natch, which you season with salt and black pepper and brown in olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Do not sleep on this step. Browning the meat is where the flavor of this dish really comes from. Be intentional. Your taste buds will thank you later.
A traditional Yankee pot roast recipe doesn’t include red wine, but that’s just silly — and Freeman knows that. She adds less than a cup here, but that’s enough to deglaze the pan and get all those tasty bits into the slow cooker or Crock Pot. She uses large carrots and shallots, which are halved, but baby carrots and yellow onions will do in a pinch. That’s it for prep time. In go the sprigs of fresh thyme and fresh rosemary, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, beef stock, and tomato paste to round things out.
Then, you wait. Cook time: Six hours. Now you’re free to go about your day.
When the pot roast is ready, Freeman goes the extra step of thickening the fragrant herb-inflected red wine beef broth with a little flour and water. (If you’re gluten-free, try cornstarch.)
Then you slice the fork-tender beef, arrange the veggies, scatter some fresh herbs, and dinner is served.
What to serve with your pot roast
If you slip a few red potatoes in with the carrots you might not need to serve the pot roast with anything else at all. It’s meat, vegetable, and starch in one beautiful rich gravy — a one-pot wonder.
But if you go by Freeman’s potato-free recipe — and why wouldn’t you — you’ll want another dish or two to go with the main course. Mashed potatoes make a great base, as do big, broad egg noodles. And a simple, crisp green salad with a bright, acidic dressing is the perfect counterpoint.
The Pioneer Woman doesn’t mess around when it comes to mashed potatoes. This recipe is a keeper.
Do you need a recipe for egg noodles? No. Do butter and parsley make everything better? Yes.
There’s really not much to this recipe — just mixed greens and a dressing. But it’s the sharpness of the dressing that makes all the difference.
What to do with all the leftovers
When you start with a 4-pound hunk of meat, you’re probably going to have leftovers, no matter how delicious it is. Lucky you.
Leftover pot roast is delicious reheated just the way it is. But if you feel the need to change things up, there are some tasty options at your disposal.
In this sandwich recipe from Neighborfood, a bit of horseradish, mustard, and swiss cheese give yesterday’s pot roast some bite for today’s lunch.
In this recipe from Good Dinner Mom, you sauté mushrooms, onions, and three cloves of garlic, then add beef broth and leftover pot roast for a surprisingly refined beef soup.
“Is it weird that I purposefully made pot roast so I could make this sandwich?” writes Laurie of Simply Scratch. Not weird at all! The best pot roast is the pot roast you have sitting in your fridge right now.
More easy dinner recipes, you say?
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