The Best Cut of Meat for Pot Roast

Last Updated on January 23, 2024

There’s no easier, more satisfying way to feed a family than a classic pot roast. Pot roast is a classic braised beef recipe, it’s not a cut of meat itself. So, what is the best cut of meat for pot roast? The chuck shoulder pot roast is our top pick. But the good news is that there are several great options.

Pot roast has long been the main feature of many Sunday family dinners. It’s easy to see why — pot roast uses tougher, and therefore more affordable cuts of meat. You could purchase a four-to-five-pound roast, feed a family, and still have leftovers for the week without cutting into your budget.

What is pot roast?

Pot roast is a savory, braised beef dish made by browning the meat before cooking it “low and slow” in a covered casserole dish or Dutch oven. Pot roast became popular during the Depression Era in America when meat was scarce. This is why you can often get away with using less expensive cuts of beef to make the dish.

In most recipes, you will brown the roast on the stovetop first, then transfer it to the oven or a slow cooker.

To prevent the roast from drying out, you will add liquid (such as beef stock, broth, or water) to the bottom of the dish holding the roast. To make it a complete meal, many people add chopped-up potatoes or vegetables to the dish, cooking it along with the roast.

Preparing the best pot roast for slow cooking

Here’s something you probably weren’t expecting: the tougher the cut, the better the pot roast.

You may be accustomed to selecting tender, juicy steaks from the meat counter. With pot roast, the exact opposite rules apply. Tougher cuts of meat have lots of tough connective tissue. When you cook the roast at a low temperature for a long period, the tissues soften.

How to cook a good pot roast is another learning process. It requires a great deal of patience. You can’t rush it — cooking at a slightly higher temperature for a shorter period will result in a tough, dried-out dinner. Allowing the meat to simmer for hours results in the tender, melt-in-your-mouth roast you’ve been craving.

The best cut of meat for pot roast

To select your roast, choose a tough cut with abundant marbling. Here are our top picks:

Beef Chuck Roast

A boneless chuck roast pot roast is our first pick. It has outstanding marbling, making the roast tender and juicy when braised. Cut from the shoulder just above the short rib, it is a tougher, albeit more affordable cut than those from the front part of the animal, like the sirloin or short loin.

Other cuts that are either the same (under a different name) or come from the same area are the chuck eye, blade roast, shoulder roast, shoulder steak, arm steak, arm roast, cross-rib roast, or seven-bone roast. Some butchers also sell the chuck generically labeled as “pot roast.”

Beef Brisket

While brisket is most known for barbecue recipes and is typically cooked in a smoker, it makes an outstanding pot roast. Cut from the chest, or the lower, front portion of the animal, brisket has abundant fat that works well in a roast. If you are feeding a family, keep in mind that compared to the chuck, brisket comes with a premium price tag.

Other similar cuts include the flat cut, beef brisket flat half, and beef brisket point half. If you want to learn more about roast cuts in general, check out our blog on Know Your Roast.

Bottom Round Roast

The bottom round roast is typically used for roast beef but can make an excellent pot roast. This roast comes from the round primal or the rear part of the cow. It is leaner than either the brisket or chuck, so you may need to add some additional fat to prevent your pot roast from drying out.

The cut can also be called bottom round, rump roast, or London broil — when it is cut into steaks.

How to cook a pot roast

The best way to cook a pot roast is through a technique called braising. Here, we explain how to braise in depth.

Brown the edges

First, light a large skillet on the stovetop over medium heat. Drizzle a little olive oil or fat in the saucepan. Once the pan is hot, place your roast in the skillet for 1-2 minutes, or until the bottom starts to brown. Flip your roast and continue the process until all sides are brown.

Cook low and slow

Transfer your roast to a large casserole dish or Dutch oven. Add enough beef broth or water (or a combination of the two) to cover half the roast. Place the lid on your dish, and place it inside a preheated oven (your oven should be set to 250-300 F, depending upon the recipe).

Make it a complete meal

Halfway through your cooking time (typically two hours, at minimum) add chopped vegetables to the dish for a complete meal. We like adding potatoes, celery, onions, parsley, a few sprigs of fresh thyme, and freshly ground black pepper to ours. Once added, place the lid back over your dish and return to the oven.

Other ways to prepare a pot roast

If you lead a busy schedule, a Crock-Pot or slow cooker works just as well as an oven. Simply assemble your dinner as you would in a Dutch oven, layering in the roast, broth, and vegetables. Cook on low for 6-8 hours (some recipes will call for 10 hours — ideal for those who work long days).

Forgot to prep your pot roast this morning? If you own an instant pot, you can make an entire pot roast in just one hour. Check out this Instant Pot pot roast recipe! (We’ve also included such a recipe at the bottom of this post.)

You can change up your recipe by swapping in different vegetables or adding a dry red wine to the sauce.  Or, pair with mashed potatoes and use the excess liquid at the bottom of the dish to make homemade gravy.

Our favorite pot roast recipes

There are plenty of recipes available online for making pot roast. Below, we included a few of our favorites:

Yankee pot roast

Braised chuck roast with red wine and mushrooms

Slow cooker pot roast with shallots and carrots

Roast beef dinner

Instant pot beef pot roast

Classic slow cooker pot roast

Choose whichever recipe works best for your family, budget, and schedule. Let us know which one is your favorite. For more recipes and cooking tips like this one, check out the JustCook blog.