Beef Pot Roast – Instant Pot
Nothing says a warm home-cooked meal like this moist, full of flavor Beef Pot Roast in the Instant Pot!
When analyzing recipes, we typically follow a similar workflow. First, we start by getting a set of recipes and the ingredient amounts. Then, since most ingredients are best described as ratios, we pick the core of the recipe (typically a protein or staple carb) and normalize all the ingredients. Beef Pot Roast was trickier as there are two cores: The meat and the broth.
For the meat, most recipes use right around 3 pounds of meat. However, assessing the ingredients relative to meat, aside from salt, was not exactly the right approach. For Pot Roast, the meat does not often get its own seasoning but rather relies on a rich gravy. So, the question is not which ingredients to use relative to the roast but rather how much gravy is needed to cover the roast? We had right around 3 pounds of meat ourselves which indicated we wanted about 2 – 3 cups of gravy (roughly the amount of carrots and potatoes added in). This seemed to be the right amount of gravy as it fully coated everything without much excess after dishing it out for all 8 servings.
So, knowing that gravy is now our core, we had to pick a normalizing ingredient to assess ratios against. The base of most gravy is typically a broth, which here is beef broth. From our analysis only two other liquids are typically used: red wine and Worcestershire. However, we did stumble upon an interesting approach using soy sauce and even fish sauce in one recipe. We did not try it, but we are curious! We went with a 1:4 ratio on the wine and just 2 Tbsp. of Worcestershire which provided the right amount of liquid and the right blend of flavors to begin adding the spices in.
Spices for Pot Roast are quite varied across the sampled set, from Asian influence with ginger to Cajun seasoning. There are some through lines, however. The most popular spices (aside from salt and pepper) are Thyme followed closely by Rosemary. Most recipes, ours included, put an even ratio of these two flavors giving it a distinct deep and earthy flavor to enrich the broth. With the staples down the remainder of the decisions are really around the kind of pot roast you want to make. Since we figured Cajun or Asian could be a sub-genre of pot roast, we wanted to stick with a well-executed but simple spice mixture. As such we relied only on onion and garlic powder to round out the flavor.
While Rosemary and Thyme are the most popular, they were rarely the most prevalent (by volume). We chose to keep onion and garlic powder in even proportion to each other but in double the quantity to Rosemary and Thyme. Additionally, we added in black pepper in equal proportion to Rosemary and Thyme. This makes our final spice mixture a 1:1:1:2:2 of Pepper, Rosemary, Thyme, Onion and Garlic powder. These spices provided a deep and interesting pot roast flavor despite being more traditional. Of course, salt is needed both when searing the roast and when creating the gravy, which was hard to decouple when analyzing the recipe. We found 1.5 Tbsps of salt would cover both the gravy and meat to bring out the most flavor in each.
This pot roast is easy and delicious. It requires just a bit of forethought given its time to cook but otherwise is a great recipe to throw together quickly!