Flavorful, fork tender meat with ease…and your kitchen will smell amazing! This hands-off recipe has been a longtime favorite in our family, and it might just make the regular rotation at your house, too.
Last September, my husband and I celebrated our 20th anniversary. When I think about that number, it’s sort of shocking to me. Though I feel like college wasn’t that long ago, the years (and the fact that my older son is now driving) tell me otherwise!
In our early married years, we often had big family dinners at my in-laws’ house, and my mother-in-law frequently served a flavorful roast. The aroma never failed to awaken my senses as I walked in the door. If comfort food had a smell, her roast would be it.
I didn’t think much about it growing up—most likely because my own mom never failed to provide a delicious dinner—but we never ate roasts.
I was particularly taken with chuck roast and how it could be transformed into the most fork-tender, flavorful dish with minimal effort. My mother-in-law shared her favorite way of preparing this relatively inexpensive cut of meat and, to this day, it remains one of my favorite meals.
I’ve prepared this mouthwatering dish for dinner parties and casual family meals and passed the recipe on countless times.
For those who prefer, I have a DIY version of the Lipton onion soup mix, which serves as a dry rub, imparting amazing flavor into this humble piece of meat.
The following three-ingredient recipe is a crowd-pleaser any time of year but especially welcome on a cold winter weekend. The easy prep and the slow cook time is well suited to a lazy Sunday afternoon, and the warming aroma that wafts from your kitchen will make the even the most frigid day seem like no big deal.
When buying a roast, plan on a half pound of meat per person. This might seem like a hearty portion－and, if you’re lucky, you’ll have leftovers－but there’s a reason.
Meat consists of muscle, connective tissue, and fat. (Connective tissue is the general term for ligaments, tendons, and collagen that hold the muscle fibers together.) The most frequently used muscles contain a lot of the tough connective tissue and require a long, slow cooking method to break it down and essentially melt it away. Chuck roasts, as well as other cuts from a cow’s legs, chest, and rump, fall into this category.
When cooked at low heat for an extended period of time, the meat becomes tender and succulent and any residual fatty parts can easily be pulled away. The braising liquid takes on most of the fat, but it can be removed a couple of ways, as mentioned in the recipe notes. The remaining juice, or “au jus” as my mother-in-law always called it, is every bit as flavorful without the fat.
My mother-in-law frequently served this roast with a side of cheese grits, although the beef is equally delicious spooned over rice or potatoes, which serve as a sponge for all those savory juices. A green vegetable or simple salad rounds out the meal beautifully.
Leftovers are delicious as is, but when shredded and added to a simple vegetable or mushroom barley soup, they add flavor magic to the recipe.
Which cut of meat is the best?
- My mother-in-law always used chuck roast, either bone-in or boneless depending on what was available. I’ve typically done the same. Though bone-in is generally considered to be more flavorful, I would say it’s very hard to discern the difference. Both are delicious.
- Though I’ve always considered chuck roast the best cut for this preparation, I recently used a shoulder roast with equally excellent results.
Leftovers, advance prep, and freezing tips:
- To ensure leftovers are even better the second time around, store the cooked meat in the remaining juice. There should be enough to almost fully submerge it. This essentially marinates the cooked beef, making it even more tender and flavorful.
- The leftover meat may also be frozen in the juices.
- You may fully prepare this recipe the day before, cool, and then cover and refrigerate. The next day all of the fat that has cooked out of the beef will rise to the top and harden, at which point you can scrape it off and discard.
The soup mix, either store-bought or homemade, acts as a dry rub and imparts incredible flavor as the roast transforms into juicy, fall-apart-tender meat. A light coating of olive oil helps the mix cling to the meat.
The photo above shows a bone-in cut while the one below is boneless. Either option works well. Though chuck roast is my go-to, I recently used a shoulder roast with excellent results.
Use heavy-duty foil (or a double layer or regular foil) to form a packet. This will lock in the flavorful juices that cook out of the roast. These natural juices flavor and tenderize the meat as it cooks and are delicious for drizzling later. The packet makes for easy cleanup, too!
When doubling the recipe, I place the roasts in separate packets and lay them side-by-side on the rimmed baking sheet.
The cooked meat is tender, juicy, brimming with flavor, and shreds beautifully. Leftover meat is delicious simply reheated or stirred into soups, stews, and sauces.
Yield: 2-3 servings per pound of roast
- 1 (3 to 3½ pound) chuck roast (see notes*)
- Olive oil
- 1 packet Lipton onion soup mix (or this homemade version)
Preheat the oven to 300℉. Place the roast on a large sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil (or a double layer of regular) that has been set on a rimmed baking sheet. Rub a thin layer of olive oil over both sides of the roast. Sprinkle half of the soup mix packet on the top of the roast, half on the bottom. This will act as a dry rub. Bring the sides of the foil up and fold over to seal them, and then fold over the ends a few times to seal them, too. You will have a packet that should hold the juice that will cook out of the roast, but the baking sheet is essential as leaks do occur. (I do leave a bit of an air pocket at the top of the packet rather than wrapping the roast tight.)
Bake the roast for 3½ hours or until the meat is fall-apart tender. If your roast is in the 3½ to 4-pound range, cook for approximately 4 hours. Remove the tray from the oven and allow the roast to sit, in the packet, for 10 minutes (longer is fine). When opening the foil packet, be careful of the hot steam that will escape. Serve right from the foil or transfer the meat to a serving dish and pour the juices overtop.**
* Sometimes I cook two smaller (approximately 2½ pound) chuck roasts, placing them in separate foil packages. In this case, I typically use about half of a second packet of soup mix to lightly coat both sides of the two roasts.
** This dish is delicious leftover and may easily be prepared in advance. Because the roast’s fat and connective tissue break down and melt away during the slow cooking process, the pan juices do become fatty. As the juices cool in the refrigerator, the fat will rise to the top and harden, at which point it can be easily scraped off the top. The remaining juices will be every bit as flavorful without the fat. For those who like gadgets, a fat separator will do the job while the liquid is warm.
Chuck roast recipe first posted September 2013
A few other oldies but goodies you may enjoy…
Jen’s Incredible Baked Meatballs
Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken
I enjoy cooking and have made braised short ribs quite a few times using a much more complicated technique but I no longer have to do that. This is super super easily and extra delicious! Anyone can do this. I added some carrots, mushrooms, onions and celery but that’s just me. I’m amazed after all of my attempts at slow cooking beef that it can actually be this easy and good. Very well done. Thank you.
I’m delighted this was super simple AND a hit, Tony, and I appreciate your comment!
I was wondering if this could be done with a small (1lb) FROZEN chuck roast? Thx for this recipe:)
Hi Lynne, I have never cooked the roast frozen, although it would likely work, especially with a smaller piece of meat. The required time may end up being about the same as a larger, unfrozen roast, but I’d check early to be sure. When you can pull the meat apart easily with two forks, it’s done.
I must have done something wrong, I practically needed a hacksaw to cut it
Hi Kathleen, Did you use a cut of meat other than the chuck roast, by chance? This recipe is designed for a cut that requires a long, slow cook. A leaner cut would produce the outcome you mentioned. If that isn’t the case, let me know and I’m happy to further troubleshoot, as this meat should be fork tender every time.
Best and easiest chuck roast ever. Thank you SO much for posting this recipe!
Your comment makes me so happy, Diane! Thank you for the terrific feedback!
Wow! My first attempt to make pot roast & after looking at a bunch of recipes, this one looked the best & easiest. I like the idea of all the onion but my friend is not a fan so I replaced it with McCormick’s Montreal Chicken Seasoning and it was amazing. My roast was 4 lbs and since I was running late(nothing new here), I also took your advice on slicing the roast in half. It might not have been this recipe but it was on one of your other pot roasts. It is so hard not to open the packets & I was worried about them being dry, but not a chance with all that fat. My friend(6 years older) said that he never had good luck making one which only made me make sure I could handle it. I remember my mom cooking in foil packets 50 years ago & your instructions were so easy. Excellent easy recipe! Thanks so much Ann!
Cynthia, I’m so happy your first attempt at cooking a pot roast was a major success, and I truly appreciate your comment. Thanks for mentioning your Montreal chicken seasoning swap. Such a good idea, and the steak version would likely be fantastic, too. Hope you find a few other recipes to enjoy here as well!
This came out very good. I added thyme to the soup mix as my onion soup has thyme in it .
The leftovers were almost better and made really good hot subs: with provolone on a toasted roll and au jus / horseradish sauce or lettuce/onion/ banana peppers
So glad you enjoyed, and I agree. This is one of those meals where the leftovers get even better, having had a chance to soak in the juices. Your subs sound fantastic!!
Can a bottom round roast be used? i have a 4 lb one. Thanks! I heard from my friend who made this that it was wonderful! Can’t wait to try it!
Hi Kathy, I’m so glad you heard good things about this! A round roast is leaner than a chuck roast, so my concern would be that it might not deliver the same velvety, flavorful, pull-apart tender result. If you try, I’d plan on cooking it for a shorter time and aim for a lower temperature, somewhere around 135 ℉ for medium-rare. If you do try with this cut, I’d love to know what you think.
I just saw your response last evening …thank you! I am thinking back as to how it turned out w/this cut. I know I sliced it but I was wondering if I did not cook it long enough. Also, the juices ran out! My friend said she always uses heavy duty aluminum foil and I did not. The meat still was delicious & I shredded a little but the slices were easy to do. The Silver Palate “Good Times”cookbook [red one] p 254, has one called “Comforting Shredded Beef” which uses a bottom round roast like I did. It is delicious too but it doesn’t use the dried onion mix. It has cognac, beef stock & Chianti in it. You simmer it on the stove for 3 hrs or til it falls apart. I found it online also from another site: https://www.cooking-mexican-recipes.com/comforting-shredded-beef-recipe/ Your recipe is easier!! I don’t recall how long I cooked it. I think I removed it when I saw the juices were crusting on the bottom of the pan!! Hope this helps! Next time I am using the heavy duty foil!! Thanks for a great & easy recipe!
Won’t lie, was initially skeptical that the meat would really be that tender…. But OMG!! Super Tender!! Huge Hit in our household!!
Haha! Crazy, huh? I’m so glad it didn’t disappoint!
How long do you cook when using the smaller roast. Mine is 2.4 lbs. My friend has made this before and highly recommends, but didn’t know how to modify the time. Thank you!
Hi Belinda, I’d check around the 2－2½ hour mark and add time as needed. Once the meat pulls apart easily with two forks, it’s done. So happy your friend recommended and hope you enjoy as well!
I absolutely love this recipe. I’ve made it several times and everyone loves it. Thank you. But…. the past several times I made it the meat was dry and not separating. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong… please help. Thanks for all your awesome recipes. Tracy
Hi Tracy, I’m glad this has been well liked. Can you think of anything that changed when you made it the last couple of times? Did you use the same cut of meat? Chuck roast is really preferred here, as many other cuts would dry out over the extended time in the oven. Not sealing the foil well could also make a difference. If neither of these ideas help, let me know and we can troubleshoot further.
This is my go to recipe. Every one loves it and thinks I spend hours preparing it:). I tell them it’s my mother’s recipe. Thanks again!!
I LOVE that! Thanks for your comment, Liz!
I’m going to try your recipe out!
Wish me luck!
Luck! (But it’s practically foolproof so I’m sure you won’t need it!)
My husband (mr. meat and potatoes) loves this! Thanks for a new and super easy recipe!
So happy to read your comment, Liz. Glad it’s a keeper!
I have a 1lb boneless chuck steak. If I wanted to follow this recipe how long would it have to cook for ? I have never made this before and thought it was a London broil type of meat lol. Thank you Ann!
I’d check it after an hour and allow more time as needed. The low oven temperature and this cut of meat make the recipe quite forgiving, so it’s hard to overcook it. My guess is that you’ll want to cook the chuck a little over an hour, but you’ll know it’s ready when it pulls apart very easily with two forks. I’d also use a little less than half the packet of seasoning. Hope that helps and that you enjoy!
I have been trying to get this receipe forever. I used to make it boocoo yrs. ago.!! The only thing different is I added a can of cream of mushroom soup. Bon appetite!
Glad you found this one, Elizabeth. Enjoy!
Found your recipe while browsing for ideas. My wife was up early and working a fund raiser with a group of Young Marines this morning. I thought I’d surprise her by having dinner ready when she returned home this evening.
She had a boneless chuck roast in the fridge, so your recipe was spot on.
So simple to prepare and yet incredibly delicious. Pulls apart with a fork and paired with baked potatos and green beans this was an awesome meal.
Thanks for sharing and turning me into a hero.
You sound like a total hero to me, Michael! (And your wife, too, for what she’s doing.) This is one of those recipes I can almost smell and taste just thinking about it — and I bet it was perfect with the potatoes to sop up the juices. I’m delighted it was a hit and appreciate your feedback.
Can you make gravy from the juices from the roast?
So want to thank you for this recipe, my husband who just eats meat and potatoes is so hard to cook for. He loves this chuck roast. Falls off the bone so delicious I even eat a piece. Thanks so much 5 stars for saving me !!
Liz, I’m thrilled your meat-loving husband approved and that you enjoyed some of it, too. Thanks for your thoughtful comment!
AMAZING! So easy and so good! The left overs were even better the next day. Thanks for sharing something so easy!! Who would have thought I already had all the ingredients at home!
I’m so happy this was convenient and well liked, Denise. This recipe is popular around here, too, and leftovers are always welcome!