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 dished up a mean roast. 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.
Once cooked this way, 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,” is every bit as flavorful without the fat—healthier, too.
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 basic green veggie rounds out the meal beautifully. Leftovers are delicious as is, but when added to a basic vegetable or mushroom barley soup, they will add magic to the recipe.
Yields 2-3 servings per pound of roast.
- 1 (3 to 3-1/2 pound) chuck roast (see notes*)
- Olive oil
- 1 packet Lipton onion soup mix (or this homemade version)
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Place the roast on a large sheet of aluminum foil that has been set on a baking sheet with sides. 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 3-1/2 hours or until the meat is fall-apart tender. If your roast is in the 3-1/2 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 2-1/2 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.
The soup mix, either store-bought or homemade, acts as a dry rub and imparts incredible flavor as the chuck roast transforms into juicy, fork-tender meal.
Click here for a copycat version of Lipton’s onion soup mix.
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