Chuck Roast Vs. Pot Roast: Is There Any Real Difference?

If you grew up in a "meat and potatoes" family, chances are you had pot roast on the table at least once a week. After all, it is (or was, thanks rising grocery prices) reliably inexpensive, or less expensive than steak, anyway. It turns out especially well if it's made in a slow cooker, ideal for nights when everybody comes home late and nobody has been able to be home since late afternoon to have dinner on the table exactly 27 minutes after everybody walks in the door starving. It's also versatile and often cooks along with many different vegetables, with many different spice combinations. Talk about a one-hit wonder. 

But ... did you have pot roast? Or did you have chuck roast? Did your mom use those terms interchangeably? And, noticeably, did you actually have chuck roast as pot roast? Prepare to have your mind blown. Chuck roast is pot roast. Unless it's not. That's because chuck roast is a cut of meat and pot roast is a way of preparing meat.

What is chuck roast

Chuck roast is a specific cut of meat. It's a cut of meat from the shoulder part of the steer. Because it's a muscle that is used a lot, it has a highly developed flavor but can also tend to be quite tough, which means it needs to be cooked a long time to break down the fat and connective tissue. It can come with or without the bone and has enough fat to make it tender if you cook it long enough. This isn't a meat you want to sear quickly and serve medium rare. It's best suited towards long, slow braises. Coax chuck roast into its most flavorful and tender self by cooking it slowly for a long time and you'll be rewarded with rich, tender beef that is absolutely delicious when served in the style of pot roast. Then the fun part comes and you get to decide what to cook along with it, all in the same cooking vessel.

Pot roast is the method

Pot roast is the style of cooking a cut of meat, not the cut of meat itself. It involves slowly braising a cut of meat (could be chuck roast, brisket from the breast, roast round from the hind leg area). It could even be even be pork or lamb. Who says the pot roast has to be beef? Use a Dutch oven, a slow cooker, or even a pressure cooker if you really want to speed things along. The only must haves are meat that must be cooked for a long time to let the connective tissues break down and a liquid in which to cook. 

Then, the choices are up to you. Go classic with onions, potatoes, and carrots. Branch out into other hearty root vegetables like parsnips, celery root, and turnips. Use any herbs you prefer, including but not limited to thyme and rosemary, but save more delicate herbs like parsley for sprinkling on at the end, so they don't totally disintegrate and lose their way in the long cooking process. And whatever you do, be sure to serve the meaty dish with a carb like bread or buttered noodles to soak up all the tasty juices. And also be sure to wow everybody about the difference between chuck roast and pot roast, now that you know.