How to Cook a Pot Roast in the Slow Cooker

Pot roast the slow cooker recipe

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  • Total: 8 hrs 15 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins
  • Cook: 8 hrs
  • Yield: 8 servings

With or without the optional gravy, this basic recipe makes a tasty and very tender slow-cooked pot roast. The pot roast takes just 15 to 20 minutes of preparation. Put everything in the slow cooker in the morning, set it, and forget about it until dinner time!

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Ingredients

  • For the Pot Roast
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or extra-virgin olive oil)
  • Kosher salt (to taste)
  • Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 pounds beef chuck roast (or bottom round)
  • 1/2 cup beef stock (or water)
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 1/2 pounds potatoes (about 5 or 6 medium-sized potatoes)
  • 2 medium carrots (or more)
  • 1 dried bay leaf (1 large or two small)
  • For the Optional Gravy
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons water (cold)

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this pot roast is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and cooking.

Make the Pot Roast

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for pot roast
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil or olive oil in a skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat.

    Oil in pan
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. Pat the pot roast with paper towels to dry; remove any excess visible fat.

    Cut roast
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  4. Season the pot roast with salt and pepper and then dust on all sides with the flour. 

    Season pot roast
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  5. Brown the pot roast on all sides in the hot oil, then remove the pot roast to a plate.

    Brown pot roast
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  6. Add 1/2 cup of beef stock or water to the skillet; stir and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen browned bits. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

    Add beef stock
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  7. Cut the 2 large onions in half lengthwise. Peel and then cut them crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. Place the onions in the bottom of a 3 1/2-quart or larger crockpot.

    Add onion
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  8. Cut about 5 or 6 medium potatoes into 1-inch to 2-inch pieces. Add the potatoes to the pot with the onions.

    Cut potatoes
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck 
  9. Cut 2 or 3 carrots into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Add the carrots to the vegetables in the crockpot.

    Cut carrots
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  10. Place the browned pot roast on top of the vegetables. If the pot roast does not fit comfortably in the pot, cut it into two or three pieces.

    Put roast on slowcooker
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  11. Pour the juices from the skillet over the pot roast and vegetables.

    Pour juices inside
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  12. Season with a little more salt and freshly ground black pepper and add the bay leaf.

    Season
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  13. Cover the pot and cook on the LOW setting for 8 to 10 hours, or on the HIGH setting for about 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours. The vegetables should be tender, and the roast is almost falling apart. For a shreddable roast, longer is better.

    Cover pot roast
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  14. Remove the roast and vegetables to a serving platter; keep it warm until serving time.

    Remove roast
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Optional Gravy

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for gravy
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. Skim off the fat or strain the liquids into a fat separator.

    Skim off fat
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. Pour the strained liquids into a saucepan. Bring the liquids to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue cooking until reduced to about 1 to 1 1/2 cups. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

    Stir
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  4. Combine 1 1/2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour with 1 to 2 tablespoons of cold water; mix until smooth and well blended.

    Stir
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  5. Add the flour mixture to the reduced liquids and continue cooking until thickened.

    Add flour
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  6. Serve over the pot roast and vegetables and enjoy!

    Pot roast the slow cooker recipe
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Tips

  • The caramelization obtained by browning the beef first can greatly enhance the flavor, color, and texture, but it is not absolutely necessary. If you are short on time, omit the olive oil and the 2 tablespoons of flour and put the seasoned beef into the slow cooker without browning.
  • The best cuts for pot roast are often labeled "pot roast." For the most flavorful and succulent beef, use a lean chuck roast, bottom round, or rump roast. A bone-in 7-bone roast is another excellent option, but it is quite large, so make sure your slow cooker is large enough to accommodate it. Or you could ask the butcher to cut it in half.
  • Low starch potatoes, such as red-skinned or round white, are the best choice for slow cooker because they hold up well. 
  • You can use parsnips, turnip, rutabaga, or other root vegetables in this dish. If you add a more delicate vegetable, such as frozen peas or green beans, wait until about 30 minutes before the roast is ready.
  • For Italian flavor, add a 14.5-ounce can of diced or crushed tomatoes to the roast along with 2 cloves of minced garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of dried basil. 
  • Replace part of the water or beef stock with red wine for a richer flavor. Use a cabernet, merlot, or another good quality dry red wine.