Different cuts of beef have different textures, taste and degrees of tenderness when cooked. In the supermarket, a bottom round roast may be labeled rump roast, as it comes from the rump of the cow. Pot roast is a type of stew, but you may find a cut of meat in the meat counter labeled pot roast. This may be a chuck roast, a cut from the shoulder of the cow.
Understanding the differences between the various cuts of meats makes you a more informed consumer and a better cook. Though a prime rib cut may be considered one of the more tender and tastier cuts, it wouldn't make a very good pot roast. Chuck roasts, cut from the shoulder, and bottom rounds, cut from the bottom of the back end of the cow, are tougher pieces of meat, so they stand up to the long braising time needed to make a hardy pot roast. To further the confusion, a bottom round may be used for a pot roast, but may also be cooked as a rump roast. A chuck roast cannot be cooked as a roast, but works well for pot roast.
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Why Some Cuts are Labeled Pot Roast
Supermarkets may label shoulder cuts or chucks as pot roasts because in the vernacular many of these cuts are referred to as pot roasts. These cuts may include the 7-bone chuck roast, shoulder chuck roast or blade roast. Any cut that is more sinewy and fatty may be used for pot roast; no one specific cut is called a pot roast cut.
Why Bottom Roast Isn't Labeled Pot Roast
Bottom round roast is slightly more tender and less fatty than chuck roasts or shoulder roasts. The cut is the bottom section cut away from the top round; a thin membrane divides the two. The top round is sometimes labeled London broil and is a tender cut that works well for broiling, as the name implies. The bottom round is tougher and has more fat, but may also be cooked as a roast.
Cooking a Pot Roast
The tougher cuts of meat make for a better pot roast because they stand up to braising, a process that makes the tougher cut more tender and infuses the meat with flavor. Braising is the process of first searing a cut of beef, then cooking it in liquid in a covered pot for an extended length of time. Searing is quickly browning the outside of the meat in a pan over high heat. Place the seared meat in either a Dutch oven or crock pot and add enough liquid, either water or broth, so the meat is approximately 1/3 to 1/2 immersed in the liquid. Add vegetables and allow the meat and vegetables to cook through. You can cook pot roast on the stove top, in the oven or in a slow cooker.