Oma’s Old-Fashioned Pot Roast…Just Plain Good

Oma’s Old-Fashioned Pot Roast…Just Plain Good

Oma is my German mother-in-law and she makes the classics.  Primarily we’re talking meat and starch in various forms.  It isn’t fancy food, but has been served to her family for decades and never fails to satisfy.  As the weather turns cold, I crave this stick-to-your-ribs deliciousness.  This is the first of the Oma recipes on the site, Oma’s Old-Fashioned Pot Roast.

This recipe was taught to Oma by her own mother-in-law, Olga, who fed it to her family during cold Montana Winters.  This is frontier food.  Hearty and satisfying, this is the kind of meal that sends you back for seconds.  The kind of meal where you find yourself picking at the edges of the meat on the serving plate because it would be just too gluttonous to go back for thirds.

Reading through the short list of ingredients, you begin to learn the definition of plain:

  • 4.5 lbs Boneless Beef Chuck Roast, approximately 2 inches thick
  • 2 large or 4 small carrots
  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 1 to 2 onions, medium to large
  • 1 or 2 medium size rutabagas
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1-2 1/2 cups water, divided (optional)
  • 1/2 to 1 beef bouillon cube (optional)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Cut off a piece of the fat from your chuck roast and use it to grease the bottom of a large stock pot or dutch oven.  What you want is a heavy pot with a lid that can go in the oven and one that is large enough to hold the meat and vegetables.

Coat large flat sides of the meat in flour.  “What about salt and pepper?” I ask Oma. “Not yet” she says.  Trust in Oma.

Place the meat in your lidded pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat.

Brown the meat on the two main sides.  About 2-3 minutes on each side.

Place the cover on tightly and place in the preheated oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  While the meat is cooking, peel and chop the vegetables and potatoes into 2-3 inch pieces.  You want really big pieces because they are going to cook a long time and you don’t want them to get mushy.

BTW, we made this at my father’s house in Seattle.  I hope you are enjoying the retro green flowered laminate countertops?  Anywho, after 1 hour and 15 minutes, the beef will have released a lot of liquid into the bottom of the pan.  Ours looked like this.

Add the onions to the bottom of the pot so that they rest directly in the juices.  If you have significantly less liquid than this, you can add a cup of water or so.  Next add the carrot, rutabaga and potatoes.

Put the cover back on and place the pot back in the oven for another 75 to 90 minutes until the vegetables are fork tender (not mushy) and the meat is almost falling apart.

Cooked veggies often look a little pale, but trust me, good taste is coming.  Remove the vegetables to one dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place the meat on another dish.  “Why two dishes Oma?”  “Because that’s the way I do it,” says Oma.  Don’t argue with Oma.  Cover both with aluminum foil while you make the gravy.  The gravy is key!

Make a slurry by whisking together 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water.  It will be quite thick.  Take the pan with the juices and a few bits of meat and veggies still in it and place it on a cold burner.

This is one of those frustrating to explain moments.  I ask “How much of the slurry do you add Oma?”  “Enough,” she says.  “It depends on how much gravy you want and the amount of juices and if you are going to make more by adding water and bouillon.”  Hmmmm.  How to explain that?

Based on this amount of fluid (about 2 1/2 cups), Oma added about 1/4 cup of the slurry and whisked until it was smooth.  This lightened the color of the liquid.  Oma says that it’s important to whisk in the slurry before you heat the gravy because otherwise you get clumps.  Next she turned on the burner and cooked this gravy for about 2 minutes.  She tasted it.  Then, she added a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Then she tasted it.  Next, she added about a cup of water and and crumbled 1/2 a beef bouillon cube over that.  She simmered this mixture for another couple of minutes until it became the consistency of gravy.  I’ll be honest with you, even the juices were pretty good before she added anything, even salt.  At the end, it was scrumptious.  My only criticism, not enough gravy, so you may want to add a second cup of water and the whole bouillon cube.

So, to summarize, her gravy is just juices from the meat flavored from 1 1/2 hours in the oven with the vegetables with flour, water, salt, pepper and beef bouillon.  If you want to make this a little fancier, you might add some herbs or wine somewhere along the way, but not Oma.  Oma is not fancy.

To serve, place some meat and vegetables to each plate and cover the meat generously with gravy.  Insert fork into mouth and experience the definition of comfort food.  Repeat.