Granddaddy’s Pot Roast

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Granddaddy’s Pot Roast

By Damon Lee Fowler

My grandfather was a passionate home cook. You might not think that odd today, but in the rural Deep South of the Depression era, the kitchen was a woman’s province; men cooked at home only out of necessity. In my grandparents’ household, however, it was MaMa who did that. She was a good cook and an exceptional baker, but she cooked because she had to.

Granddaddy, on the other hand, loved every aspect of bringing food to the table. A farmer in his early life and a butcher from the time my mother was a little girl, the only thing that gave him more pleasure than growing things in his garden or carefully selecting and hand-cutting a piece of prime meat was bringing those things to perfection in the pot.

MaMa did most of the weekday cooking, but Sundays were Granddaddy’s day in the kitchen. An early riser by nature and poster boy for the Psalm “I was glad when they said we will go into the Lord’s House”, it was no time for him to sleep in. He was up before the sun, making breakfast and getting the big midday dinner started before time for church.

When the main dish was pot roast, it would often be in the oven before the rest of us were up, and we’d wake to its aroma mingling with that of fat patties of his homemade sausage sizzling in a pan.

He learned to make pot roast from his mother, who, being a farm-wife solidly rooted in the nineteenth century, would never have allowed so much as a bottle of store-bought ketchup within a mile of her kitchen. Granddaddy, on the other hand, readily embraced the bottled sauces on the shelf at his store, and loved to experiment with them.

Granddaddy’s Pot Roast
Serves 6

1 tablespoon bacon drippings (preferred), rendered beef fat, or unsalted butter
3 pounds boneless chuck roast or 5 pounds bone-in roast
Salt and whole black pepper in a peppermill
About 2 cups beef broth or water
2 large yellow onions, trimmed, peeled, and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon unbleached, all-purpose flour

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 300-325° F. and fit a covered roaster or Dutch oven with a roasting rack. In a cast iron skillet, melt the fat over medium heat and when it is quite hot, brown the meat thoroughly on all sides. Remove the beef and season well with salt and pepper. Deglaze the skillet with broth or water and pour it into a covered roaster or Dutch oven. Turn off the heat.

Cover the roasting rack with half the onions. Place the beef over them and sprinkle it with Worcestershire. Cover it with the onions and sprinkle them with a little more salt, pepper and Worcestershire. Cover tightly and bake until the beef is almost falling-apart tender, about 3 hours.

Remove the meat to a platter and let it rest, covered, at least 15 minutes. Skim off the excess fat from the pan juices, reserving 2 tablespoons. Warm the reserved fat in the browning skillet over medium heat. Stir in the flour, and cook, stirring constantly, until smooth and lightly browned. Gradually stir in the pan juices, bring to a simmer, and simmer, stirring frequently, until thickened about 4 minutes. Adjust the seasoning and pour it into a warm sauceboat.

Take the onions off the top of the roast, slice, and arrange it on a platter. Drizzle it with some of the gravy and scatter the onions over it. Serve warm, passing the remaining gravy separately.

Other Sunday Supper Favorites:
Foolproof Standing Rib Roast
Lemon Pepper and Rosemary Roasted Chicken
Honey Game Hens
Braised Turkey Shank
Peanut Butter Glazed Ham
Duck Burgundy

Damon Lee Fowler is a culinary historian and author of six cookbooks, including Classical Southern Cooking, Damon Lee Fowler’s New Southern Baking, and The Savannah Cookbook. His work has also appeared in Food & Wine, Bon Appetit, and Relish. He lives and eats in Savannah, Georgia.

Read More From Holidays and Entertaining.

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Reader Comments:


paula and boys i watch your show every day and love it keep up the good work.

By denise pritchard on June 09, 2011


love,love,love your recipes...thank you,Diana

By diana robbins on June 02, 2011

I was born and raised in central Georgia. Your story about Oyster Stew brought back fond memories and tears to my eyes.  Both my parents have passed away but those memories of Oyster Stew on Christmas Eve will always be with me.  My mother grew up on a farm in Harrison, Georgia.  My Grandpa use to take a horse and wagon to a small country store(they didn’t own a car then) on Christmas Eve and bring back oysters for the stew and fresh fruit for stockings..  The tradition of Oyster Stew on Christmas Eve lives on.
As a note, we add finely chopped onion to the stew.

By Diane Nelson McGinns on November 10, 2010

Paula, I made Grandaddy’s Pot Roast and my family loved it. We didn’t make the gravy because my kids don’t always want it, so I saved the liquid. I thought it would make wonderful French Onion soup, but then again comes in the family taste buds and some don’t eat onions so I discarded the onions and put some of the leftover meat in with it. On another day I added some water and frozen mixed Veggies and Veggie beef soup with biscuits for dinner. The last of the leftovers are slated for a meeting with the slow cooker and BBQ sauce for Beef BBQ sandwiches later this week. Such a wonderful recipe and it does double and triple duty for this family of 5.

By Becky Kargman on October 22, 2010

The picture was enough to make me want to try this recipe. My Father doesn’t have such fond remembrances of his father’s cooking, but he most certainly was a country cook. I remember some of his creations fondly. Thanks for bringing back a few memories of my Grandfather. Another excellent submission, Mr. Fowler!

By Lt. Sanders on October 17, 2010

Damon’s writing is so descriptive and I look so forward to each article. Hopefully, he is working on another book…cookbook or otherwise.

By Lynn Hagan on October 16, 2010

Hey Paula,
I haven’t tried Grandaddy’s Pot Roast yet,but it sound delicious!!!We don’t have cable so I can’t watch you anymore so I really miss you!But on the bright side I can watch you on my computer!

By Mary Beth Tarter on October 14, 2010

Hi There
I certainly want to try Granddaddy’s Pot Roast but no matter what I do to my computer or my printer I cannot print the whole recipe out.  Can you help me????  Love ya Paula but can’t get you up here in Vineland Ontario Canada anymore on our TV stations and I really really miss you!

By Carolyn on October 14, 2010

My grandfather was also a wonderful cook. I sit and dream of his pot roast, though he completely cooked his on top of the stove in a cast iron skillet.  I’ve never been able to duplicate it but this recipe might be close.
My grandfather would actually cook this roast for breakfast along with potatos, biscuits and gravy.  He would occasionally also fry chicken or pork chops for breakfast.
I cetainly miss those mornings at his breakfast table!

By jan hyde on October 13, 2010

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