One Pot Roast, A Week of Cheap and Delicious Lunches

Photo: Jeremy Keith

Hamburger was once the meat for cheap meal plans. As food costs have risen, however, it is often more common to find a good cut of shoulder roast on sale for less money per pound than regularly-priced hamburger. Stock up, save, and get ready with these four quick ways to enjoy your roast!

The Roasting Process: Many people avoid cooking beef roast because it is a slow process. To get a nice, tender outcome, it is important to take your time, and include plenty of moisture. I like to buy the largest cut I can (or two) and toss them in my largest slow-cooker for 7-8 hours on low. By filling the pot halfway with water, I ensure it won’t get tough, and I guarantee plenty of beef stock for future meals. Spices can be anything you choose – I use garlic, cracked black pepper, and a couple teaspoons of Lawry’s Seasoning salt. Rosemary or onion powder makes a nice variation, and for extra tasty drippings, you can add ¼ cup prepared au jus concentrate or one can of Coke.

After the roast is tender enough to break up easily, allow it to cool to room temperature and put it in the fridge overnight (juice and all.) In the morning, you can remove the fat from the top of the liquid, and begin preparing one of the four meals. (Be sure to save the liquid.)

Traditional Hot Beef Sandwiches – This my favorite comfort food. Shred and warm enough beef to make up your sandwiches on your choice of bread. Use ¼ of the reserved beef liquid to make your gravy (Simply heat to a slow boil in a sauce pan, slowly adding a mixture of 3 Tablespoons flour and water to thicken. You can also add extra salt and pepper to taste.) Pour the gravy over your sandwiches and a side of mashed potatoes!

Not-so-sloppy Joes – Yeah, I know (another sandwich.) But since they are a favorite at our house, these add a neat little twist to traditional sloppy joes. Just take your favorite sloppy recipes (whether it be from a mix, can, or homemade) and replace the browned ground beef with finely shredded roast. Yum!

Quesadillas – These are fun to serve guests. Get your largest flour tortillas and layer the following on one half of one side of the wrap: shredded beef, black beans, diced red onions, and shredded cheese. Fold in half and spray both sides with cooking spray (I prefer olive oil sprays.) Brown the quesadilla in a skillet until crisp on both sides over medium heat. Remove from heat, cut into four triangles with a pizza cutter, and serve with a dollop of salsa and sour cream!

Veggie Beef Stew – You should still have some of that leftover beef broth from cooking. Cook it and the rest of your shredded beef in a stock pot over medium-high heat. Add your favorite veggies (if you’re going cheap, a can of Veg-All will work) and cook until heated through! You can also add cooked rice, egg noodles, or dumplings.

Other ways to use your beef include: various pies, BBQ beef sandwiches, French Dip, and pizza. The more roast you initially cook, the more meals you will have!

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Myscha Theriault's picture

And amen to it being cheaper than hamburger now. At least frequently, if not permanently.

Another thing I've done, particularly with chuck roast is to cook it with tomato sauce and taco seasoning. When it gets soft, shred it with a fork. It's basically crockpot tacos.

Oh, and P.S? I'm totally with you on the quesadillas thing. Yummo.

Linsey Knerl's picture

I knew I was waiting for your comment for a reason!  I still have some beef left, so I will be doing the taco thing this week!

Philip Brewer's picture

As an alternative to slow cooking, consider pressure cooking.  It goes much, much quicker--which saves time and energy, and also doesn't heat your house up as much (something that's important to us this time of year).  The pressure also does an especially good job of tenderizing those tougher cuts of beef, when they're what's on sale.

We use left-over roast beef for a whole series of sandwiches:

  • French dip (enrich the broth with onion)
  • Italian beef (add rosemary, oregano, garlic, and red pepper to the broth)
  • BBQ (just pour some BBQ sauce over the meat) 

We usually make up the broth, then simmer the thin slices of meat in it just long enough to get them hot, the serve the sandwich with a cup of the broth on the side.

Myscha Theriault's picture

Lots can be done with bargain beef, but I really think you're on to something with using extra liquid and keeping the seasonings basic to expand your freezable stock. And by the way, great calorie saving tip with chilling the stuff first and then scraping it away.

Good luck with taco night. What's interesting is when I've been in more traditional roadside taco places, this is kind of the way I've seen in done most often. With a side of spicy black beans or regular low fat refried beans, and having the chopped veggies as the taco toppers, this is a nice balanced dinner that's really cheap. Bonus? Kids dig it.

Guest's picture

Mmmm hot beef sandwiches are amazing. Such a filling and comforting meal!

Guest's picture

In order to keep my cool (kitchen), I like to put my crock pot on the back patio during the summer. My workmate workbench keeps it up high enough so I don't worry about critters. To keep curious flies from touching anything, I add a sheet of aluminum foil over the lid and seal the rim all around with it. Unfortunately, the aroma can also draw neighbors . . .

Linsey Knerl's picture

I love the idea of putting it on the bach porch!  Now if I can just keep my dog and my chickens away....


Guest's picture

Glad you pointed out the recent beef roast prices. I usually don't even look at them because it's so painful! Also glad to have some new ideas for using leftovers. Here are some of mine:

Ersatz Cheese Steaks with Leftover Roast

Slice leftover beef roast very small and thin, almost shredded. Melt butter in frying pan, and fry chopped onions in it. When almost done to your liking, add beef and cook til warmed. Divide into sandwich-sized piles and put a slice of cheese atop each. Cook til cheese melted. Serve on nice rolls.

Beef barley soup is also easy. Leftover beef cut small, the leftover crockpot broth, a can of diced or stewed tomatoes, a handful of frozen mixed vegetables, and some barley. Just cook together til the barley is plumped.

Oh, and for the original cooking I use the "Once A Month Cooking" book's crockpot recipe. They call it Mrs. Ringle's Brisket, but you can use it on any cut of beef roast. Just smear some yellow mustard on top of the meat and then sprinkle an envelope of onion soup mix over it. Throw in some cut up carrots and potatoes. No extra liquid needed, and it makes a great tasting broth.

Guest's picture

I also like to cook either a turkey or pork loin. Today we will have a turkey breast (cost $5.99) which will feed us a nice Sunday dinner with enough for sandwiches and some turkey salad.

Watch for whole pork loins on sale. I can get one for around $15. I cut the small ends off and cut into small pieces for stir fry. The next 6 inches are for a roast which I cook in my showtime rotisserie. I coat it with garlic, course ground pepper and sprinkle of sage. If it is very lean I wrap it in bacon. The middle is cut into inch wide slices. These are used as boneless loin chops. I like to marinate them overnight with thin sliced onions then grill. For $15 I have made at least 4 meals!

Guest's picture

What is your preferred method of storing the beef for future use? Tupperware/frozen/fridge, etc, and how long do you expect it to last at the maximum?

Linsey Knerl's picture

Can be stored in the fridge for 3-5 days (depending).  I usually wrap it up well  or put it in tupperware.  (Although if kept in its original cooking juices, it can stay very moist and not get all dry and icky.  I have also cooked extra and frozen it.  I freeze it in its juice in gallon freezer bags or add the seasoning (BBQ sauce, taco mix, etc) and freeze it ready to heat and eat.  I try not to leave this in the freezer any longer than a couple months.

Guest's picture

I started using leftover crockpot roast for my enchiladas and my tamalles and I'm getting RAVE reviews! It's great, because then we're not stuck eating 'leftovers' all the time and it makes these two dishes about 1/2 as time consuming. I just shread any leftover meat I have and then I put it in the freezer until I'm ready to make enchiladas or tamalles - a quick zap in the microwave and some enchilada sauce or cheese & pepers and it's ready to go filling.


Guest's picture

I live with my parents and this is what I took to work each day when we had roast! You can buy a fantastic roast for a phenominal price now, and there are tons of ways to serve it up each day! I love mine with roasted potatoes, but this saved me when I didn't have any money for lunches!

Guest's picture

I loooove roast beef dinners, so of course I had to mention this post on my blog!

One thing everyone seems to be glossing over... what about regular old roast beef sandwiches for lunch? A little mayo and some lettuce make it tasty, no microwave needed!

Thanks for the post, I am definitely going to try out the quesadilla idea next time. :)

Guest's picture

The crockpot is a nice technique, and I've used it, but if you really want to save energy try using your pressure cooker to cook the roast.. You will get similar results as with the crockpot but with probably half the energy used. And you will be able to brown the outside of the roast first in the pressure cooker itself, if you're into that kind of thing. And the roast will be ready in 45 minutes, not 6 hours.

Check the cooking times in your pressure cooker manual. I'm writing this by memory!

It cooks at 240 degrees or so and at a higher rate of heat transfer due to the vapor pressure, that's why it cooks so fast.

Guest's picture
Papa Stan

Recipe sounds just great. I picked up a 2.5# chuck roast today, and I'm going to cook tomorrow. I'll bring it over to our daughter who is just home from the hospital with our latest grandchild (the 8th!).

Never used a crockpot/slowcooker, borrowed hers and I'm [just about] ready to go, except for a couple of questions:

Should I brown the roast on the stovetop before putting it in the pot?

Will a medium-rare to medium with some pink be possible as shown in the picture, or is this gonna be cooked through and through?

And last one: any way to "refine" the cook time for doneness by just sticking a remote probe thermometer into the roast and check?

Great site, really like the stuff here :) Thanks...

Linsey Knerl's picture

A couple of things:

If you like the look of a  more seared outside (less soggy, darker brown, more carmelized in flavor) go ahead and add a little oil to a frying pan and just brown the outside of the roast for a minute or so before putting it into the pan.

You can get the reddish inside like shown in the picture, but you may not have as tender an outcome.  If you want to serve your roast medium rare, you'll probably need to just undercook it in the crockpot (best tested by cutting into it after 6 hours or so) and then put it into the fridge overnight to set.  You won't be able to eat it right away, but it will be more tender than if you ate it immediately and you can still have it on the rarer side.

Otherwise, you will need to cook it for 6-12 hours (the longer the more tender) but you won't have a reddish color anymore, and the meat will practically fall apart.  (which is how I like it.)  Great for shredded dishes or for very sloppy (but yummy) cuts of meat.

Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

Guest's picture
Papa Stan

OK, here's my results :)

Actually a 2.5# chuck roast is more like a 2.5# chuck steak. So after trimming most of the visible fat I tied it up a bit with some butcher string to make it rounder and thicker.

I put 2 qts of water and about 3tbs of "Better Than Beef" boullion/stock into the pot and set it at "Low". After salt and peppering the roast, and inserting about a 1/2 dozen slivers of garlic into slits in it, I browned it about a minute or so per side, placed a remote temp probe in it and dropped it into the cooker, set my timer for 6 hours.

Checked back around the 2hr mark and the temp of the roast was already over 140F, so our plans for a medium rare roast were gone, and the meat was far from tender. At that point I knew it was gonna be the looooong sloooow roast process :) I checked again around 6hrs and it still was very tough (internal temp by then was about 190F). I pulled the roast from the pot, sliced it, and placed the slices back into the liquid for some more cooking. Gravy/broth tasted great!!!

Set the timer for another 4hrs, taste test passed with flying colors, good taste reasonably tender. I shut it down, let it cool and placed it covered in the fridge overnight. This morning I skimmed off the fat layer and we'll have it tonight.

Thanks guys, all good hints and tips. The process is a keeper, now to find something other than the tough chuck, perhaps briskett will work as well or better?

Linsey Knerl's picture

I appreciate you sharing.  I've never cut off the fatty parts before, so that's a tip I'll have to try (although I love the flavor of it.)  Briskett may be a nice upgrade to the process!

Guest's picture
Papa Stan

Just finished dinner, outstanding roast, great au jus. I think that the extra step I took, removing the roast at around 6 hrs and slicing it, then placing it back in the crock pot for another 3 hrs really paid off. Very very tender and awesome taste.

Thanks again...Stan