Betty Wason's Basic Pot Roast

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes:

Betty Wason's recipe follows the familiar pared-down approach of other pot roasts, but adds one more cathartic step: you beat flour, salt, and pepper into the meat with the side of a plate, which seems to create a thicker crust and a more lustrous gravy in the end. My mom, Susan Miglore, has adapted Wason's recipe for the slow-cooker -- something that Betty Wason didn't have in 1963, but surely would have approved. By removing it from the realm of the stove and oven, you're that much freer to have pot roast at any time of year, whenever you need it. Adapted slightly from House & Garden magazine (January, 1963) via Epicurious.

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Serves: 6 to 8
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 5 hrs


  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 5 pounds rump of beef (or other roast suitable for slow-cooking, such as chuck)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons fat or oil
  • 2 onions, sliced, or 10 to 12 small onions, peeled
  • 1 to 2 carrots, scraped and cubed
  • Herbs and seasonings, as desired (we used bay leaf and thyme)
  • 1 cup liquid (wine, bouillon, tomatoes, vegetable broth, etc.)
  • Other vegetables, as desired (we used baby red potatoes)
In This Recipe


  1. Season the flour with the salt and pepper and pound the mixture into the meat with the edge of a plate.
  2. Brown meat on all sides in the hot fat or oil. Add the onions, cover and cook over low heat 10 minutes. Add the carrots, herbs, seasonings and liquid. Cover tightly and simmer 3 1/2 - 5 hours, until meat is fork tender. You may do this on the stovetop or transfer to a 350° F oven. Add desired vegetables during the last 20 or 30 minutes.
  3. Slow-cooker variation: After browning the meat, transfer to a slow cooker. Pour off excess fat from the pan. Saute onions in the same pan until softened slightly, then add to the slow-cooker. Pour liquid into the pan, scraping up the browned bits. Pour liquid and loosened bits into the slow-cooker, and add carrots, herbs, and other vegetables as desired. Cook on low 8 hours or more.

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Reviews (43) Questions (5)

43 Reviews

alpinestar February 9, 2019
Made this yesterday in my slow cooker and it was a dream. I was sceptical as this feels like something my mom would make (my tastes tend to run more vegetable-forward and middle-eastern or asian flavours), but I was so happy with it. I used instant beef bouillon for the liquid and served over buttered egg noodles with parsley- big recommend. We had salad on the table but totally ignored. Also, I'm not sure if I really got the 'plate-crushed-flour-crust' right, but it didn't seem to matter.
Sarag September 16, 2018
I’m wondering what it would be like if I substitute chickpea flour for the wheat flour...
Shannon M. October 11, 2018
Potato flour, if friendly to your stomach, is a great substitute for wheat flour in recipes such as this - very neutral. I love chickpea flour, but it does add its own chickpea funky flavor...
Sarag October 11, 2018
I did end up using chickpea flour and it was great!
Sarag October 11, 2018
And, yes, potato flour would be great, too.
Gloria R. August 26, 2018
I got Betty Wason's wonderful Everything Cookbook for a wedding present. I have made this many times but I also add this step for fabulous gravy: After the meat is done, remove it from the gravy and puree the gravy in a blender or food processor. Put the gravy and the meat back in the pot and reheat. Serve with wide noodles (no potatoes), and steamed green beans or broccoli.
Alison June 4, 2018
I made this a couple of months ago, when the temperatures were a tad chilly, and it was fantastic. Really. I used red wine, added some shallots as part of the onion, but otherwise didn't mess with it. It was one of the most tasty pot roasts I have ever had, and the genre is known for taste (perhaps not fashion). totally recommend this one. I meant to comment earlier, but forgot, and came across the listing when I was looking for something else.
kittykatofdoom January 23, 2018
I'm looking forward to making this this weekend, and I was wondering if anyone has tried making this with wondra flour and whether there would be any benefit to trying it that way?<br />Thanks :)
M.McAwesome December 18, 2017
I made this over the weekend, it was so good. I just heated some up for lunch and it is even better. <br /> I made in my Instant Pot pressure cooker. Mostly followed the recipe but after browning meat and softening the veggies a bit, I put everything in on the stew/meat setting for 75 minutes. Came out perfectly. I skipped adding potatoes to serve over egg noodles.
Kate V. May 24, 2017
The family loves this recipe. I used half red wine/stock for the liquid and threw in some fresh sage, rosemary and thyme. I put all the veggies in at the beginning and it was perfect.
jenncc April 15, 2016
This was fantastic and simple. Added mushrooms, fresh herbs, half sliced onions/ half cipollini onions, served with potatoes. The gravy was thick and delicious, the roast was tender and moist. Cooked in the oven at 300.
Becks D. January 1, 2016
Can you cook on high for 4 hours instead or will it not be as tender?
Vincent October 18, 2015
When do you add the small potatoes for slow cooking
Kristen M. October 19, 2015
For these photos, I added halfway through cooking, but my mom usually adds all the vegetables at the beginning (or starts the meat and adds the vegetables when she has time—"It's not rocket science," as she says). In the slow cooker, they're less likely to fall apart than on the stove-top.
jamie M. January 22, 2015
my go to meals for winter weekends... I also brown a couple of browned oxtails to add to it. I'm a tinkerer of recipes and to be honest nothing needs to change. It's just a classic meal... for good reason.
AntoniaJames December 27, 2014
Best pot roast ever. Seriously. Cannot imagine doing it any other way. ;o)
Susan W. October 18, 2014
I made this last night using Jan In Vaca's idea of pot roast for one. I used 3 boneless short ribs and pounded the flour in as the recipe directed. I made it in my slow cooker which has a saute setting. It turned out amazingly delicious and I ended up with two perfect meals. Can't wait to have part two tonight.
Molly October 27, 2014
I also live alone. I never thought of using short ribs. Ingenious.
[email protected] October 12, 2014
Is one cup of liquid enough if you are not using a slow cooker? I know less liquid evaporates in a slow cooker than stovetop or oven. Thanks. Looks delicious.
Kristen M. October 12, 2014
Yes, in my experience it reduces just enough to make a nice thick gravy, although it wouldn't hurt to check midway through to make sure that the liquid isn't evaporating too quickly.
Patty November 3, 2013
Ah, I remember my mother tenderizing meat with the side of a plate or saucer. She made great pot roasts regularly too. Thanks for the recipe and the nostalgia.
Karen October 14, 2013
My Mom used to make a great roast/with Yorkshire pudding, of course:) Mom would always buy a rump roast, & it was always juicy & amazing. I miss my Mom's roast beef dinners.
Jan I. October 14, 2013
I make this basic recipe for one (1) person by using boneless shortribs. Just brown a couple (or how many you think you can eat) exactly like the roast. I add the veggies, etc. and cook for about half the time. You can do it on the stovetop by keeping your frying pan covered. The onions and other veggies make enough juice to use as gravy. I call it my "potroast for one".
Susan W. October 13, 2014
I know this comment is a year old, but I love the idea of pot roast for one using short ribs.
Edward October 13, 2013
This was wonderful for dinner Today. My family wants me to make it again.
joseph October 13, 2013
the recipe for Wasons pot roast is missing a critical item, the oven method cooking temperature. There also seems to be a very wide range for the cooking time. why?
Kristen M. October 13, 2013
Thanks for asking -- Wason's original recipe was actually all done on the stovetop, but transferring to a 350 degree oven works very well too (and you don't have to check on it as often). I just updated the recipe with the oven option.<br /><br />As for the length of time -- it depends on the exact weight and shape of the meat, the size of the pot, etc. Better to start early than late, and hold in a low oven till dinner if it finishes early. The slow cooker method takes much longer, so you'll want to start it in the morning.
Richard H. October 13, 2013
HI what a perfect time to find your program F2. I am so alone and for many years I can buy any food I want and I like to cook but raelly haven't in a while. Do you reccamend any particular pot . I have one of those spanish pots but a dutch cost about fifty bucks . I was also thinking of those large electric ovens that many people down here cook their turkeys. I am all alone and five lbs. is to much . I could share it with a couple neighbors but I don't want to buy friend ship. Do you think it's ok to give things to people just to buy a friendship? thans again. Rich
kate October 13, 2013
Rich, I think it is a wonderful idea to share a dinner with people, don't think of it as buying friends but creating new friendships. Why not invite your neighbors to your house for dinner? It might not work with everyone, but it is worth a try. As for the Crock pot...I have a Ninja that I love, it browns with the stovetop feature. It is a bit on the large size and a tad expensive, but I use it all the time. Good Luck on creating new friendships!
Irene October 13, 2013
I agree with Kate. Inviting neighbors over for dinner might be exactly what they need and you will reap the benefits too. P.S. Don't forget - the aroma of an apple pie warming in the oven makes people feel right at home.
Irene October 13, 2013
Thanks, Kate, for the comment about the Ninja. I've been considering buying one. Now, I will.
Renee October 13, 2013
I would love an invitation to share a meal! I'm the kind of person who would say, "Sure! Can I bring a dessert?"
Tracey P. December 10, 2016
Kate, there are three model numbers for the Ninja 3-in-one: <br />MC-700<br />MC-750<br />MC-751<br />Which one do you have and like?<br />Thank you!<br />Tracey