Different cuts of meat - and different cooking methods. A tender (and expensive) cut of beef - prime rib, for example - doesn't need slow - long cooking in a liquid - just a high roasting temperature until reaching the desired degree of doneness. Pot roast, on the other hand, can be made from the more economical cuts of beef - chuck (for example) - preferably a blade (bone still in) chuck roast - and long-cooked in a braising liquid - until the meat is fork tender. But any other cut of beef can also be used - like round roasts - for pot-roasting (or braising).
My "pot roasts" are always cooked in water and served with quarterd potatoes, carrots & onions added to the water later & cooked until done....a one dish meal, with added sides. My "roast beef" may or may not be cooked in liquid, is a more expensive cut of beef like rump roast and is served with mashed potatoes & gravy made from the meat drippings and any sides desired. But at today's prices, a lot of the "pot roasts" cost nearly as much as the better cuts of meat which have more meat & less fat and normally no bones included.
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Originally posted by Indexlady: Just today, I saw a HUGE CHUNK of meat labeled POT ROAST. I wondered what it was. Chuck is a particular part of the cow that they cut roasts from. I wondered where the POT roast came from.
The label was inaccurate. "Pot" roast isn't a cut. It's a cooking method. If I had seen the package of meat and couldn't have identified it myself (which I probably could have done), I'd have asked the meat cutter what it is. I feel pretty sure that package contained some portion of the beef chuck. That's what's traditionally used for "pot roast".
To answer your original question, WL, "pot roast" is a tougher, lower quality cut of beef that must be cooked in liquid in a covered pot/pan to make it tender enough to eat. "Roast beef" is a better cut of meat that's tender enough to eat without braising it in liquid. It's roasted in a shallow pan in the oven.
Pot roast is usually an inexpensive, less tender cut of beef that is first browned and then braised slowly in a covered pot with a little liquid. The result is a flavorful, tender piece of meat. Chuck or round cuts are the most popular for this dish. It's called Yankee pot roast when vegetables are added to the pot partway through the cooking process. The braising can be done either stovetop or in the oven.
Roast (as a noun) is a piece of meat (such as rib roast) large enough to serve more than one person. Such a meat cut is generally cooked by the roasting method. Roast (as a verb) is to oven-cook food in an uncovered pan, a method that usually produces a well-browned exterior and ideally a moist interior. Roasting requires resonably tender pieces of meat or poultry. Tougher pieces of meat need moist cooking methods such as braising.
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