This method of cooking small or large joints of meat and whole poultry in a small amount of liquid, usually with herbs and vegetables, is ideal for less tender cuts of meat, poultry and game that are low in natural fat. It makes them wonderfully succulent and tender and minimizes shrinkage. The meat is nearly always browned before being placed in the slow cooker with a little liquid and other ingredients. Sometimes the meat is marinated before cooking, especially beef and game, which can be dry.
When choosing joints of meat for pot-roasting, small pieces weighing no more than 1.2kg/1 ½ lb are ideal. If the meat is irregularly shaped it will cook less uniformly and may be tied; shoulder of lamb should be both boned and tied before pot-roasting.
Tying a boneless joint
You will need fine string for tying joints of meat. Store it in a plastic bag or box. Rather than leaving loose in a drawer, so that it dose no get dirty.
- Roll or arrange the meat joint into a neat shape. Tie it lengthways with a piece of string. This should be pulled tightly and double-knotted because the meat will shrink a little during cooking. (You may need to ask someone to help you do this.)
- Tie the joint widthways at regular intervals about 2.5cm/1 in apart, knotting and trimming the ends of string as you go. Apply even pressure when tying each length of string to keep the shape of the joint as neat possible.
Boning a shoulder of lamb
Lamb shoulder is made up of three bones; the flat blade bone, the thin arm bone and the knuckle.
- Place the shoulder on a board and trim off any excess fat. Insert a sharp knife into the large end of the flat blade bone, working towards the centre. Turn the meat over and repeat on the other side. Twist out the blade.
- Put the lamb, skin side down, on the board. Cut along the line of the arm and knuckle bones, scraping the meat off the bones, then remove them.
- Cut through the flesh where the blade bone was and open out the meat . it can now be stuffed, then rolled and tied.
Tying a shoulder en ballon
As an alternative to rolling and tying a shoulder of lamb, it can be tied en ballon; this is a round cushion shape that is served sliced into wedges.
- Lay the meat out flat, skin side down. If you like, spoon stuffing into the middle. Pull one corner of the joint into the centre and secure it with skewer.
- Do the same with the other four corners, tucking in the remains of the shank and securing them by tying a loop of string around the “ballon”.
- Turn the joint over and continue tying loops of string at even spaces around the ballon, to make six or eight sections. Tie a knot at the crossover point on each side as you go.
Pot-roasting brisket of beef
Other cuts of beef, such as silverside and topside of beef, can be cooked in this way. Stuffed breast or shoulder of lamb also work very well.
1.2kg/1 oz/2 tbsp beef dripping or white vegetable fat
2 onions, cut into 8 wedges
2 carrots, quartered
2 sticks celery, cut into 5cm/2in lengths
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
300ml/ ½ pint/1 ¼ cups near-boiling beef stock salt and ground black-pepper
- Season the meat well with salt and pepper. Heat the dripping or vegetable fat in a large, heavy pan until hot. Add the meat and turn frequently using two spoons until browned. If the fat gets too hot before the meat is browned, add a little cold butter to cool it. Lift out the meat and transfer to a plate.
- Pour away some of the fat, leaving about 15ml/1 tbsp in the pan. Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook for a few minutes or until lightly browned and beginning to soften. Browning the vegetables will add flavour and colour to the pot-roast, but take care not to darken them too much or the stock will become bitter. Arrange a single layer of vegetables in the base of the cooking pot, then place the meat on top. Adding any juices from the plate. Put the remaining vegetables around the sides of the meat and tuck in the fresh herbs.
- Pour the stock into the pan and bring to the boil, stirring in any sediment.
- Pour the stock over the meat and vegetables; it should barely cover them, leaving most of the meat exposed.
- Cover the slow cooker with the lid and switch to high. Cook for 4 hours, then reduce the temperature to low and cook for a further 2-3 hours, or until the meat is cooked through and very tender. Once or twice during cooking, turn the meat and baste. Avoid using any sharp utensils when doing so because they may puncture the outer layer and allow juice to escape.
- Lift out the meat and place on a warmed serving dish. Cover with a piece of foil and leave it to rest; 15 minutes will be sufficient to allow the fibres to relax and let the juice settle, making the meat easier to carve.
- Meanwhile, skim any fat from the juice and stock in the cooking pot. Serve as a gravy with the meat. (If you like, thicken the juice with cornflour or arrowroot first.) Normally the vegetables are discarded, but these may be served with the meat as well.
A whole chicken can be pot-roasting exactly the same way as a joint of beef or lamb, but this technique is unsuitable for large chickens weighing more than 1.6kg/3 ½ lb. avoid stuffing the cavity, although you may add a quartered onion or lemon for flavouring.
150m/ ¼ pint/ cup dry white wine or dry (hard) cider
2 bay leaves 1.2-1.3kg/2 ½ -3lb chicken
1 lemon, quartered
15ml/1 tbsp sunflower oil
25g/ 1 oz/2 tbsp unsalted (sweet) butter
150ml/ ¼ pint/ cup boiling chicken stock
15ml/1 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch) blended with 30ml/2 tbsp water or wine salt and ground black pepper
- Pour the wine into ceramic cooking pot. Add the bay leave and switch the slow cooker to high. Meanwhile, rise or wipe the chicken and pat dry using kitchen paper. Season the cavity, then add the lemon quarters.
- Heat the oil and butter in a heavy frying pan. Brown the chicken on all sides, then transfer it to the ceramic cooking pot. If the chicken has been trussed, untie it before placing in the cooking pot. This will allow heat to penetrate more easily.
- Pour the stock over the chicken, then cover with the lid and cook on high for 3 ½ -4 ½ hours, or until the juices run clear when pierced with a thin knife or skewer, or a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 77 . (Chicken and other poultry must be cooked on high throughout.)
- Lift the chicken out of the cooking pot, place on a warmed serving dish, cover with foil and leave to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving. Meanwhile, skin the juices, stir in the cornflour mixture and cook on high for 10 minutes. Then serves as a sauce.