Pot Hooks the Unfoodie

By Karen

No, this is not about what you’re probably thinking…

This weekend was bitter, bleak and wet, and Food Lion had chuck on sale, so I decided to try another pot roast.

This time, instead of ancient bouillon, I had beef stock, drinkable red wine, and fresh sprigs of thyme and rosemary on hand (and I kept carrots and onions in the brew). The result was truly “fork-tender,” falling apart as I lifted it out of the pot.

But it was the POT that really got me excited. If you’ll remember, I cooked my first roast in a non-stick pot that didn’t need deglazing, so I had picked up a covered stainless steel Dutch oven at Big Lots — for $5.

Meet the new love of my life.

While searing this roast, I never expected the feeling of liberation that came over me. As I was struggling to turn 3 lbs. of meat with metal tongs and a spatula (so as not to pierce it and let the juices escape), I kept reminding myself it was OK to scrape the bottom of the pan. There was no non-stick surface to fear and coddle.

And then there were bits stuck to the bottom to deglaze with wine and my bamboo wok scraper!

My recipe calls for oven roasting at 275°, but I kept it on the stove and watched the action through the glass lid.

After 3 hours of simmering, things were pretty messy and I feared the pot might be totaled, but after just a few dabs with stainless steel, it’s good as new.

On the other hand, I’ve got this nice, heavy Emeril non-stick frying pan that’s all show — everything sticks to it. Now I’m thinking stainless steel is the way to go so I can start using “real” metal utensils again.

14 Responses to Pot Hooks the Unfoodie

  1. adele says:

    I gotta go to Big Lots. My experience is that there are varying degrees of stainless, and I don’t think price is always the issue. I have the same problems with my one Emeril skillet, but I have an old stainless pot of my mother’s that sears great and cleans up fine.

    But your new Dutch oven is a beauty — perfect for steaming some mussels, and you can watch the progress through the glass top.

  2. catsworking says:

    Adele, Big Lots is kind of a mess, and you never know what they’re going to have in stock, but if you dig around, you can find some really good bargains. We also have Ollie’s, which is the same concept. Ollie’s slogan is “Good stuff cheap!”

    This was the first time using that pot, and I almost chickened out, thinking it wouldn’t work. But for $5, it’s pretty heavy-duty. The picture was taken after I’d cooked the roast, and it still looks almost like new. It was nice to be able to see how things were coming along without lifting the lid.

    I hear you on cheap pots. My first set was aluminum (with a harvest gold finish). They were light and lousy, but good enough until I could afford better.

    I love cast iron, and I have a big skillet and a tiny frying pan that holds one egg. They’re both seasoned nicely, but the bigger pan is so heavy, I always grab for Emeril instead. The little pan splatters all over the stove.

  3. adele says:

    I know exactly what you mean about cast iron. I love it, and cast iron skillets make the best pineapple upside down cake and corn bread, ever. But the big skillets are so heavy, as is my enamel on cast iron Dutch oven (which also cooks and cleans up great) that I can barely lift them; in fact, I once wrenched my back getting my Dutch oven out of the stove oven.

    Here’ hoping you and your new pot have many culinary adventures.

  4. Zappa's mom says:

    Im drooling!!! Can I do that in my crock pot? Tips,anyone?


  5. catsworking says:

    Adele, when I was looking for a Dutch oven, I was tempted by the cast iron ones, but since my kitchen is so small, I have to get into my oven sideways, and I could just see a cast iron pot crashing down onto the glass window of the oven door. I have used the cast iron skillet to brown meats under the broiler.

    ZM, I considered doing the roast in the crockpot but wanted to try out my new Dutch oven. Since the recipe called for low heat (I cooked it with my stove on 2 out of 10 and it still bubbled the whole time), I’m sure you could do it. The whole secret is to buy a marbled piece of meat, keep it in plenty of liquid, and just let it keep simmering until it falls apart. I’d cook it on low in the crock for 5-6 hours.

    Also, searing it good on all sides so it’s already nice and brown before you put it in the crock will keep it from looking gray and stringy like boiled beef when it’s done.

    Since this second roast came out even tenderer than the first (and it wasn’t as well-marbled), I’m sure it was the wine that broke it down. In fact, Eric Ripert recently made beouf bourguignon on the Today Show and recommended marinating the meat in wine beforehand for just that. I remembered, but didn’t have time to marinate. IT couldn’t hurt.

  6. adele says:

    Ah, wine. So many useful purposes. Bless that caveman or bronze age peasant, who figured out fermentation.

  7. Britta says:


    The only way to fly to get a good roast going. I use my Mom’s 30 year old, nicely seasoned roasting pot. Sear away and then deglaze for a wonderful sauce then into the oven for a nice slow and low roasting time…yummm. Aside from sunny-side up eggs, no-stick is just as you inferred…a pampered tool not worth its salt.
    FWIW, I also saute a few onions while searing the roast, keeping them off the hot heat around the sides so they don’t burn but carmelize nicely. Great cold, rainy day endeavor. Unfortunately, we’ve been 10 degrees above normal lately. Nice for yard work, not good for heating up the kitchen.

  8. Bacardi1 says:

    Karen – you still have to be careful using metal utensils in that new pot of yours. Most, if not all, “shiny” stainless steel cookware do utilize a clear non-stick coating. I have a Dutch Oven that looks identical to yours, & it came with a written warning to only use wooden or plastic utensils; metal with extreme care to avoid scratching the pan.

  9. catsworking says:

    Bacardi, YIKES!!! I don’t think my pot came with any such instructions. I thought the non-stick with stainless resulted from getting the pan nice and hot before putting the food in. Thanks for the warning.

    Britta, my recipe had me brown carrots and 2 onions (cut only in half) in oil before searing the meat, set them aside, then put them back for cooking. The first time I tried it, I cut the onions up, and they disappeared completely into the broth. This time, I did only cut them in half, but didn’t feel like they were cooked well enough. But they were still in there when the roast was done.

    Also, my gravy didn’t come out as rich and thick as it did the first time, and I think that was because of the wine. I let it reduce in the pan for a while, but got impatient and hungry and said the hell with it.

  10. MorganLF says:

    I recently gave in to a craving that had haunted me for years. I wanted a heavy cast iron enameled Dutch oven. Not just any one, I wanted a Le Creuset. Very expensive About $190, but occasionally Home Goods has seconds for $99 for the 3.5 quart. A few months ago I gave in and bought one, aside from my iPad , its my favorite thing! I get excited to use it, it’s the one you see all the time on cooking shows that goes from stove top to oven. Its super heavy, cleans with a swish of the sponge and cooks like a dream. The braises, the soups, the Brussels sprouts!

    I made beef burgundy this weekend and served from the pot, it’s gorgeous and rustic then because I was lazy I popped the lid on and stored the leftovers in the same pot in the fridge. I have stainless cook ware and I really liked it until I tried the Le Creuset, gotta hand it to those French, this they got correct.

    My only regret is I also have limited space and I crave the 8 quart for when I make Sunday GRAVY. Of course I will have to sell a kidney but one day……

  11. catsworking says:

    Morgan, I was looking at those Le Crueset Dutch ovens when I took the Bourdain cooking classes at Sur La Table. They really are beautiful, but there’s no way I would trust myself to handle such a heavy pot hot. No use making the most delicious meal ever if I have to lick it off the oven door and the kitchen floor.

    Funny how something like a good pot can make cooking so much more fun. I have a big stainless steel pot I use for cooking pounds of pasta at a time (like at Christmas) and I love it, too. One by one, all my non-stick stuff is falling out of favor.

  12. Holly says:

    Bar Keeper’s Friend, as recommended by All-Clad, is great for cleaning stainless steel pots, inside & out.

  13. Britta says:

    Karen, we’re a cooking blog for this post. I am thinking everyone has their favorite method. I strive to cook the roast to the extent that its fiberous tissue is broken down and fork tender but not so much that it is dry. My experience has been that if there is too much liquid going into the oven (even if it is that good wine) it is boiled -not a good thing. Stove reduction really counts in terms of the end product but the wait is, at times, hard to endure. Likely comments that are not news to you. Congrats on a yummy meal.

  14. catsworking says:

    Welcome, Holly. Thanks for the tip. I’ll keep my eye out for that stuff.

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