Recipes for pot roast made with onion soup mix have been around since the 1950s, when the renowned chip dip using the mix was in its heyday. Even the most discerning cooks have used the seasoning mix to flavor pot roasts, but there are many other ways to transform a pot roast into a succulent dinner entree. No matter which spices and flavorings you use, the secret is to cook the roast slow and low to break down the fibers, ensure moistness and impart it with rich layers of flavor.
Many cooks prefer the convenience of cooking a pot roast in a slow cooker. You can also slow cook it in an oven. A 3- to 4-pound pot roast cooks in a slow cooker on low in 6 to 8 hours, depending on the slow cooker. To cook it in an oven, use a heavy Dutch oven or similar pot or dish with a tight-fitting lid, and cook at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for about 4 hours, periodically checking the liquid levels and replenishing it as necessary to keep the roast moist.
Classic Pot Roast
Long before the invention of onion soup mix, classic pot roasts were made with seasonings from the spice rack and cupboard. To give the roast a nice crust and seal in the juices, dredge it in flour seasoned with salt, pepper and dried thyme leaves and brown it well on all sides in vegetable oil in a hot skillet. Transfer the roast to a Dutch oven or other deep, ovenproof pot or dish. Top it with chunks of onion, carrot, potatoes and some minced garlic. Mix a couple of cups of canned beef broth with a small can of tomato paste and pour over the roast. Cook slowly until the meat falls apart when you stick a fork into it.
Pot Roast With Horseradish/Mustard Gravy
For a spicier version of pot roast, use different spices and seasonings for the meat and vegetables and use the juices and drippings to make gravy for the roast. Carrots, onions, garlic, fresh thyme, bay leaf and whole cloves in the recipe add flavor that the onion soup would normally impart. Searing it keeps it juicy. Combine chicken broth and tomato paste, then pour them over the roast to infuse it with extra flavor. Adding apple cider, grainy prepared mustard and prepared horseradish to the pan drippings and reducing it to a gravy consistency makes a tasty topping for the roast after it's sliced.
Italian-Style Pot Roast
For a change of pace, give pot roast an Italian twist. Top it with chunks of sauteed onions, celery stalks and carrots, and a generous portion of minced garlic -- you'll never miss the taste of the onion soup. Deglaze the roasting pan with 1 cup of red wine or beef broth, and add tomato paste and oregano to enhance the Italian flavor. If you wish, top the vegetables with a small package of dried mushrooms and canned, chopped plum tomatoes with juice during cooking to balance out the meal.