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Beef Primer: The Roasts

All the Roasts & How to Cook Them

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Roasts are cut from practically every part of the beef cow. Some are tender, some need more care. In this continuation of the Beef Primer articles, learn about beef roasts and the best way to cook them.

Chuck Roast

© Gene Gerrard
Chuck roast is cut from the shoulder of the beef cow, which is a heavily exercised muscle of the animal, resulting in a well-flavored but tough piece of beef. Chuck is often ground for hamburger meat because of its high ratio of fat to meat. Chuck is also popular for cooking a pot roast or, when cubed, stew, since the connective tissue melts as the chuck is braised slowly in liquid and bastes the beef, making it very tender. Variously named roasts are cut from the chuck: Boston Cut and English Roast or Cross Cut are the most common. Their names refer to the method of butchering and not to any difference in the beef.

Eye of Round Roast

© Gene Gerrard
The eye of round roast is an economical cut from the rear leg of the beef steer or heifer. Similar in appearance to the tenderloin, the eye of round is robustly flavored and lean but very tough, since it is cut from an extensively exercised muscle. Eye of round is prepared in a number of cooking methods, such as high-heat searing and slow roasting, braising, simmering or poaching. As with many tough cuts, the eye of round should be thinly sliced against the grain.

Rib Roast

© Gene Gerrard
A rib roast is cut from the rib section between the chuck (shoulder) and the short loin (behind the ribs toward the rear of the beef cow). The three most common rib roasts are Standing Rib Roast, Rolled Rib Roast and Rib-Eye Roast.
  • The Standing Rib Roast is cut with at least three ribs and up to seven ribs, and roasted propped upright on its ribs, which allows the meat to be self-basted as the roast's top layer of fat melts. Standing Rib Roast is often referred to incorrectly as Prime Rib Roast. (Most beef designated as USDA Prime is bought up by hotels and meat distributors.)
  • Rolled Rib Roast is the same cut as the Standing Rib Roast but with its bones removed and the meat rolled and tied into a cylindrical shape.
  • The Rib-Eye Roast is the boneless center cut of the rib section. Very well-marbled, tender and flavorful, it is the most desirable and the most expensive of the roasts.

Top Round Roast

© Gene Gerrard
The Top Round Roast is cut from the upper thigh of the hindquarters of the beef cow. Although the round is a heavily worked muscle, the top round is less so, which gives it somewhat more tenderness and flavor than cuts from the round. Top round is often mislabeled and sold in supermarkets as London Broil, which is not an actual cut, but is instead a method for preparing tougher cuts of beef. Top round roast can also be braised, roasted or stewed.

Rump Roast

© Gene Gerrard
Rump roast is a triangular cut from the upper part of the round, or the hindquarters, of the beef cow. Since the round is a heavily exercised muscle, the beef is lean and flavorful but also quite tough. Rump roast needs to be cooked at lower temperatures than other better beef cuts and for a prolonged period to allow time for the connective tissue to soften and melt.

Sirloin Tip Roast

© Gene Gerrard
The sirloin tip roast (also known as round tip roast) is cut from the upper or top round (the hindquarters) of the beef steer or heifer, adjacent to the sirloin. The sirloin tip roast is flavorful and lean, and like other cuts from the round, it can be tough. The sirloin tip roast is generally best braised or cooked as stewing meat or kebobs, but it can also be oven-roasted slowly at a lower temperature.
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