A cross rib roast, also known as a boneless shoulder roast, is a cut of beef from the shoulder section of the cow. This cut is known for its rich flavor and relatively tough texture due to its high collagen content. It is often slow-cooked using methods like roasting or braising to break down the connective tissue, making the meat tender. Whether oven-roasted, slow-cooked, or braised, cross-rib roast is a popular choice for hearty, flavorful meals.
In this article, we’ll explore what sets the cross rib roast apart, how best to prepare and cook it, and what it tastes like.
What is cross rib roast?
The cross rib roast, alternatively known as a boneless shoulder roast or English roast, is a flavorful cut of beef originating from the shoulder section of the cow. It’s a large cut, often weighing between 3 to 5 pounds, making it an excellent choice for feeding a group or for meal prep.
This beef cut is characterized by a notable amount of connective tissue, which is the main reason behind its rich texture. The presence of this tissue means the cross rib roast is not as tender as other cuts like filet mignon or ribeye, but when cooked properly, it can yield a satisfyingly chewy and flavorful dish.
While it may not be as heavily marbled as cuts from the rib or loin sections, the cross-rib roast still possesses enough intramuscular fat to add a decent amount of flavor and moisture to the meat when cooked.
What does cross-rib roast taste like?
The cross rib roast is well-regarded for its full-bodied, robust flavor that is typically more pronounced than many other cuts of beef. This distinct taste is largely influenced by its location on the cow, its marbling, and the presence of connective tissue.
Being from the shoulder section, an area of the cow that gets a good amount of exercise, the meat is rich in muscle fiber and connective tissue. This, combined with a decent amount of marbling — streaks of fat interspersed throughout the meat — contributes to its hearty flavor.
When cooked, especially with slow, low-heat methods like roasting or braising, the fat within the marbling melts, permeating the meat with moisture and flavor. Similarly, the collagen in the connective tissue breaks down, releasing gelatin that adds a silky, rich mouthfeel to the dish.
However, it’s important to note that the cross-rib roast can be a bit tougher due to the higher muscle content. Yet, when it’s cooked properly, this characteristic transforms into a satisfying chewiness, further enhancing the eating experience. So, while the cross rib roast may require a bit more time and care in preparation, its unique taste profile makes it well worth the effort.
How to cook cross-rib roast steak
Cooking a cross rib roast involves a few different methods, each with its own benefits, largely due to the cut’s unique characteristics. Here are the most commonly used cooking methods for this cut:
- Roasting: Roasting beef is a dry heat method that is excellent for large cuts like the cross rib roast. The benefit of roasting is that it can provide a nice, browned crust on the outside of the roast while keeping the inside juicy and tender. Start by searing the roast on all sides in a hot pan, then transfer it to a preheated oven (around 325°F) and cook until the desired internal temperature is reached.
- Braising: Given its high collagen content, the cross rib roast is also well suited for braising, a slow, wet heat cooking method. This method involves searing the meat first and then simmering it in a small amount of liquid over low heat for several hours. Braising helps break down the tough connective tissues in the meat, making it tender and flavorful.
- Slow Cooking: Similar to braising, slow cooking is another method that works well with the cross rib roast. This method also involves cooking the meat at a low temperature for an extended period, which helps tenderize the meat and bring out its full flavor.
Remember, because of the tougher nature of this cut, it’s important to cook it slowly at a lower temperature to allow the connective tissues to break down, resulting in a tender and flavorful dish.
Different types of steaks derived from the cross-rib roast
Steaks that can be cut from the cross rib roast include:
- Cross Rib Steak: This is the most direct steak cut from the cross rib roast. It retains the same characteristics as the roast, including its hearty flavor and tougher texture. It’s best when marinated to tenderize the meat before grilling or broiling.
- Denver Steak: This cut is often sourced from the under-blade portion of the chuck, close to the cross-rib section. It’s relatively tender compared to other chuck cuts and is well-marbled, making it suitable for grilling.
- Ranch Steak: Also known as a boneless chuck shoulder center cut steak, the ranch steak is taken from the same general region as the cross rib. It’s a lean cut that’s best when marinated and cooked to no more than medium doneness.
How does cross-rib roast compare to other similar cuts?
The cross-rib roast can be compared to other similar cuts of beef. Here’s how it stacks up:
- Chuck Roast: Both cuts originate from the shoulder region of the cow and are known for their rich flavor. However, the chuck roast is generally more tender and marbled, which makes it better suited to a wider range of cooking methods.
- Brisket: Brisket, cut from the chest or lower breast, also has a high collagen content and is, therefore, similarly best when slow-cooked. However, brisket is typically fattier than a cross rib roast, which can result in a moister, more tender end product.
- Rump Roast: Coming from the back end of the cow, the rump roast is leaner than the cross rib roast. It also contains less connective tissue, which means it may not be as tough but also not as flavorful as a cross-rib roast when slow-cooked.
- Round Roast: The round roast, from the rear muscle of the cow, is lean and less flavorful than the cross rib roast. It’s best for slow cooking methods but will not yield as much flavor or richness as the cross rib roast.
- Prime Rib Roast: This is a premium cut from the rib section of the cow, known for its high degree of marbling and tenderness. It’s more expensive than the cross rib roast and can be cooked using faster methods like roasting at higher temperatures.
How to choose a quality cross-rib roast
Selecting a good cross-rib roast involves considering several factors:
- Size: Consider the size of the roast you need based on the number of people you plan to feed. A good rule of thumb is to allow for around half a pound per person.
- Marbling: Look for a cross rib roast with good marbling – the small streaks of fat distributed throughout the meat. These will melt during cooking, adding moisture and flavor to the roast.
- USDA Grading: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grades beef based on its quality. USDA Prime is the highest quality, followed by Choice and Select. Prime and Choice grades will have more marbling and tenderness.
- Grass-fed vs. Grain-fed: Grass-fed beef is often leaner and may have a different flavor profile compared to grain-fed beef. It’s also usually more expensive. Grain-fed beef, on the other hand, tends to have more marbling. Your choice between the two may depend on personal taste preference, health considerations, and budget.
- Color: A fresh cross rib roast should be a bright, cherry-red color. If it’s turning brown or gray, it may be past its prime.
- Packaging: If you’re buying in a supermarket, check that the packaging is intact with no tears or leaks.
- Butcher’s Advice: Don’t hesitate to ask your butcher for advice. They can provide valuable insights about the freshness of the meat, how it was raised, and even cooking suggestions.
How to store cross-rib roast
Proper storage of your cross rib roast is crucial to maintain its freshness and quality. Here are guidelines based on recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA):
- Refrigeration: If you plan to cook your cross rib roast within a few days of purchasing, it can be stored in the refrigerator. Place it in the coldest part of your fridge, usually the bottom shelf at the back, ideally at a temperature of 40°F or below.
- Freezing: For longer-term storage, you can freeze the cross rib roast. Wrap it tightly in heavy-duty aluminum foil or place it in a freezer bag, removing as much air as possible. Properly stored, it can maintain the best quality in the freezer for 6 to 12 months, although it will remain safe beyond that time.
- Thawing: When you’re ready to cook the roast, the safest way to thaw it is in the refrigerator. This can take a day or two, depending on the size of the roast. It’s best to plan ahead and allow plenty of time for this slow, safe thawing method.
- Handling Leftovers: After cooking, any leftover roast should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking. Store leftovers in a shallow, airtight container and use within 3 to 4 days, or freeze for longer storage.
How long should I cook my cross-rib roast?
Cooking times will vary depending on the weight of the roast and your specific oven. However, a general rule of thumb is to cook it at 325°F (165°C) for about 20-25 minutes per pound for medium-rare.
How can I make my cross rib roast tender?
The best way to ensure a tender cross-rib roast is through slow, low-temperature cooking methods. This could be roasting in the oven, braising, or using a slow cooker. Marinating the roast can also help to tenderize the meat and add flavor.
What spices or seasonings should I use on my cross-rib roast?
Classic seasonings for a cross rib roast might include salt, black pepper, garlic, rosemary, and thyme. However, feel free to experiment with your favorite herbs and spices.
Should I sear my cross rib roast before cooking?
Searing the roast before slow cooking can create a delightful crust and enhance the overall flavor of the dish. However, it’s not mandatory. If you’re short on time, you can skip this step.
Can I cook a cross rib roast in a slow cooker?
Absolutely! A slow cooker is a great option for cooking a cross-rib roast. It allows the roast to cook slowly and evenly, which helps to tenderize the meat and bring out its full flavor.
What can I serve with my cross rib roast?
Cross rib roast pairs well with a wide variety of sides. Traditional options include mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, or a simple green salad. But feel free to pair it with your favorite side dishes.
Can I freeze leftover cross rib roast?
Yes, cooked cross-rib roast can be frozen for up to three months. Be sure to wrap it tightly and store in airtight containers or freezer bags to maintain the best quality.
How can I use leftover cross rib roast?
The leftover cross-rib roast is quite versatile. It can be sliced for sandwiches, shredded for tacos or enchiladas, or chopped and used in soups or stews.