I’ve been scouting the internet for a guide on how to cook roast beef, and I couldn’t find a guide with all the information a beginner home cook needs. So I thought I should write one. If you’re starting, roasting beef can seem challenging. With so many different cuts, roasting techniques, and cooking times, it can be hard to know where to start.
In this article, I’ll take a deep dive into everything you need to know about roast beef. I’ll cover the best cuts of beef for roasting, how to prepare the beef for optimal flavor and texture, and different roasting techniques to suit your needs.
Before I go any further, I can’t stress enough how important it’s to choose a perfect cut of beef. So if you’re looking for an excellent and affordable cut, check it out here.
What is roast beef?
In a nutshell, roasting beef is the process of cooking beef in an oven or on a rotisserie spit until it reaches the desired level of doneness. Roasting results in a tender, juicy, flavorful, and impressive-looking dish. It also gives the beef a nice crispy exterior which is essential for any good roast.
Roast beef is a classic dish enjoyed in various forms around the world. From British roast beef to American-style prime rib, this beloved dish has many regional and cultural variations.
For instance, British roast beef is a classic British dish often served with roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, and various vegetables. In comparison, French-style roast beef is often served with a flavorful red wine sauce and accompanied by dauphinoise potatoes or other potato dishes. And last but not least American-Style Prime Rib is a hearty and delicious cut of beef that is often seasoned with a simple rub and served with a creamy horseradish sauce or au jus.
Choosing the right cut of beef for roasting
Choosing the right cut of beef is essential to achieving the best results when cooking a perfect beef roast. Different cuts have different levels of tenderness, flavor, and fat content, which can affect the cooking time, temperature, and method. Meat packed with connective tissue is more challenging to cook than a cut from a less worked muscle. As a chef, I’ve tried roasting cuts of beef from different parts of the animal; however, these cuts below are by far some of the best for having a good roast:
- Rib roast: Also known as prime rib, this cut comes from the rib section of the cow and is well-marbled with fat, which makes it flavorful and tender. It’s a popular choice for special occasions and holidays, and it’s more forgiving to cook since the meat is naturally tender and packed with an abundance of marbling.
- Tenderloin: This is the most tender and leanest cut of beef, making it an excellent choice for those who prefer leaner roast beef. It’s typically more expensive than other cuts but is worth every penny for its tenderness and flavor.
- Sirloin: Sirloin comes from the cow’s lower back and is a leaner cut of beef than rib roast. It’s a versatile cut that benefits from marinades and dry rubs. It’s also not as expensive as the rib roast or tenderloin.
- Chuck roast: This cut comes from the shoulder of the cow and is typically tougher than other cuts. However, with slow roasting, it can become tender and flavorful.
- Round roast: Round roast comes from the cow’s hindquarters and is a leaner cut of beef. It’s typically less expensive but has a robust beefy flavor.
Before selecting a cut of beef for roasting, consider the level of tenderness, fat content, and flavor you prefer. I have a detailed article about the best cuts of beef for oven roasting if you want to learn more about it. As a chef, I highly encourage you to ask your butcher for recommendations and advice on selecting the right cut of beef for your needs.
How to prepare beef for roasting?
Preparing the beef is crucial in achieving a delicious and perfectly cooked roast beef. So if you consider yourself a beginner home cook or a cook with a decent amount of skills, these tips below will help you to improve in roasting a perfect beef roast:
- Bring the meat to room temperature: Before roasting the beef, it’s essential to bring it to room temperature. It allows for a cut of beef to cook evenly and reduces the risk of overcooking or undercooking. Take the meat from the refrigerator at least one hour before cooking and let it sit at room temperature. However, remember that the bigger the roast, the more time it needs to get to room temp.
- Seasoning the beef: Seasoning the beef is an essential step in enhancing the flavor of your roast beef. As a chef, I prefer using kosher salt only or a simple rub made from salt, pepper, and herbs such as rosemary, thyme, or garlic. Season the roast evenly and let it sit for at least 30 minutes before roasting. However, if you have time, do it the night before.
- Tying the beef: Tying the beef is a technique used to ensure it cooks evenly and retains its shape during roasting. Use butcher’s twine to tie the beef at intervals of 1-2 inches along the length of the roast. It will help the beef cook evenly and prevent it from falling apart during roasting. I know it sounds intimidating, but after a few times, you’ll get used to it.
- Searing or blow torching the beef: Searing or blow torching the beef is another technique used by professional chefs to enhance the flavor and texture of roast beef. Heat a skillet over high heat and add a small amount of oil. Once the oil is hot, sear the beef on all sides until it’s browned. It creates a flavorful crust on the beef. You can also use a blow torch to caramelize the meat’s exterior, which will help enhance the meat’s flavor. Remember that this step is optional; however, I highly recommend it.
How to make the perfect roast beef
Before I go any further, I want you to get familiar with some roasting techniques we use in restaurants to achieve perfectly cooked roast beef:
Let’s start with high-temperature roasting. It is a technique used to achieve a crispy crust and juicy interior. This method involves cooking the beef at a high temperature, usually around 425-450°F, for a short period, then reducing the temperature to finish cooking the beef. High-temperature roasting is ideal for expensive cuts of beef with a good amount of marbling, such as ribeye or sirloin.
Low-temperature roasting is used to achieve a tender and evenly cooked roast beef. This method involves cooking the beef at a low temperature, usually around 225-250°F, for a longer period of time. It’s ideal for lean cuts of beef, such as the eye of round or sirloin.
Reverse-seared roasting is used to achieve a perfectly cooked roast beef with a crispy exterior and a tender interior. This method involves cooking the beef at a low temperature, usually around 225-250°F, until it’s almost done, then searing it at a high temperature to create a crust.
So let’s start with a basic roast beef recipe:
You’ll need the following:
- Your chosen cut of beef. I’m using a 3 lb rib roast.
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt per pound of the meat.
- Meat thermometer.
- Sharp knife.
- Cutting board.
High-temperature oven roasting
- Choose the right cut of beef: It’s best to choose a cut of beef with a good amount of fat, such as rib roast. Make sure it’s thick and uniform in shape, as this will ensure that the beef cooks evenly.
- Season the beef: Season the beef generously with salt or your favorite seasonings. It would be best to do that the night before; however, if short on time, do it at least 30 minutes before roasting.
- Preheat the oven: Preheat the oven to 425-450°F. Preheating the oven before roasting is important to ensure that the beef cooks evenly and develops a crispy crust.
- Roast the beef: Place it in a roasting pan and roast it in the preheated oven for at least 15-20 minutes per pound, depending on the desired level of doneness. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the beef – 125°F for rare, 135°F for medium-rare, and 145°F for medium.
- Rest the beef: Once it reaches the desired temperature, remove it from the oven and let it rest for 10-15 minutes. It will allow the juices to redistribute, producing tender and juicy roast beef.
Low-temperature oven roasting
- Choose the right cut of beef: Low-temperature roasting is ideal for lean cuts of beef, such as tenderloin, the eye of round, or sirloin. Do not be discouraged from using well-marbled cuts, as slow cooking results in even doneness edge to edge. When choosing a cut of beef, ensure that it is thick and uniform in shape, as this will ensure that the beef cooks evenly. Usually, roasting tenderloin requires tying it to cook evenly and retain its shape during the cooking process.
- Season the beef: Season the beef generously with salt or your favorite seasonings. You can also marinate the beef for 2-4 hours before roasting to add extra flavor.
- Preheat the oven: Preheat the oven to 225-250°F. It’s important to preheat the oven before roasting to ensure that the beef cooks evenly and retains its moisture.
- Using a blow torch, caramelize the exterior of the beef all around; if you do not have a blow torch, sear the beef in a hot cast-iron skillet with a bit of light olive oil.
- Roast the beef: Place the beef in a roasting pan and roast it in the preheated oven for at least 25-30 minutes per pound, depending on the desired level of doneness. The cooking times may differ depending on the size of the roast.
- Rest the beef: Once it reaches the desired temperature, remove it from the oven and let it rest for 10-15 minutes. It will allow the juices to redistribute, resulting in tender and juicy roast beef.
- Choose the right cut of beef: Rotisserie roasting is ideal for cuts of beef with a good amount of fat, such as ribeye or sirloin. Make sure the roast is thick and uniform in shape, as it’ll cook more evenly.
- Season the beef: Season the meat generously with salt or your favorite seasonings. You can also marinate the beef for 2-4 hours before roasting it to add extra flavor. However, if you have time, do it a night before roasting.
- Skewer the beef: Insert the rotisserie spit through the center of the beef, ensuring it’s securely fastened. If the beef is unevenly thick, use meat ties to secure it to the spit.
- Preheat the grill or rotisserie oven: Preheat the grill or rotisserie oven to 350-375°F.
- Roast the beef: Place the beef on the rotisserie spit and roast it on the grill or in the rotisserie oven for at least 15-20 minutes per pound, depending on the desired level of doneness and thickness of the meat. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the beef – 125°F for rare, 135°F for medium-rare, and 145°F for medium.
- Rest the beef: Once it reaches the desired temperature, remove it from the grill or oven and let it rest for 10-15 minutes. It will allow the juices to redistribute, resulting in tender and juicy roast beef. Worth mentioning that roast will carry on cooking when off the heat source, raising the internal temperature by 5°F.
Tips for cooking roast beef to perfection
There are quite a few things that can go wrong when you roast beef. However, as a chef, I can tell you if you use the four tips below, you’ll probably get the best outcome possible when roasting your favorite cut of beef:
- Please use a meat thermometer: A meat thermometer is essential for cooking the perfect roast beef. It’s not expensive, and it allows you to check the internal temperature of the meat to ensure it’s cooked to the desired level of doneness. Insert it into the thickest part of the beef, ensuring not to touch the bone or fat.
- Let the beef rest: Please do not skip this part. Letting the beef rest after roasting is crucial in ensuring tender and juicy roast beef. When the beef is removed from the oven, the juices are still hot and active, and if sliced too soon, they will flow out of the meat and result in a dry texture. Allow the beef to rest for at least 10-15 minutes before slicing to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat’s interior. Depending on the roast size, it may take longer than 15 minutes.
- Use high-quality beef: Using high-quality beef is essential for achieving delicious roast beef. Look for beef that’s well-marbled with fat, which will enhance the flavor and tenderness of the meat. Purchase beef from a reputable source, such as a local butcher, to ensure the best quality. I have a useful steak-buying guide if you want to get the best quality meat.
- Don’t overcook the beef: Overcooking beef is a common mistake when roasting beef. The longer the beef is cooked, the more it dries out and becomes tough. Use a meat thermometer to check the roast beef temperature and remove it from the oven or grill once it reaches the desired temperature.
- Skip on black pepper: Often, you’ll see people recommending seasoning meat with pepper. Surely you can do that; however, pepper adds additional flavor to the meat. Salt, on the other hand, enhances the flavor. Of course, it’s up to you to decide. But I encourage you for once at least try not to season your roast with pepper. You’ll see why when you taste the meat.
What is the best cut of beef for roast beef?
The best cut of beef for roast beef depends on personal preference, budget, and the desired level of tenderness. Cuts like ribeye and sirloin offer more flavor and are more versatile since you can cook using high-temperature and low-temperature roasting techniques. In contrast, lean cuts like the eye of round are better for low-temperature roasting.
How long should I cook roast beef?
The cooking time varies depending on many factors, such as the cut of beef and the desired level of doneness, the size of the roast, and the cooking temperature. However, as a general rule, roast beef should be cooked for 15-20 minutes per pound at 350-375°F for medium-rare.
Should I sear the beef before roasting it?
Searing the beef before roasting can enhance the flavor and create a crispy crust on the outside. It’s unnecessary, but it can make a difference in the final result.
Can I make gravy from the pan drippings?
Yes, pan drippings can be used to make a delicious gravy to serve with roast beef. After removing the beef from the roasting pan, pour off the excess fat and add some beef broth or red wine to the pan. Bring to a boil and let it simmer to thicken the sauce.