By Cat, May 2018 (image, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
Now that warm weather is back, I’ve been craving beef roast like my Dad used to make; not the fork-tender, well-done 5-hour slow roast that I’ve been making all winter. I want a grass-fed/finished cut that will be tender when medium-rare. Our local meat cutter recommended a top round cut; I was a bit skeptical because round cuts are best for slow-cooking or braising, but decided to give it a try, using instructions from Livestrong (1), and hints from other sources (2, 3). I have my fingers crossed.
This first test is delicious! and tender too. Just like Dad used to make. So next, I’ll try the same cut with a reverse-sear method that uses a slightly slower oven (300°F) and doesn’t sear the meat until after roasting. This ensures an evenly roasted meat with no over-done meat close to the exterior nor under-done meat in the interior.
Beef Top Round Roast
This recipe is adapted from Livestrong’s How to Cook Top Round Roast.(1) The spice rub is adapted from RecipeTips blog (2). I also include a dry-brine (pre-salt) method for flavoring deep inside the cut (3). the general recommendation is 1 tsp table salt per pound of beef (more if the salt is a coarser grind such as Kosher salt). If you use too little salt, the flavors will not penetrate far into the cut; too much and it will be too salty.
I don’t recommend using most commercial cuts of beef, but rather grass-fed/grass-finished beef from a local rancher. Note that grass-fed/finished beef may not be as tender as commercial cuts, but the nutritional quality and flavor of the meat is much better because the animals are healthier.
See my testing, below.
Ingredients & Equipment
- 3 – 4 lb. beef top round roast from grass fed/finished beef
- About 4 Tbsp herb/spice rub; for example:
- Optional veggies, for example: potatoes, onions, celery, carrots, mushrooms, with olive oil, salt and pepper
- Lard or other heat-tolerant fat (such as avocado or coconut oil)
- Small bowl for mixing salt/spice rub
- Cast iron skillet large enough to hold roast
- Shallow roasting pan, large enough to hold roast, with rack
- Foil for tenting roast
- Cutting board
NOTE: total time is about 27 hours if you do the dry-brine (23-24 hours brining and 3 – 3½ hours cooking), or 3 – 3½ hours if you don’t.
- Rub: Remove roast from fridge and allow to warm to room temperature. Pat dry with paper towel.
- Prepare a salt rub with salt, pepper and any desired seasonings, then rub all over the roast.
- Optional: Dry-brine the meat (pre-salt) to improve it’s flavor: Place the rubbed roast in a zipper-sealed bag to chill in the fridge overnight (24 hours); this allows the flavors of the rub to permeate the meat, but does not tenderize it. See Yummly blog (3) for more detail of this pre-salt method.
- Remove roast from fridge 4 hours before serving; remove from bag and pat dry with paper towels.
- Prep: Preheat oven to 325°F.
- Veggies (if using): Wash and cut up any veggies you want to cook with the roast, then toss with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, and set aside. You can postpone this step to during the first 60 minutes of roasting the meat.
- Sear: Preheat cast iron skillet on stove top over medium-high heat; add lard or other heat-tolerant fat (such as avocado or coconut oil), tilting skillet to coat the inside of the pan.
- Add prepped roast and sear on both sides about 2 minutes each.
- Remove from heat and transfer roast to rack in roasting pan.
- Roast: Place in preheated oven; after 60 – 90 minutes, add prepped veggies and cook for total of 2½ – 3 hours, until instant-read thermometer reaches 125°F for rare, 135°F for medium-rare, or 145°F for medium.
- While meat is roasting, deglaze the skillet: Add butter and water or broth and heat over medium-high heat, scraping bottom of skillet to loosen drippings and flavor the liquid. Cook until liquid is reduced by half. Optional: thicken liquid with buerre manie or tapioca starch. Remove from heat and set aside to serve with the roast.
- Remove roast from oven and transfer to a plate. Tent the roast with foil for 15 – 20 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. Cover veggies in roasting pan and keep warm.
- Serve: Reheat reserved deglazing liquid and pour over the roast. Slice thinly and serve with the cooked veggies.
5/14-15/18: I’ve decided to try the dry-brine method, so rubbed with herb-spice mix and placed in fridge at 7:30 PM on 5/14. Used non-iodized salt, pepper, oregano, rosemary and thyme; I skipped the garlic, but sprinkled some over roast after searing. 5/15: Took roast out of fridge at 4:45 PM to warm. I don’t have a rack for my roasting pan (pictured right (4), but used without the lid), so I sliced up a leek (½” cross-wise) and placed them around bottom of roasting pan. Into oven at 5:45 PM. To deglaze the skillet, I used a bit of red wine, butter, and some filtered water; then kept combo warm over my pilot light. For veggies, I used: 1 stalk celery with leaves (sliced at ½” crosswise), 2 large carrots (¾” crosswise), ½ lb white mushrooms, (12 ea), quartered, and ½ sweet onion (sliced ¼” crosswise) in addition to the leeks used as a rack (I would have used more but not enough room around the roast); added some olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Added veggie mix at 6:45 PM (after 60 min), scattering them around the roast. reached 135 – 140°F when tested at 7:45 PM, so removed to plate and tented with foil. Returned veggies to oven to cook a bit more. Checked veggies at 8:00: still not done so added lid. Meanwhile sliced 1-serving of roast – nicely medium-rare; will keep warm. 8:15: carrots not quite done but I’m hungry. Served roast with mushroom/carrot mix (roasted with the meat), a bit of the deglazing liquid, braised brussels sprouts, and a slice of whole what bread. Result: This is very good – excellent flavor and not tough; reminds me of the wonderful roasts my Dad used to make. The veggie combo is also delicious, especially the mushrooms. However, I think I’ll thicken the deglazing liquid into a sauce (like Dad used to do).
- Livestrong method: livestrong.com/article/437846-how-to-cook-top-round-steak-thin-cut/
- Herb & Spice Rub: recipetips.com/recipe-cards/t–3626/top-round-beef-roast.asp
- Pre-salt method: yummly.com/recipe/Top-of-the-Round-Roast-679321
- Corningware oval casserole: walmart.com/ip/Corningware-French-White-2.5-qt-Oval-Casserole-with-Glass-Cover/11971384