Slow Roast Beef, Buffalo, Venison or Lamb

 

Roast Beef

Roast Beefby Cat, Mar 2008 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

See also: 1. Beef, Venison, Buffalo Main Course Menu; scroll to Roast (Pan, Oven, and/or Slow) for related recipes; 

Slow-roasting and braising are the best ways to cook a roast for optimum tenderness, but also because the presence of moisture and the lower temperature reduces the chance of forming Advanced Glycation Endproducts (AGEs), which are believed to be toxic.

I’ve been experimenting with different ways to slow-roast beef, to maximize juiciness and flavor.  Prime rib is, of course, my favorite roast, but I also like the flavor of the cheaper cuts like a rump roast.  These cheaper cuts, however, can be a bit tough and chewy if not cooked properly.  Slow roasting or braising are the best cooking methods for tougher cuts; both use a low heat (in oven, Dutch oven or crock pot), which minimizes glycation and its adverse affects.

This recipe provides instructions for both the more tender loin and rib cuts, as well as the tougher shoulder or rump cuts.

About the Recipe & Method

I found the recipe (below) in The Best Recipe cookbook, by Cooks Illustrated (1), and am quite happy with it.  The original recipe is for a 3 – 4 pound boneless roast, but I usually make a smaller roast, under 2 lb.  Of course it goes without saying that grass-fed and grass-finished beef is the best, even if you do have to pay a bit more.

If you can’t find grass-fed beef, try buffalo; I think it has better flavor than beef. In fact, slow-roasting is the best way to roast buffalo, to keep it tender. Because buffalo is more lean than beef, it is easy to overcook it.  To prevent this, you will want to roast at a lower temperature, about 200°F (buffalo or 225°F for beef)for the majority of cooking time, and then increase to 450-475°F to finish.  The optional herbs complement the flavor of buffalo quite well; they also work well with other wild game (venison, elk, etc.).  My buffalo variation is adapted from Rocky Mountain Buffalo (Alex Lobba’s Slow Roast Special recipe (2)).  I used a 1.5 pound buffalo tri-tip roast, and added the optional herbs and garlic.  Excellent!

Another option is to use leg of lamb.  I stud the meat with slivers of fresh garlic, and sprinkled on some crushed rosemary after browning.  Otherwise follow recipe as written.  Superb. [Another excellent recipe for roast lamb, fit for a holiday or very special occasion, is Roast Rack of Reindeer (Venison), Prime Rib, or Lamb with Red Currant & Cranberry Sauce.]

I usually make a half-recipe, using about 1.5 pounds of roast, since I’m just a single person.  It doesn’t take as long for the roast to come to the desired internal temperature, about 20-25 minutes for the initial cooking, and 5 minutes at the higher heat.

Roasting Temperature and Time (after searing): NOTE: This recipe is for slow-roast in the oven. If cooking a tougher cut, you can also do this in a crock pot.

  • For rib or loin cut beef/venison or buffalo: roast at 250°F (beef) or 225°F (buffalo), 20 – 60 minutes depending on size of roast: 20 – 25 minutes for a 1.5 – 2 lb. roast; about 45 – 60 minutes for a 3 – 4 lb. roast.Then the temperature is raised to 475-500°F (beef) or 450-475°F (buffalo) and roasted for another 5 – 15 minutes, depending on size of roast [from Washington Post (5)], to internal temperature of 120-125°F for rare or 130-135°F for medium-rare.
  • For shoulder, rump or round  beef/venison or buffalo (less tender cuts), more moisture and cooking time and are needed to break down the connective tissue, so the meat will be fork-tender. Add half the beef stock when place roast in oven, and roast at 250°F at least 2 hours (smaller roast) or 3 hours (larger roast), to internal temperature of 145-150°F. Then raise oven temperature to 475-500°F (beef) or 450-475°F (buffalo); test for tenderness after 30 minutes. It may need up to 1 hour to reach fork tender. If cooking in a crock pot, it will take 5 – 6 hours. See Livestrong: Slow-Roast Beef Top Round Roast (4).
  • When I tested a 2 lb bottom round roast on 9/17-18/15, I had to break up the cooking time over 2 days; Total cooking time: 3 hours (split between 2 days) at 250-300°F plus 1 hour at 450°F. It may take less time if you do all the time in one day, without overnight rest in fridge.
  • Lamb (Leg or shoulder roast): Roast at no higher than 325°F (after searing) for 35 -45 minutes for boneless 3 – 4 lb roast. Slow roast at 275°F for 4 hours; or at 300°F for 2 – 3 hours (6). Lamb is best if not overdone. See also Lamb Roast (About) for lots more info and tips

Save some of the leftover meat and sauce for making Cottage Pie or Shepherd’s Pie.

Slow-Roast Beef, Buffalo or Lamb Recipe

Cuts: My favorite cut of beef for slow-roast is Tri-Tip, but any of the more tender cuts, like rib, sirloin tip or rump roast are also good. The tougher cuts like round need a longer, slower cooking time to tenderize.

For lamb I prefer leg of lamb, boneless, rolled and tied, as it’s easier to carve. Note that a 5 – 6 lb bone-in leg has the same amount of meat as a 3 – 4 boneless leg.

Aging (Optional): The original Cooks Illustrated recipe recommends aging, which improves the flavor.  Aging involves natural fermentation by the enzymes present in the muscle, which tenderizes and improves the flavor of the cut, and also helps to prolong it’s shelf life.  The method given here uses refrigeration, but in pre-refrigeration times, aging was done in a cool place (such as a cave, or in a below-ground root cellar; keeping temperatures between 32 and 36 degrees F).  For more on aging, refer to About.com on aging beef (3).  Take care with aging for longer than 4 days, as the meat could spoil, especially in a home refrigerator where the temperature is not constant.  A 4-day age is really all that is needed to improve the flavor.

Searing: This can be done on the stove-top or in the oven. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. My preference is stove-top.

  • Stovetop: A cast iron or other oven-proof Dutch oven works great for this; then you only need one pan, as it can be used both on top of the stove and in the oven.  Otherwise, use a cast iron skillet to sear the roast on top of the stove, and a roasting pan to roast in the oven.

The original recipe called for olive oil, but the heat required for searing could oxidize the oil, so I prefer to use lard or coconut oil, which stand up better to high-heat cooking.

  • Oven: Set roast on rack in pan (or on top of cut up carrots, onion and other veggies), fatty-side up, and roast at 425° F for 15 minutes. Then reduce heat to desired temperature. This has the advantage of using only one pan, but the roast may spatter inside the oven, for a messy cleanup.

Veggies: If desired, you can place veggies (potatoes, carrots, onions, fennel, turnips, etc.) in the bottom of the roasting pan, then set the seared meat on top to roast. However, you might want to parboil the veggies first (or roast them alone until almost done before adding the meat) because they will not cook from raw to done in the time the roast is in the oven. to par-boil/steam them: boil or steam them on stove-top until almost done, 15- 25 minutes

Another option if the veggies are not done when the roast is: Add the broth to the roasting pan after removing the roast. Cover with pan lid or foil and cook about 10 minutes in 350 oven until done. Remove veggies from pan, add wine and replace lost liquid volume with water to make sauce.

Thickening: A note about cornstarch used as a thickener: Unless the cornstarch is certified Organic, it is highly likely it is a GMO product, which probably is toxic. If you cannot find Organic cornstarch, use arrowroot or tapioca starch. I prefer tapioca starch; arrowroot cannot tolerate high heat, so add only after you have boiled down the sauce as much as you want, and then turn heat to medium low before adding the arrowroot. Another option is to use Organic unbleached white flour or whole oat flour.

This recipe is for slow-roast in the oven, but you can also do this in a crock pot, cooking 5 – 6 hours. See Livestrong: Slow-Roast Beef Top Round Roast (4).

Save some of the leftover meat and sauce for making Cottage Pie or Shepherd’s Pie.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • 3 – 4 pound roast
  • Unrefined sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp lard or coconut oil
  • ⅓ cup full-flavored red wine (divided portions)
  • 1 cup beef or mineral-veggie broth
  • Optional herbs for buffalo or lamb:
  • 2 – 4 garlic cloves
  • fresh rosemary leaves, bruised
  • fresh sage leaves, bruised
  • 3 – 5 juniper berries, cracked
  • Optional veggies (any combo):
  • 4 – 6 yellow Finn potatoes, quartered
  • 4 carrots, sliced to 1 – 2” lengths
  • 4 turnips or rutabagas, peeled and cut into 4 – 6 wedges
  • 1 onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced horizontally to form crescents
  • Optional thickener for sauce:
  • 1 tsp cornstarch (organic) or 2 tsp tapioca starch
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • Equipment:
  • Cast iron Dutch oven or:
  • Cast iron skillet (for searing) & Roasting pan (for roasting)

Method:

  1. Age beef (optional): Remove wrappings from roast.  Place on a rack and set over a pan.  Place this in refrigerator, uncovered, for 4 days (or longer, to taste).
  2. Parboil/precook veggies: If roasting a tender cut, veggies like carrots, potato and turnips need longer cooking time than the roast; if roasting a tougher cut, pre-cooking the veggies is not necessary. To pre-cook the veggies: boil or steam them on stove-top until almost done, 15- 25 minutes. If roasting in the oven, I like to make an oil & vinegar or lemon juice dressing, then roast in the roasting pan 60 minutes or more until almost done, before adding the roast.
  3. Prep roast: 
    • When ready to roast, preheat oven to 250°F (beef) or 225°F (buffalo).
    • Season roast with salt and pepper.  Optional:  stud roast in several places with a whole or half garlic clove (cut a deep slit and insert the garlic).
    • Pan-Sear: Heat lard in skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add roast; sear until brown, about 4 minutes each side. OR oven Sear, fatty-side up, at 425°F for about 15 minutes. Then reduce heat for slow roasting. See also above for more on pan vs oven sear.
    • Meanwhile, add veggies as desired to bottom of roasting pan.
    • Remove roast to a plate; add half of the wine to the pan, scraping bits off the bottom. (The remaining wine is used to de-glaze the pan after roasting).
  4. Slow-Roast: See Roasting Temperature and Time, above for more detail for the different types of cuts.
    • Add roast to roasting pan (or Dutch oven), on top of veggies, if using. Add optional herbs if cooking buffalo or lamb. Pour warmed wine over all; if cooking a tougher cut, also add half the beef stock.  Transfer pan to oven and roast, uncovered, as described above for the different sizes and types of cuts (tender rib or loin vs tougher shoulder, round or rump roasts), until meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of roast registers 110°F for tender cuts, 140-145°F for tougher cuts.
    • Increase oven heat to 475-500°F (beef) or 450-475°F (buffalo), and roast as described above, until desired doneness is reached. For the tender cuts, rare or medium-rare; for tougher cuts, fork-tender is a must.
    • Remove roast from pot; let stand 20 minutes before carving.
  5. Sauce:
    • De-Glaze the pan: While roast is resting, spoon all but 1 Tbsp fat from pot, if desired, then set roasting pan (or transfer to cast iron skillet) over medium-high heat.  Add remaining wine, stirring pan bottom with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits; simmer until liquids reduce to a glaze, about 2 minutes.
    • Add broth; simmer until sauce reduces and thickens slightly, 1 – 2 minutes longer.  If you want to thicken the sauce slightly, dissolve 1 tsp cornstarch/arrowroot in 1 Tbsp water; add to sauce and cook until it thickens.

Assembly or Serving Suggestions

  • Cut roast into thin slices, adding meat juices to pan juices and stir.  Pass slices and sauce separately. If you roasted veggies with the meat, arrange them around the meat slices.
  • Serve with steamed or roasted potatoes, and braised greens. Apple Waldorf salad is a nice accompaniment (apples, celery and walnuts, with a mayo-whipped cream dressing).
  • Save some of the leftover meat and sauce for making Cottage or Shepherd’s Pie.

Adaptation for 1 pound thick steak, 2 servings

I got a good deal on a 1 lb top sirloin steak, about 1 1/2” thick and decided to see how it would slow-roast.

  • 1 pound thick steak (at least 1 ½” thick)
  • 1 – 2 cloves garlic to stud the meat
  • Unrefined sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 – 4 Tbsp full-flavored red wine (divided portions, 1.5 – 2 Tbsp each)
  • ⅓ cup beef or mineral-veggie broth
  • optional veggies: potatoes, carrots, or turnips, parboiled; fennel, onion, lightly sautéed.

Prepare as above, studding meat with 1 – 2 cloves garlic if desired. However, pan-sear only about 2 min each side before roasting; do not sear in oven. Roast in 225° – 250° F oven about 15 min (registers 110°), then increase heat to 425° (or place under broiler) for 2 – 5 minutes (125°  – 130°for rare).

Testing

Roast:

Testing 10/2/12: This really is delicious. I’ve made it prior to this with buffalo but didn’t post the testing info. This time I used a 1.79 lb beef rump roast, and small yukon potatoes. Parboiled the spuds about 10 min, then tossed with vinaigrette, arranged in bottom of roasting pan. Studded and seasoned roast, then seared on stove top, before setting on top of potatoes to roast in slow 250°F oven 20 min, followed by 450° oven for 15 minutes; roast was 127°F internally which is where I like it. Potatoes were roasted nicely. Let roast and spuds rest while I deglazed pan for the sauce, to which I added 1/2 tsp cornstarch (I don’t like it very thick). Mmmmm and I’m glad I have enough for leftovers.

Testing 2/10/13: Used 1.5 lb round tip. Studded with slices of 2 garlic cloves, then oiled all over and seasoned with salt & pepper, and seared. Meanwhile, cut up a baked potato, 2 carrots and 1/2 onion. Parboiled potato and carrot, then placed in bottom of pan with onion, and set seared roast on top. Glazed searing pan with red wine, then poured over roast. Into 250 oven for about 23 minutes to 110°F internal temp.; upped to 450° for 15 minutes to 225°F internal temp. Let rest while I cooked the veggies a bit more to done.  Made sauce from pan drippings and beef stock. Result: Roast was delicious, but the round tip was not quite as tender as the rump. Potatoes were perfect – nicely browned from roast drippings.

Testing 9/17/15: Using a 2.2 lb rump roast (bottom round), with potatoes, carrots, onion and turnip. Pre-roasted the veggies with a apple cider vinegar/olive oil dressing at 350°F for 1 hour. Meanwhile seasoned roast with salt and pepper, and studded with garlic clove slices, then placed on top of veggies.  Deglazed searing pan wit red wine and a bit of beef stock, and poured over the meat; added about 2 Tbsp water for moisture. Lowered oven to 250°F and roasted 1 hour before testing internal temp at 6:10 PM. It was almost 120°F, so put back into oven; tested periodically but even at 130°F it was too tough to cut. Left in oven until 8 PM (3 hours in 250°F oven). Temp had reached 140°F and beginning to show signs of approaching tenderness. It would be too late to eat, if I let it continue to roast, so I removed it from oven. Veggies were done so put them in a storage container; put roast and cooking liquids in a corning ware pot, and into refrigerator. 9/18, I returned roast to oven at 6:30 PM (not at 5 PM as originally intended), so set oven at 300°F. Added cooking liquids, but not the veggies, as they are already done and only need to be reheated. Internal temp had risen to 140°F (the temp when I removed roast from oven last night) at 7:30 PM, so increased oven to 450°F. Reached 150°F internal temp at 8 PM but not yet fork tender. Tested fork tender at 8:30 PM (1 hour in 450°F oven). Made gravy thickened slightly with tapioca starch in water, and served with potato-veggie mix, braised broccolini and cauliflower, and steamed beetroot. Meat and gravy are delicious! Fork tender meat, veggies done to perfection. Total time in oven (not counting time it took to reach 140°F on second night):  3 hours at 250-300°F plus 1 hour at 450°F.

Testing 11/18/18: Used 2 lb beef top sirloin cut; it’s about 1 – 1 1/2″ thick. Seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and an herb seasoning mix. Seared on stove top. Steamed a yellow-Finn potato cut into 6 wedges, and 1 1/2 large carrots cut into 3/4 – 1″ lengths.and placed in bottom of roasting pan with onion. Set roast on top and poured deglazed pan liquids over; roasted at 225 for 25 min (about 120°F internal temp. Poured herb broth over and increased oven to 475°F to continue roasting another 15 min. to 130°F internal temp. Removed all to platter; deglazed pan with remaining wine, thickened with tapioca powder, and served. Accompanied with braised kale and cooked beet. Result: Delicious! and so easy too. Next time I’d like to try adding cranberries with a bit of molasses – see Slow-Roast, Spice-Rubbed Beef/Buffalo with Red Wine & Mushroom or Cranberry  Sauce.

Steak Adaptation

Testing 5/19/13: as written. Steak took about 7 minutes to reach 125°F internal temperature, because my oven was slow to reach 425°. Excellent.

References:

  1. The Best Recipe cookbook (by Cooks Illustrated)
  2. www.rockymountainbuffalo.com/_pag/produc/tips.html
  3. About.com on aging beef: bbq.about.com/cs/beef/a/aa030301a_2.htm
  4. Livestrong: Slow-Roast Beef Top Round Roast: .livestrong.com/article/428296-how-to-slow-cook-beef-top-round-roasts
  5. Washington Post on internal temperature for roast beef: projects.washingtonpost.com/recipes/2008/01/09/slow-low-temperature-roast-beef
  6. How to slow-roast lamb: beefandlamb.com.au/how_to/cooking_beef_and_lamb/roasting/how_to_slow_roast_lamb

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