No matter how relatively inexpensive a chuck or round roast may appear, if it turns out so tough and flavorless it’s passed to the dog, that purchase was no bargain. That’s why everyone on a food budget needs to know how to roast cheaper cuts of beef.
And, finally, thanks to very extensive research and experimentation by Christopher Kimball, as reported in Cooks Illustrated magazine*, we can confidently purchase those cheaper cuts and expect perfect results every time.
These days, with beef prices hitting all-time highs, buying the cheaper cuts of beef is one way to make our food dollars stretch as far as possible. Just know that what follows is for those of us with more time than money.
When looking for inexpensive cuts keep these three words in mind: chuck, sirloin and round. The chuck is fattier and more tender, the round is lean and relatively tough. The sirloin falls somewhere between the two.
It was a kick to read all the endless details of Chef Kimball’s testing. To be quite honest he lost me somewhere between five chuck roasts, seven sirloins, the eight rounds, and the endless descriptions of cooking methods, internal temperatures, standing times, and length of aging.
Curious as I am, I don’t care about meat fibers, enzymes, and moisture content. And that’s when I raced to the conclusion and learned exactly how to prepare a cheap cut of beef. And here it is:
To achieve the best results you’ll need:
- 1 boneless beef chuck, sirloin, or round roast (3 to 4.5 lbs)
- 4 teaspoons kosher salt, or 2 teaspoons table salt
- 2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (divided)
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
Exact temperatures are the secret to the best results.
Interestingly, varying the oven temperature, internal temperature and times even slightly produced, for Kimball, roasts that were all the way from slightly dry to so tough they could not be eaten!
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The following steps are for chuck, sirloin, and round cuts of varying size although 2- to 5-pound roasts are ideal and will produce the best results.
- Tie the roast with white cotton string at 1-1/2 inch intervals. Tying the roast tightly makes it compact and shaped evenly and that’s the secret to even roasting.
- Pat roast dry with paper towels; rub with 2 teaspoons oil and sprinkle all sides evenly with salt and pepper. Heat remaining tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until starting to smoke. Sear roast until browned on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer roast to roasting pan.
- Place the meat thermometer in the roast so the tip reaches the center of the thickest part.
- Set the oven thermometer inside the oven close to the pan.
- Roast uncovered at exactly 250 F until the internal temperature of the roast reaches exactly 130 F (approximately 2 to 2 1/4 hours for 3 to 4.5 lbs roast).
- Remove the pan from the oven and allow the meat to rest for exactly 20 minutes. Transfer roast to a carving board.
At that moment, according to Kimball, the roast will be succulent, tender, juicy, and more flavorful than prepared using any other cooking method. My family and I agree!
Christopher Kimball and Cook’s Illustrated parted ways several years ago. Within days, Kimball founded a new publication, Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street. Legal battles ensued. I’m sure there were arguments over who owned legal rights for all of the intellectual properties Kimball created while at Cook’s Illustrated. All that to say, if you were to search Cook’s Illustrated for Kimball’s method I’ve referenced above, you’d find a very different version. I can only guess that Kimball retained rights to much that he created while at Cook’s Illustrated, which prompted Cook’s to replace it with something different.