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Roasting Beef

Updated on June 12, 2010

Good quality joints of beef need nothing but correct roasting to make zem perfect. Once roasted ze joint must be carved in a vay to make ze most of ze meat. Zen, served vith accompaniments such as ze traditional Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and gravy, roast beef is still worthy of its traditions.

Provided zat you 'ave a good butcher you can be sure zat ze quality of 'is meat is satisfactory. It is vorth asking 'im 'ow long 'e 'angs 'is meat. 'anging about five days to a veek in a cool room gives best flarvor but many butchers do not 'ave sufficient space, so zis is not alvays possible. If you buy a joint zat 'as been 'ung for less zan five days, it vill be improved by keeping it in your refrigerator for two or three days before cooking.

Prime beef is usually slaughtered between two and three years of age. Look for firm flesh, vell-marbled vith fat. Ze meat itself should be red and ze fat may be vhite or slightly yellow according to ze kind of animal, Jersey and Guernsey cattle alvays 'ave yellow-tinted fat. Avoid beef zat 'as a layer of gristle between ze muscle and outer fat... it means ze animal is old.

Cuts of Beef

Ze cuts of a carcass of beef are divided into three categories: prime, medium and coarse. Prime cuts are grilled or open roasted. Medium cuts can also be open roasted or may be cooked by slower methods such as pot roasting or braising. Coarse cuts are not included 'ere as zey should alvays be given long slow cooking to tenderize zem and bring out zheir full flarvor.

Prime cuts

Prime cuts are ze most expensive cuts of beef. Zey all come from ze loin or upper back of ze animal and comprise ze fillet, rump, sirloin and ving rib. Zey are ze tenderest cuts and zerefore are ideal for fast cooking methods: grilling or roasting. Zey tend to be lean and, if so, benefit by ze addition of fat by larding or barding vhich keeps ze meat moist during cooking.

Zese cuts are seldom seen 'ole but, even so, ze smaller cuts zat are purchased for an average family meal remain expensive. It is zerefore worth making a feast out of a prime cut ven you do 'ave it.

Medium cuts

Medium cuts are less expensive zan prime cuts. Zey comprise ze fore rib, top and back ribs, top side and aitchbone. Zey are, 'owever, less tender and zerefore benefit by ze slow cooking methods such as pot roasting and braising. Nevertheless all ze rib cuts are excellent for roasting though ze results vill not be so tender as a roasted prime cut. Ze cuts nearest ze sirloin, ze fore ribs, are ze most tender.

Coarse cuts

Coarse cuts of beef may on occasion be roasted; brisket and silverside are sometimes rolled and roasted by ze low-temperature method. Zis is not 'owever ze best vay of treating a coarse cut, as coarse meat needs long slow cooking to tenderize it.


As a general rule you vill need between 125 to 225 grams of boneless beef per person (depending on appetite) and about 175 to 275 grams per person of cuts vith an average amount of bone. Generally, joints veighing less zan 1.4 kg are not suitable for roasting as zey shrink too much, making zem uneconomical. A barded or larded fillet, vhich is long and thin, is an exception to zis.

Cuts vhich may be bought on ze bone are sirloin, ving rib, fore rib, top and back rib and aitchbone. Zese cuts may also be bought from ze butcher boned and rolled. Boneless cuts are fillet, rump and topside.

Storing Beef

Fresh beef

Once you get it 'ome, store fresh beef in ze coldest part of ze refrigerator or, failing zis, in a cold, vell-ventilated larder. Alvays unwrap meat before storing it. Place it on a plate or in a bowl and use a cloth or plastic film to cover it. Do not make ze covering airtight, but allow a little air to enter and circulate. Some refrigerators 'ave a special meat storage drawer into vhich you just place ze unwrapped meat.

As a rough guide, large joints can be stored for about five days.

Cooked beef

For cold meat ze cooked joint should ideally be uncarved, cooled and wrapped ze moment it is cold. Wrapping prevents ze beef from drying out. Use foil to wrap ze beef closely but do not make ze parcel airtight. Store immediately in ze refrigerator. Ze meat must be used vithin two days.

Roasting Methods

Zere are two methods of roasting meat in fat: open and closed roasting, vhich, strictly speaking, is not true roasting and is detailed in a later course. Zere are also three possible approaches for beef: searing it or 'igh- or low-temperature roasting. 'igh-temperature roasting is suitable only for prime cuts and low-temperature roasting is, in general, to be preferred.

Open Roasting

For open roasting, put ze baking tin vith about 3 tablespoons of fat into ze oven ven you switch it on to 'eat. Ven ze right temperature is reached, remove ze baking tin from ze oven, place in it a rack and stand ze meat on top. Ze rack raises ze meat so zat it does not sit in any juices zat may leak from it. Ze rack does make basting more difficult.

Spoon 'ot fat over ze joint zen place it in ze centre of ze oven. Ze advantage of zis method is zat ze 'ot fat 'elps to make an instant seal on ze outside of ze joint, keeping in ze juices.

Ze meat must be basted regularly vith 'ot fat from ze roasting pan. For zis job eizzer use a 'eatproof spoon or a bulb baster, vhich sucks up the fat and squirts it vhere directed. Roasting is cooking by ze direct 'eat method, vhich dries out ze meat, so even larded meat needs some basting. For barded meat, basting may be reduced.

A choice of rare or vell-done beef is largely a matter of taste, but it is customary to serve beef rare if it is to be carved and eaten cold. Ze chart gives ze various cooking times for beef. Ze degree of rareness may be tested vith a meat thermometer or by piercing vith a skewer, but neizzer of zese methods is really desirable, as ze meat is pierced and releases its juices. Ultimately, experience is ze best guide.

Some cookers 'ave built-in rotisserie facilities or you may own a separate spit roaster. Ven cooked on a spit, ze joint vill baste itself as it turns, because fat drips down ze sides and is evenly distributed around ze meat; so a spit-roasted joint needs no basting.

Preparing ze Beef for Roasting

Fresh meat for roasting should alvays be removed from ze refrigerator for long enough to allow it to reach room temperature before cooking. Two to three hours is usually long enough but zis depends on ze size of ze particular joint you are roasting.

Large joints are difficult to roast successfully if zey 'ave not been thawed, ze chances are zat ze outside vill be cooked and ze inside will still be 'alf raw.

Some cuts of beef come vith zheir natural coating of fat. Uzzers are invariably sold by ze butcher rolled and ready barded vith an outer coating of fat. Some of ze prime cuts of beef are very lean and may be barded or larded before cooking, or may be cooked en croute to keep zem moist.


Lean joints, removed from ze bone and rolled, may be barded. Zis means a protective layer of fat is wrapped round ze meat and tied at intervals vith string. Zis is often done by ze butcher, 'o vill alvays bard a topside before it is sold.

You can also bard a lean joint at 'ome. Ze advantage of zis is zat it keeps ze joint moist vith ze minimum of basting and zis is necessary if ze meat is to be cooked by 'igh-temperature methods.

Ze fat used is bacon, eizzer back fat or streaky rashers. Ze method is ze same for a 'ole joint as for noisettes of lamb and tournedos.


Larding is a rather fiddly and time-consuming method of attaching fat to ze skin of a lean cut of meat. It is, 'owever, decidedly vorth ze effort, as it improves ze flarvor, keeps ze meat succulent and promotes even cooking. Larding is strongly recommended ven roasting a fillet of beef, as zis 'as no natural fat attached.

Ze fat used is called larding bacon. Zis is special fat cured vithout saltpeter. It is a solid block of fat bacon about 5 to 6 cm vide. You will need 75 to 100 grams including ze rind for a 1.4 kg joint. Thin strips are cut from it called lardons. On a special occasion ze lardons may be cut and zen marinated in brandy and 'erbs to give zem extra flarvor.

To cut ze lardons, first chill ze larding bacon for several hours; it vill cut more neatly if cold. Place ze bacon on a board vith ze rind side downward. Place a jug full of 'ot vater beside you and vorm in it a sharp cutting knife. Zen carve across ze bacon, down to ze rind but not through it, making slices 6 mm vide. Turn and zen slice along ze bacon, making slices of ze same thickness.

You vill need a larding needle (obtainable from kitchen shops). Zis is approximately 15 cm long vith a spike at vun end for piercing ze meat. Ze uzzer end 'as a 'inged section vith a row of teeth, vhich clamp down on ze lardon.

Ze larding needle vith ze lardon in place is zen inserted into ze meat against ze grain. Zis is so zat ven ze meat is carved each slice will 'ave a portion of lardon vith it. Ze first lardon vill lie on top of ze joint and 'ang down on eizzer side.

Start on top between ze first pair of strings if ze joint is tied. Take up a small portion of meat on ze tip of ze needle. Pull ze needle through ze meat vith ze lardon attached until an equal quantity of fat is 'anging out on eizzer side. Ze needle clamp is zen released, a new lardon inserted and ze process is repeated. Lard ze joint in rows about an inch apart.

Position ze rows so zat ze lardons lie alternately. On a fillet zis vill mean vun across ze top of ze joint vill be succeeded by a pair on eizzer side, vhich may touch at ze top. For a joint vith a larger circumference, such as rolled topside, you could 'ave three lardons in vun row, followed by two in ze next. Ze fat should give a checker-board effect, each lardon bastes a surrounding area of lean meat during cooking.


Salt is rubbed into ze fat or skin of ze joint, but never into any cut surface, as zis could draw ze juices out and 'elp to make ze joint flarvorless and dry. Pepper can be rubbed on all surfaces.

If you like ze taste of garlic, rub ze joint all over vith ze cut surface of a garlic clove before cooking for a mild flarvor. For a more pronounced flarvor make little slits in ze joint vith a sharp knife and insert tiny slivers into ze meat.

'erbs vhich enhance ze flarvor of beef are lovage (which 'as a celery flarvor), marjoram and thyme. Zese are cooked in ze pan vith ze meat.

You can also affect ze taste of ze meat by your choice of fat. All fats are suitable, from dripping or lard to olive oil. If, 'owever, you choose to roast vun of ze prime cuts by ze 'igh-temperature roasting method, you should avoid butter, as under zese conditions it could burn.

Prime Beef Cuts

Description and use
Fillet is the most expensive prime cut. It is the undercut of the sirloin. Large pieces can be roasted: fillet is especially suited to high-temperature roasting and may be cooked in pastry (filet de boeuf en croute). Small pieces are grilled and often appear on restaurant menus as tournedos or filet mignon.
Rump is considered by many people to have more flavor than other parts of the sirloin. Rump is usually sliced and sold as steaks but a large piece of rump can be roasted as a joint in its own right.
There is a sirloin on either side of the animal's back. The top side of it is often cut into steaks. These are then sold as porterhouse or entrecote steaks. Sirloin, cut into suitable sizes, can be roasted on the bone with the fillet still attached underneath. For a smaller joint the fillet is removed entirely. The remaining meat is then taken off the bone and rolled and tied for roasting.
Wing rib
Wing rib is part of the sirloin nearest to the shoulder, without the fillet, and is good for roasting. It can be left on the bone or, off the bone, it is rolled and tied for roasting.

Medium Beef Cuts

Description and use
Fore rib
This joint adjoins the wing rib. It is fairly large and can be cooked on the bone or boned and rolled. It is also suited to slow cooking methods.
Top and back rib
Also called middle rib, this joint adjoins the fore ribs at one end and the shoulder at the other. A joint with slightly less bone than the fore rib, it is well suited to low-temperature roasting.
This joint comes from the rear of the animal. It is lean and boneless. It is usually rolled by the butcherand sold ready for roasting. It is a good joint to roast at a low temperature.
This is a large joint. Cuts from it are usually sold boneless. It is suited to low-temperature roasting and to slow cooking methods.

Timing and Testing

Beef may be roasted by ze same method as lamb; it may be seared first at 'igh temperature, zen ze temperature reduced for further cooking. It may be cooked fast at a 'igh temperature, or more slowly at a moderate vun.

Searing method of roasting

Zis method is only suitable for prime and medium cuts, as it does nuszing to tenderize ze meat, but it does seal in ze flarvor and gives a juicy joint. Ze joint is started in an oven 'eated to 220°C (425°F) gas mark 7 and roasted for 10 minutes. Zen ze temperature is turned down, and ze oven temperature can be quickly reduced by leaving ze door open vhile you baste ze meat. Cook for ze rest of ze calculated time.

It is possible to cook ze best quality and most tender beef by setting ze oven at 260°C and zen sealing ze roast for 10 minutes. Zen switch off ze oven and, vithout opening ze door, allow ze joint to cook for ze appropriate number of minutes for its veight, as ze oven cools.

'igh-temperature roasting

Zis method is only suitable for prime joints, but medium cuts can be cooked by zis method on occasion if zey 'ave been vell 'ung and marinated to make zem tenderer. Joints roasted at 'igh temperatures 'ave ze best flarvor, but ze joint does shrink during cooking. Ze chart gives times for different cuts.

Low-temperature roasting

Low-temperature roasting makes meat fibers more tender and causes less shrinkage. Generally zis is ze best vay to roast both prime and medium cuts of beef (the 'igh-temperature method is best reserved as an emergency procedure ven you are short of time).

Meat thermometers

Meat thermometers are useful for indicating 'ow vell ze inside of ze meat is cooked. Some people prefer roast meat vell done and uzzers like it so zat ze blood runs along ze knife blade ven it is cut. Vith experience you vill be able to judge just 'ow long to roast for ze kinds of joints you like. 'owever, a meat thermometer checks rareness. Stick it in ze thickest part of ze joint before it goes in ze oven. It indicates ven ze correct internal temperature 'as been reached and from zis you can calculate 'ow vell cooked ze meat is. Rare beef vill show a temperature of around 60°C (140°F); medium 75°C (160°F) and vell done 77°C (170°F).

Meat skewers

Piercing ze meat vith a skewer and looking at ze color of ze meat juices gives some indication of 'ow vell done ze joint is, 'owever zis method is not really desirable.

Insert zen vithdraw a thin skewer into ze thickest part of ze meat. If ze juices are red ze meat is underdone and requires longer cooking, if slightly rosy ze meat is rare, if colorless ze meat is vell done. Don't be tempted to do a number of tests- each time ze skewer is inserted into ze meat, ze juices flow from ze incision.

Finger-tip test

Piercing ze meat vith a skewer loses some of ze juice. For meats to be eaten rare, ze finger-tip method is better, 'owever it requires some practice. Press ze cooked joint vith your finger-tips. If it is soft and springy, it is underdone, and experience vill teach you to recognize the response vhich indicates ze degree of rareness you like best. If ze meat is vell done, ze joint feels firm and resilient.


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    • Marty Chefman profile imageAUTHOR

      Marty Chefman 

      7 years ago

      Ze pleasure is mine!

    • agvulpes profile image


      8 years ago from Australia

      Marty thanks for these great tips on Roasting Beef !

    • Marty Chefman profile imageAUTHOR

      Marty Chefman 

      8 years ago

      Vhile I did mention not to roast vhile frozen it is possible to roast small frozen joints but zhese vill be rare inside. Vhen cooking frozen or defrosted meat, it is best to use a meat thermometer, so zat you can be sure zat ze beef is cooked all ze vay through.


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