When choosing a cut of beef for roasting, it is important to take into account the tenderness, flavor and fat content of the meat. I am going to break these qualities down into three separate sections. First, however, I will give you an overview of the different types of roasted beef cuts.
A Guide to Beef Roasts and the Best Ways to Cook Them
Every supermarket carries a variety of beef roasts, and often the labeling can be confusing, especially if you don’t know the steer primal from which the roast is cut. The following beef roasts―with photographs from a butcher’s block and recipes―are the roasts you’ll frequently find in a market or butcher.
Watch Now: The Guide to Popular Beef Roasts
- Chuck RoastChuck roast is cut from the cow’s shoulder. It is a heavily exercised muscle, which gives the beef good flavor but it also makes it tough. Chuck is often ground for hamburger because of its high ratio of fat to meat (20 percent fat to 80 percent meat is considered the best for a hamburger).1 Chuck is used for a pot roast or, when cubed, stew, because the connective tissue melts as the chuck braises and self-bastes the beef, making it very tender. Other roasts cut from the chuck are Boston Cut and English Roast or Cross Cut.
- Eye of Round RoastThe economical eye of round roast is cut from the rear leg of the beef steer or heifer. It is similar in appearance to the tenderloin, but because it is cut from a well-exercised muscle, the eye of round is lean and tough.2 Eye of round can be cooked with high-heat searing and slow roasting, braising, simmering or poaching. However, because it is very flavorful, it can also be cooked as roast beef. Like with other tough cuts, the eye of round should always be thinly sliced against the grain.3
- 03of 06Rib RoastA rib roast is cut from the rib section between the shoulder and the short loin (behind the ribs). The three most common rib roasts are Standing Rib Roast, Rolled Rib Roast and Rib-Eye Roast.
- The Standing Rib Roast is cut with at least three ribs and up to seven ribs and roasted propped upright on its ribs, which allows the meat to be self-basted as the roast’s top layer of fat melts. Standing Rib Roast is often referred to incorrectly as Prime Rib Roast. The majority of USDA Prime is bought by hotels and meat distributors, so carefully examine the label to make sure you’re buying true prime.
- Rolled Rib Roast is the same cut as the Standing Rib Roast but with its bones removed and the meat rolled and tied into a cylindrical shape.
- The Rib-Eye Roast is the boneless center cut of the rib section. Very well-marbled, tender and flavorful, it is the most desirable and the most expensive of the roasts.
- Top Round RoastThe top round roast is cut from the upper thigh of the hindquarters of the beef cow. The top round is not a heavily worked muscle, which results in a roast that’s more tender and flavorful than other cuts from the round. Top round is often mislabeled and sold in supermarkets as London Broil, which is not an actual cut of beef but a method for cooking tough cuts. Top round roast can also be braised, roasted, stewed or cooked in a slow cooker. You can even slice it for use in sandwiches.
- 05of 06Rump RoastRump roast is a triangular cut from the upper part of the round or the hindquarters. Like other well-exercised muscles, the beef is lean and flavorful, but because it can be quite tough, the rump roast should be cooked slowly at lower temperatures (such as the pictured pot roast), which allows time for the cut’s connective tissue to soften and melt.
- 06of 06Sirloin Tip RoastThe sirloin tip roast (also known as round tip roast) is cut from the hindquarters, adjacent to the sirloin. The sirloin tip roast is flavorful, but like most lean cuts, it can be tough and should be braised or stewed. The sirloin tip roast can also be used for kebabs or slowly oven-roasted at a low temperature.
How to choose the perfect cut for a great roast
The best parts of an animal to use for a roast dinner will depend on the dish you want to cook, your mood, and budget.
You can learn a lot from a pig’s thigh. Just ask Mark White, AKA “Marky Market”, who works as a kind of personal shopper at Smithfield, London’s giant meat market. Plonk a leg of pork in front of him, and while he won’t be able to tell you the animal’s age or star sign, he will at least be able to state its sex.
If there’s a reddish patch high on the inner thigh, it was a male. “That’s where there were a lot of blood vessels near its testicles,” White explains, although “testicles” isn’t quite the word he uses.
Why does this matter? Because when you’re buying pork, you ideally want it to come from a female pig. With males, there’s always the possibility – a tiny one, to be fair – that the meat has been tainted by testosterone during the slaughter process. Now you’ve learned this fascinating fact, don’t feel guilty if you forget it. There are more important considerations when planning your perfect roast …
First of all, you’ll need to decide what cut you want. “You can roast so many bits of a cow,” notes Richard Turner, executive chef at the Hawksmoor steak restaurants. Classic cuts, however, include silverside (no 1 in the illustration below), topside (2), rump (3), sirloin (4), fillet (5) and fore rib (6). All but the last are usually sold boneless. If you’re nervous about carving meat, this may be tempting, but is it best for flavour? “Personally, I roast on the bone,” says Turner, who loves a rib roast with plenty of fat. “You end up with a more succulent piece of meat.” If you must go boneless, he says, “My favourite cut is rump, although it’s not often sold as a roasting joint.” For a smaller joint, you could do a lot worse than rolled ribeye (7), cut from the centre (or “eye”) of the ribs.
Any buying tips? “I wouldn’t buy meat from a supermarket,” Turner says. “I’d always go to a proper butcher or a market. And don’t buy meat that’s vacuum-packed or clingfilmed. Meat sweats. It needs air to stay in prime condition, and to age properly.” Beef should hang at a low temperature for at least 14 days – dehydration concentrates the flavour and enzymes tenderise the meat.
What does a good piece of beef look like? “It should be dry to the touch and smell slightly sweet,” Turner says. “Unless it has just been cut that second, it should not be bright red. Bright red indicates it’s been kept in an oxygen-free environment.” There should be fat, he says, but don’t get hung up on visible marbling – often the fat that adds most flavour is hidden in the fibres of the meat, barely discernible.
Ask your butcher questions, Turner adds. Such as? “What breed it is. I wouldn’t buy crossbreeds myself, because they grow too quickly, and flavour takes time. The words to look out for are ‘pure breeds’ or ‘native breeds’. My favourites are Longhorn, Galloway, Dexter and Angus.”
Shoulder (1) is a good choice for lamb too, alongside rack (2) (a row of unseparated chops, basically), chump (3) and, of course, leg (4). “If you want to do a slow cook – something that you can leave in the oven and not worry about too much, I’d always go for lamb shoulder,” says Marky Market. “It’s a very forgiving joint. It’s hard-working muscle, so it needs a slow cook to break down the fibre and sinews, but the fat in there bastes them. It’s so easy and there’s no precise timing like there is with a rack of lamb, where it has to be all nice and pink.”
What should you look out for at the butchers? “Traditionally matured lamb should have a slightly darker colour than un-matured lamb,” is the advice from online butchers Donald Russell. “It also has good marbling with small creamy-white flecks of fat throughout the muscle. This is critical to the flavour of the meat, as the fat melts during cooking to make the meat juicy and tasty.”
Again the advice is to avoid supermarkets, where almost all pork comes from bland-tasting hybrids known simply as “commercial pigs”. So what should you buy for the best flavour? Rare breed, says Jasper Aykroyd, the chef-turned-curing-expert known as the Bacon Wizard. “It’s not only the flavour – it will roast better. Two of the more common breeds are Gloucestershire Old Spot and Duroc, and – if you can get hold of them – Berkshire pigs are incredible for roasting. And there’s a new kid on the block called Mangalitsa. They’re the furry pigs that look like pig-shaped sheep.”
It helps that rare breed pigs are typically raised in good conditions. Chefs and butchers all agree that happy, healthy pigs make for tastier meat. This is particular true of the hours and minutes just before slaughter, where stress can spoil the flavour and texture of the meat.“Old breeds and higher welfare standards tend to go hand in hand,” says Aykroyd. “There’s just no point having a rare breed and putting it in indoor intensive farming. The best stuff you can get has been roaming around in woodland. Pigs love to grub around, and if they’re getting lots of tannin-rich tree bark, oak roots and things like that, you will find that the fat is a lot better quality.”
Fat is essential to a good pork roast, he adds, basting the meat as it cooks and improving the flavour. If you’re worried about fat in general, he says: “Unlike any other common domestic animal, pork fat is more than 50% monounsaturated – the type you find in olive oil. And it’s quite high in things like oleic acid and omega-3s and 6s.”
Which cuts are best for roasting? Rib’s (1) good, and loin (2), and even the relatively small jowls or cheeks (3) if you can get them when they’re really fresh. But, he says: “Shoulder (4) is the really good one. It has both kinds of fat – the solid one on the top, which produces lovely crackling, and the marbling within the muscle. And there’s connective tissue. Normally this would be very tough, but if it’s roasted nicely it breaks down and becomes lovely and gelatinous. I also love pork belly. It’s very fatty, but you can press it after cooking to remove some of that.”
“I would always buy British pork,” Aykroyd adds, “rather than, say, Dutch or Danish. For a start, our welfare standards are ahead of the curve as far as Europe is concerned.”
Where should you get your chicken? “A farm shop is almost always the best place,” says Mark Diacono, author of River Cottage’s Chicken & Eggs handbook. “Even if the chicken isn’t from their farm itself, they’re likely to have a close relationship with their supplier. The more the seller can tell you about the bird and where it comes from, the happier you should be to buy from them.”
“A bird that’s lived a free-ranging life will always taste better,” he adds. “Being cooped up with little access to natural light, air and with no freedom to exhibit all of the behaviours that make a chicken a chicken makes for a terrible life and a bland-tasting bird. Slow-growing, happy free-range chickens simply taste better. Organic, meanwhile, ensures all the benefits of a free-range system with the added reassurance of knowing there are no unnecessary medical interventions and no GM feed. The bird should be labelled as free-range, organic or RSPCA Freedom Food, ignore bucolic-sounding phrases such as ‘farm fresh’ as they mean nothing. Even the Red Tractor logo is no guarantee of high welfare.”
What Is the Most Tender Cut of Beef Roast?
Shopping for a pot roast meal in the slow cooker? Or a beef roast in the oven? Knowing what cut to pick out of the 20+ you see in the grocery store can be a struggle. For a roast, you want a tender cut of beef — or at least one that will become tender during the cooking process. This guide will let you in on some secrets to find the best, most tender beef cut options for a pot roast or an oven roast.
What Is the Most Tender Cut of Beef Roast?
The Chateaubriand beef tenderloin roast is considered to be the most tender cut of beef for a roast. This cut of beef comes from the loin area of the cow, which is right below the backbone, behind the rib section and in front of the sirloin section. Because it’s not an overworked area of the muscle, the loin area is extremely tender. The Chateubriand cut is the epitome of the loin with its delicate texture.
Want to try one for yourself? Order yours today from Chicago Steak Company. Our Chateaubriand tenderloin roast is available in USDA Prime or Premium Angus beef, and is individually vacuum-sealed and registered for quality and convenience. When you order from us, you’ll know that you’re getting some of the best beef on the market, and it’s shipped straight to your door.
Other Options for Roast Beef or Pot Roast
The Chateaubriand tenderloin roast might be heralded as one of the best meat choices for a beef roast, but it’s certainly not the only one you can use. Some people prefer other cuts that have more flavor and can still come out just as tender, depending on how you cook them. Below are several other options you have for roast beef.
A rib roast is also known as a standing rib roast or a heart of rib roast. Regardless of the name, this roast is one of the most popular ones to cook in the Crock Pot or roast in the oven. This cut comes from the rib section of the cow, the same area you’d find a delicious ribeye steak. You can expect the rib roast to be just as marbled and flavorful as ribeye.
The tri-tip roast comes from the sirloin primal area of the cow, which is right behind the loin. The sirloin is usually divided into the top sirloin and the bottom sirloin sections, and the latter is where you’ll get a tri-tip roast from. It’s an exercised area, but not overly exercised, so it has an excellent amount of marbling that breaks down and tenderizes the meat when cooking.
Sirloin Tip Roast
The sirloin tip roast is one that you’ll need to take more care of when cooking than some other naturally tender cuts, like tenderloin roast and ribeye roast. This cut comes from the rump, which is a very exercised area. Therefore, it’s lean without the marbling you’d get from rib steak or tri-tip. But, with some marinade and slow cooking, it remains juicy and flavorful.
Strip Loin Roast
The strip loin can be either bone-in or boneless, and either one works well for a roast. It comes from the loin primal area, same as the Chateaubriand tenderloin cut. It’s the same cut that butchers would slice into strip steak sections. It’s well marbled, so it stays tender and flavorful as the fat breaks down during roasting.
Top Round Roast
This lean cut comes from the rump area, which you can imagine is quite exercised. Because it doesn’t have the fat content that other roasts do, it comes out its best when it’s cooked for hours in the slow cooker to tenderize it. It’s less expensive than other beef roasts, which is why it might be a better option for some cooks.
Shoulder Petite Tender
The shoulder petite tender comes from the chuck section, which is the part of the animal that contains the shoulder. This area does get a lot of exercise, resulting in an overall leaner cut than prime rib and tenderloin roasts. However, it’s known for being full of flavor, and it can also be a cheaper option than the pricier ones on this list. For the best results, put it in the slow cooker for several hours.
Beef brisket comes from the brisket area of the cow, which is the lower chest portion. Corned beef is actually a beef brisket at first, but it’s cured with a brine to give it its distinct color and flavor. Brisket is known for its tenderness and that fall-apart texture that we know and love. It’s excellent in a smoker or slow cooker.
If you’re looking to create a pot roast recipe, try a chuck roast. They’re one of the more affordable types of beef roasts. Since a chuck roast comes from the exercised shoulder area, it can be a bit tougher than other cuts, which is why it’s perfect for a pot roast in the slow cooker that gives it plenty of time to cook and tenderize.
Rump Roast or Eye of Round Roast
An eye of round roast is a type of rump roast, and many rump roast options create excellent roast beef. These cuts have a very beefy flavor, which is one of the reasons they’re so popular. For the best outcome, slow cooking or slow roasting is best to help the meat break down and become tender.
What to Look for in a Roast
We’ve told you all about the options you have to get the most tender cut of beef roast, including round roast, tenderloin roast, and a tri tip roast. But we also want to help you pick out the very best roast of your choice when you’re shopping for it at the supermarket or butcher shop.
First, we want to emphasize that expensive doesn’t always equal better. Sure, you’ll pay more per pound for a rib roast than you would a chuck roast. But it’s the quality that counts. And that quality comes from the source of the meat and the butcher’s attention to detail.
It’s more important to consider the quality than the price. Fresh, high-quality beef will have a nice, bright pinkish-red hue. If you poke it gently, the meat should bounce back at you.
More importantly, look for meat that hasn’t been raised with additives, like growth hormones and antibiotics. The packaging should say whether this is the case. And, if it’s within your budget, opt for USDA Prime meat, which includes the top tier of beef in the U.S.
If you need to stick with a roast that’s more affordable, try looking for slow cooker recipes. Tougher cuts can still have an excellent outcome in the slow cooker when they’re given plenty of time to tenderize.
You know what you don’t have to worry about when you buy your roast beef online from Chicago Steak Company? Any of the above! That’s because we do all the hard work for you.
Get the Most Tender Cut of Beef Roast
Our roast cuts — Chateaubriand and rib roasts — are available in USDA Prime or Premium Angus beef, certifying that they’re among the very best quality beef your money can buy. We age our beef to perfection in state-of-the-art facilities using strict methods to ensure freshness, flavor, and texture. You don’t have to take time searching for just the right roast to have for dinner, because we’ll do that for you and ship it to your home.