What the hell is a Round Roast?
December 24, 2008 5:11 PM   Subscribe

I have in my possession a large cut of beef called a round roast. What is it (pot roast, maybe?) and how do I cook it - tomorrow?

I completely failed to pull it together in time to get the turkey required for a traditional Irish Christmas dinner. I will no doubt survive, as will the other holiday diners. Instead, we are apparently having beef, which is absolutely fine by me.

However, I am not at all familiar with this cut of meat. It is a round roast; it says so on the package. While I have cooked all manner of roast beef in my time, I do not know what a round roast is.

What I have to hand:

1) A 2.2kg (4.85 lb) round roast, almost entirely devoid of fat - as in, no fat rind at all bar one sad little 1 inch by 8 inch strip which I can only assume indicates "this side up."

2) A shitload of fatty bacon, which my mother suggested as a method for dealing with said lack of fat should it be an issue;

3) Potatoes, onions, carrots, mushrooms, and no other roasting vegetables;

4) Truckloads of wine, garlic, mustard, fresh rosemary and other seasonings;

5) A turkey bag.

What I do not have is access to any store, since it's now 1 am on Christmas day. (Happy Christmas, by the way.)

This is apparently a tougher cut of beef, which is rather disappointing considering it was nearly €10 per kilo, but here we are. I have read suggestions to boil it for an hour and then roast it; to smother it in bacon and roast it; and to put it in the turkey bag and roast it.

I trust Mefi's epicures more than random internet strangers. (Shut up, you're not strangers...) Can anyone equate this cut to something with which I might be more familiar and/or suggest a method and cooking time for this makeshift holiday dinner?

From our table to yours, thanks.
posted by DarlingBri to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The American beef industry has a web site with all sorts of helpful beef cooking tips. Their brochure Confident Cooking with Beef (PDF) has details about many different meats. They suggest roasting at 325 °F, but for times that vary depending on what kind of round roast you have. I hope someone else can help you more.
posted by grouse at 5:30 PM on December 24, 2008

Best answer: 1. Salt the roast all around right now and place it back in the fridge.
2. Tomorrow, heat the over to 225 F degrees. Pat the roast dry and sear it on all sides.
3. Roast until meat probe is 115 for medium rare, 125 for medium.
4. Turn over off and let it sit in the oven without opening it until the probe registers 130 (140).
5. Let sit 15 minutes, carve.

The roasting process will take about 3 to 4 hours. Longer if you put the veg in with it. Veg covered in beef fat...... mmmmmmmm.
posted by Foam Pants at 5:31 PM on December 24, 2008

Response by poster: Oh, and my mum also suggested braising it and then roasting it, which seems to also be the suggestion here, but those directions are not particularly clear.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:31 PM on December 24, 2008

If you have a crock pot or slow cooker that it will fit in, use that. Do it first thing upon waking.

Season liberally, then sear it in a pan on all sides. Lay the seared meat in the crock pot, top with your vegetables (yours sound perfect). Don't worry about the lack of fat.

Leave on low about 8 hours.

It will be perfect.
posted by agentwills at 5:35 PM on December 24, 2008

Response by poster: Woot! Help, answers, solutions... yay! Thanks, MeFites.

This would probably be a good juncture to add that I have neither a meat thermometer nor a crock pot, but surely I can fake the meat thermometer bit, right?

Also, I have Yorkshire puddings, so no matter how this turns out... c'mon, Yorkshire pudding!
posted by DarlingBri at 5:46 PM on December 24, 2008

Best answer: This is a very lean, somewhat tough cut that can be made tasty and even rather tender. Adding fat and roasting it in a humid environment sound good, but do NOT boil the poor thing. You'll find it's best somewhere in the medium-rare spectrum.

BASICS: Apply a paste of oil, salt and pepper to the entire roast, then sear it on all sides in a hot frying pan. Put it on a rack in a shallow roasting pan with a little wine and water in the bottom. Roast, meager fat side up, in a medium (350 degree F / 175 C) oven until medium rare. If you have an oven thermometer, it would read between 140 and 150 F (60-65 F). This would take about 15-20 minutes per pound, or about 75-100 minutes, plus resting time.

This basic method won't give you much gravy and the entire thing could use a punch of flavour. So try adding in the following:

1) Parboil the halved potatoes, onions and carrots. Cook some of the fatty bacon on top of the stove, then brown the parboiled veggies along with the mushrooms and some more garlic. Put the crispy veggies in the bottom of the pan. If you haven't eaten the cooked bacon, put it in there, too. Add some more wine and a little water, just enough to wet the bottom of the pan and prevent any burning before you start getting some juices from the roast.

2) After searing the roast, let it get cool enough to handle, then apply a mustard/wine/garlic/rosemary paste all over. Put it on the rack and layer more fatty bacon on top. If you feel handy, stick some to the sides as well with toothpicks.

3) Roast as described above. You may still not get much drippings, so you may have to improvise with stock or bouillon, but it's something.

TO MAKE IT MORE TENDER: lower the heat and increase the time. Cook's illustrated has a method that makes eye of round and top round very tender. Foam Pants has summarized the method upthread. I've tried it on a small top round roast, and apart from it taking a little more time than I anticipated, it was great. You still won't get much gravy, though. And if you wanted oven roasted vegetables you'd have to work around that, or cook the veggies first and reheat them at dinner.

No meat thermometer? Skip the very slow oven method this time (but do try it some time after Christmas). Guesstimate the timings, and when you reach the minimum time, poke the roast with your finger. This method works better with steaks, but it's better than nothing.
posted by maudlin at 5:51 PM on December 24, 2008

(Ack -- details! The same pan should be used to cook tne bacon, then sear the roast, then cook the veggies. Flavour upon flavour. Deglaze the veggie-browning pan with wine and make sure that wine and the scraped up brown bits all get into the roasting pan. And the bacon to stick on the roast itself should be raw.)
posted by maudlin at 5:58 PM on December 24, 2008

The full CI recipe is here, along with video. Tomorrow is a bit of a risky day to try this for the first time, but make sure someone gives you a plug-in oven thermometer for Christmas or Boxing Day, and try the recipe soon.
posted by maudlin at 6:00 PM on December 24, 2008

I'm guessing that you're in Ireland, so I wouldn't check out the American roast sites. Your mum's solution is good as far as the braising goes, but roasting afterwards will dry it out.

I think Foam Pants has the best solution. Try this: marinate it overnight (if you're still awake) in with rosemary, garlic, two teacups of olive oil, salt, pepper, and a teacup of wine (or bushmills, at a pinch) for as long as you can.

EARLY in the morning, wake up and preheat the oven to a slow setting (around 150 celsius). Take the beef out to get it to room temp. After an hour or so, heat some oil in a frying pan and brown the beef well on all sides. Then put the beef in a big ovenproof pot with the onions and carrots, a cup of wine, some stock if you have some, otherwise water, so that it comes up to about halfway up the meat. Cover tightly, sealing with foil if necessary. Put it in the oven and cook it for quite some time--around 4 hours--until it's falling apart. This is crucial. You want to melt all off the collagen and make it tender.

When it's done, remove from the pot and cover with foil. Run the juices and vegetables through a sieve so that they're essentially pureed, then return to the pan and boil rapidly until it's reduced to a syrupy liquid. Taste for seasonings. Remove from heat and whisk in some COLD butter in thin slices.

Serve with spuds!
posted by Morpeth at 6:02 PM on December 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Here's what I'd do - you do NOT want to roast this. You want to braise it.

Set oven to 250F early in the AM.

In an oven safe pot with a lid that hold the meat, sear the salted, peppered roast and remove it.

cook the bacon and cook in it a whole onion chopped and a couple cloves of garlic, minced. Toss in a handful of carrots. Toss in coarsely chopped potatoes. Return the meat to the pan. Add delicious liquid, hopefully in the form of 1C of wine, a 3C of broth (beef is best, but chicken is fine) maybe a splash of vinegar. Throw in your herbs - you may want to put them in a sachet. If you have canned whole tomatoes in juice, throw those in with the juice. Cover and put in the oven. Ignore until about a half hour before dinner. Cooking time should be not less than four hours and 10 won't be the end of the world. You're braising the meat, which means low and slow. It won't dry out since it's in liquid and since the cooking temp isn't much above boiling point and it's covered, the liquid will stay in the pot.

Remove the pot from the oven. Make a roux using 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons of flour and whisk over low heat until it turns a pale golden brown. Whisk in ladles of liquid from the pot until you get a slightly runny gravy (it will thicken as it cools) - this will make close to a pint of gravy. Remove the roast from the pan and carve against the grain. Pull the vegetables with a slotted spoon and put into a serving dish.

For bonus points, an hour before dinner, cut the bacon into small pieces and cook. Use the bacon drippings to make the roux instead of butter. Make mashed potatoes adding minced garlic and the cooked bacon bits. Use this as a vehicle for gravy.

Serve with a red wine.
posted by plinth at 6:10 PM on December 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

Let me throw in my vote for the braise/pot roast methods, even after arguing for a dry roast above. I have a jones for crispy veggies, and a pot roast just doesn't feel like Christmas to me, but that's my bias. You will get a lot of flavour and tenderness from a slow pot roast, plus you'll have something to spoon over your Yorkshire puddings. Win win!
posted by maudlin at 6:12 PM on December 24, 2008

This is simple...

Get a pot (cast iron is best)... add oil to the pot, get it hot...braise the roast on all sides on the stove... good and brown... Add a couple of cups of water. Season to taste (pepper, rosemary is good, garlic as well, you really can't over do it..). Throw it in the oven with three or four onions at about 350 degrees.. after 2.25 hours, add potatoes, carrots. Cook for another 45 minutes..

make gravy with the drippings left when you remove the roast...

classic pot roast, tender as can be...
posted by HuronBob at 6:21 PM on December 24, 2008

No one else is saying it, so I will: when the time comes to carve, cut across the grain of the meat fibers, not with it.
posted by Class Goat at 6:24 PM on December 24, 2008

Best answer: A round roast comes from the back half of the cow. To use human terms, I guess, it's the back leg above the knee but below the hip bone. Usually its designated as either "top round" or "bottom round". This meat has excellent flavor, slices well, but can be tough... thus the long cooking times.

I think what your mom suggests with the bacon is also a good idea. It's called larding beef. Here's a recipe for lardoons, from Joy of Cooking:

To make enough for 2.5 pounds of meat:
1. Rub 1/4 pound salt pork or bacon with a cut clove of garlic
2. Cut into small strips (2- or 3-inch strips, 1/4-inch thick for heavy meat cuts)
3. Dip into freshly ground pepper, ground cloves, and minced parsley or chives.

I use the Joy of Cooking recipe for pot roast. It's similar to Maudlin's instructions, but uses flour before searing, which I find gives it a nice flavor and texture, and tasty juices.

Here it is:
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Prepare 3 to 4 pounds beef. If it is lean, lard it.
3. Rub the meat with garlic.
4. Dredge it in flour.
5. Heat in a heavy pan over lively heat, 2 tablespoons cooking oil.
6. Brown the meat on all sides in the fat. Do not let it scorch.
7. Add to the pot when the meat is half browned: 1 chopped carrot, 1 rib diced celery.
8. When the meat is browned, pour off excess fat.
9. Add to the pot 1 small onion stuck with 3 cloves, and 2 cups boiling meat stock, or vegetable stock, or part stock and part dry wine.
10. Cover and bake for 2 to 3 hours. During this time, turn the meat severals times and, if necessary, add additional hot stock.
11. When the meat is firm, correct the seasonings.
12. Pour off excess fat and serve with the pot liquor as it is or slightly thickened with kneaded butter.

* I'm miserable at converting measurements, so I didn't. I hope you can make sense of it.
posted by Houstonian at 6:45 PM on December 24, 2008

You can also cut the bacon you have into little triangles, freeze it till its firm, and before you start to cook the beef, cut little slits all over it, and insert your wee bacon triangles. It will be pretty great.
posted by neroli at 7:13 PM on December 24, 2008

Definitely braise/pot roast it. Mmmm. Pot Roast...

Try, if you're adventurous, using a dark beer as the braising liquid. Thyme, garlic, rosemary, bay (laurel), salt and pepper as the spice. Saute some of the bacon in the pan to use the fat for searing the meat. Eat bacon on toast with eggs for breakfast.

Slather the roast with pepper, salt, and garlic, then sear the sides, top, and bottom. Then saute some chopped onions (two or three) until they're nice and shiny, making sure to get the seared bits of beef off the pan and mixed in with the onions. Return beef to pan, add beer, cook on a low heat for a couple hours. Add potatoes, if you want, or make mashed.

If you make mashed, you can get all artsy/restauranty with presentation. Put a dollop of potatoes in the center of the plate, place a slab of beef on top. Surround with steamed veggies.

For the potatoes, roast a head of garlic, and add it to the potatoes with thin carmelized slices of onion.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:43 PM on December 24, 2008

Response by poster: You guys are amazing!

We're not eating this meal until 7 or 8 PM, so it's going to kick off shortly and I'm going to use an amalgamated method of all of the above, I think. Searing and larding will feature heavily. I will report back on the results, but I'm really grateful for the advice and cooking times.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:42 AM on December 25, 2008

Response by poster: OK, we ate it and it was perfectly fine. Very tender, which is what I was most concerned about; a bit overdone inside after 3 hours on a low heat, but very nice.

I salted it the night before; covered it in olive oil and mustard; seared it on all of its sides; stabbed it and shoved in garlic cloves; draped it in bacon; and then threw it in a roasting pan with all of its vegetables, rosemary and an assload of red wine.

I then took the entire roast in its pan, put it in a turkey bag, and put it in the oven at 125C for three hours. (Our oven, as it turns out, runs hot because it's fan assisted.)

The meat was nice but the gravy was AMAZING.

The next night I treated the leftovers like pot roast and my husband made pot roast stew that was very salty but oh so glorious.

In future, I would treat this cut as pot roast in the first place, as many wisely suggested, and be better setup to cook it as such.

Thanks for bailing me out, I really appreciate it.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:07 PM on December 31, 2008

« Older English-major cliche   |   How to continue my grouchy urban life on a Buenos... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.