Boneless chuck roasts are bullet shaped and slung in a netting while arm roasts have a small cross cut bone section and cut in a thick slab. Stew meat is cubed versions of these roasts.
These cuts require slow, low, moist cooking – i.e. a braise (think “crock pot”). You will be successful if you place these fine cuts in a flavored liquid (say, beef broth, barbecue sauce, or even beer) accompanied with aromatics (onion, garlic, shallots) and a panoply of flavorful herbs and spices. For a Classic Pot Roast (aka Pot a Feu), combine onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes with thyme, parsley, and bay leaf in water (thinner) or beef broth (thicker). To elevate this Sunday night classic to Beef Bourguignon, add bacon, then onions, carrots, and mushrooms, the bouquet garni, and split the liquid half and half with beef broth and red wine. For Barbacoa, use onions and garlic with chilies (for ease, try a can of adobo chilis), cumin, oregano, cinnamon, and clove – again in a beef broth and a can of Mexican lager for good measure. For Barbecue Beef Sandwiches, use onion and garlic with barbecue sauce thinned with water, shred the result and top with pickles and thinly sliced raw onions on hamburger buns (btw – the boneless chuck roast is particular good for shredding). Google any of these classic dishes for more specific directions, ingredients and their quantities – they will follow, more or less, the same play book.
I generally use a crock pot for chuck roasts, though a heavy pot with a lid in the 325F oven works just fine. I would give yourself three hours to ensure the roast is pull apart tender. There’s no speeding up a chuck roast by cranking up the heat, it takes awhile to melt the inter connective tissue to a mouthwatering spoon tender consistency.
Round, Bottom Round, Eye of Round, and Rump Roasts are large chunks of beef coming from the round. The round is the back end of the animal – the rump and hind legs. These cuts are very lean; pure beef with little fat. These are your Classic Roast Beef cuts. These cuts respond well to dry heat methods – particularly roasting.
For dry methods, you really need to season your beef. This generally means rubbing salt on the beef and letting osmosis pull the salt into the interior of the beef. This, of course, takes time. Overnight in the fridge is best, but any amount of time is better than no time at all. You can add black pepper (lots of it), sage, rosemary, garlic and onion salt, chili flakes, marjoram, juniper berry, the list goes on an on. Get creative with your rub and go for it!
A marinade or brine works great too – this is a salty, flavorful liquid. This likely includes salt, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, Worcestershire sauce, etc along with herbs and spices. Like their rub counterparts, a brine helps beef maintain moisture when roasting as well as add flavor.
Here’s a brine that adds a great, distinctive and flavor:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup salt
2 tablespoons cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves or two whole cloves
1 cup water
Add above to a saucepan and bring to a boil stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add…
3 cups cold water
Place in a zip lock bag with roast and brine overnight. Discard the bag and brine. Pat dry. Let sit out until room temperature. Then roast.
Hey, what about the roasting part? I’m glad you asked. Get your oven hot – like 425F to 450F degrees. I recommend getting an oven thermometer to make sure your oven actually gets this hot. For example, my oven is actually 390F when the dial is at 450F; that’s 60F degrees off!
Pat your roast is dry with paper towels. Ideally, let it sit out to get to room temperature, but if you are pressed for time, this is the step to cheat on. Slide into the oven, ideally on a roasting rack set on a cooking sheet, though set directly on a cooking sheet with is just fine). You can add potatoes, onions, and carrots to the pan too. The outside of the roast will brown, creating a flavorful crust, while the inside slowly heats up. Measure the inside temperature periodically using a digital thermometer (yes, another item you should buy). Once the internal temperature hits 120F degrees, remove the roast and immediately cover with aluminum foil and let sit for at least ten minutes. The internal temperature will continue to rise, likely cresting 125-130F degrees. This is perfectly rare to medium rare roast beef.
Take the time to slice your roast beef thin. Unlike the braising methods described in the previous section, roasting does little to increase the tenderness of the beef. So, you have to mechanically tenderize the beef by thinly slicing it. This allows your teeth to easily bite through with little resistance. Once sliced, douse with a quality neutral-flavored oil, like canola or sunflower oil. The beef will absorb some of the golden elixir, complimenting the beefy flavor and tender bite with a sumptuous lip-smacking body. You can serve for a formal dinner using the drippings in the sheet pan to create a piping hot brown gravy, or for a more casual event, serve room temperature on Kaiser buns spread with horseradish and stone ground mustard and topped with thinly sliced raw red onions.
Or, you can use the braising methods described in the previous section. The Classic Pot Roast, or Pot a Feu, is particularly good for round roasts.
For the adventurous, try Grilling a Round Roast. There’s plenty of YouTube examples to follow. It’s definitely a fun way roast in summer when you don’t want to heat up your house with the oven.
Steaks are synonymous with Grilling. Our steaks are cut to a hefty, though still easy to manage, 1 1/4″ unless otherwise noted below. Everything here can go on the grill (or under a broiler), though some need the help of a rub or marinade.
Thinking ahead will help you pull off a delicious steak. Ideally, you want a room temperature, dry, seasoned (ie salted) steak. Seasoning can certainly be more than salt, but any seasoning should have a salty component. It just makes it taste better. The sooner the seasoning gets on the beef, the more time it has to distribute the seasoning throughout the beef – rather than superficially on the surface. And just like the round roast, seasoning can be a dry rub or a web marinade. Just make sure to pat dry with paper towels or a utilitarian kitchen towel before it hits the grill.
For the cooking, start with the Rule of Fours: Start with a fully thawed, dry, room temperature steak. Put on a HOT (and I mean HOT!!!!) grill, 4-minutes per side over direct heat, then remove, douse in a delicious fat, and tent with aluminum foil for an additional 4 minutes. Pay attention to you grill. Lots of flare-ups? Probably too hot. Barely audible? Probably too cold. It should sizzle without flares engulfing your meat.
To be more exact, use a digital thermometer to determine internal temperature. It’s totally foolproof. 120 for rare (the best), 140 degrees for medium. 160 degrees for leather. Grass fed beef just doesn’t do well at the well done end of the spectrum.
I want to emphasize the post grill step – often called the “rest”. This is when you remove the steak, douse it in a delicious fat, and keep it warm by tenting with aluminum foil. The beef will literally relax, absorb the fat, and end up juicier for it. Fats that I have used successfully range from European-style butter, fruity olive oil, bacon fat, to mere sunflower oil. After the rest, slicing steaks ahead of serving is a great way to share a single (or multiple) steaks across a crowd. Everyone doesn’t have to have their own personal steak! If you slice it, drizzle enough oil on it to make it shine. It will appear more appetizing and taste better too.
Best Cuts for this Grilling: Tenderloin, Porterhouse, T-Bone, Ribeye, Hanger, Sirloin Flap, and Top Sirloin.
Very Good Cuts for Grilling: Flatiron, Flank, and Skirt. These cuts are thin. The method still works, but it’s for a much shorter time (ie less than 3mins)
Good Cuts for Grilling: Ranch Steak, Tenderized Top Round, Sirloin Tip Kebobs, Sirloin Tip Steaks
Don’t Grill: Short Ribs, Brisket, or Roasts (except in the special case that you intend to grill a roast – watch some YouTube first though).
Now for a quick primer on what Sun Prairie offers in the world of steaks…
Tenderloin Steak – Otherwise known as the fillet mignon, this is a very tender steak with great mouth feel. We don’t get many of these from each animal, so availability is limited. Salt, pepper, grill…don’t try to hard with this one. Light flavorful sauces are divine with this steak.
T-Bone Steak – The T-bone is really a bone-in New York strip with a bit of tenderloin on the other side of the “T”. Another wonderful steak with two distinct parts – don’t overcook and tread lightly with the spices – keep it simple.
New York Strip – See above. This is a boneless steak that sits well on the grill. This is a tender cut that doesn’t need a lot of additional support. Great with mushrooms.
Porterhouse Steak – This is a large steak that is really a bone-in New York strip on one side and big chunk of tenderloin on the other. It is a favorite for many and for good reason. See above for treatment.
Ribeye Steak – A classic and one of my favorites. The meat is tender with great flavor. Pairs nicely with a robust red wine and grilled broccoli.
Top Sirloin Steak – A boneless cut with a full, beefy flavor. While it can stand alone on the grill with little preparation, I prefer this steak with an adventurous rub – open your spice drawer and go crazy as this steak can really hold up to the challenge. Try sage, pepper corns, salt, and a few red pepper flakes.
Flatiron Steak – aka the top blade steak. This small steak’s only detractor is the unfortunate strip of gristle that runs down the center. Carve around it on your plate for one of the most tender and flavorful pieces of beef. It tends to be thin, so be attentive at the grill. I favor light spice treatment.
Flank, Skirt, and Sirloin Flap Steak – These cuts, listed in order of quality, can be used interchangeably when demanded in recipes. These cuts are thin, grainy, and incredibly delicious. I prefer these as classic fajitas grilled with a dry rub and finished with a squeeze of lime during the rest. They also do well with a southwest marinade or any “Magic Rub”. These cuts are excellent as Fajitas.
Top Round Steak/Blade Steak – We mechanically tenderize this steak to increase its versatility. Appropriate for the grill after a heavy rub or marinade (store bought varieties are great for this one), this under appreciated cut can be turned into a delicious fajita or stir fry meal. Slice thin across the grain.
Ranch Steak – These are relatively small steaks that is best as diminutive cubes for a beef and bean stove top recipe or in an asian stir fry, though they can still be grilled. Another good candidate for store bought marinades, this steak should not be overcooked. Also known as the center cut steak.
Sirloin Tip Kebobs – aka “Tips”. This cut is the only one that I recommend cooking to and beyond medium. These pre-cut large cubes are obviously great for kebobs, but are also excellent in everything from beef stroganoff, casseroles, and buef au poivre. Incredibly versatile and popular.
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