How to Cook the Best Roast Beef Despite Your Fears
The Best Roast Beef
Trip Down Memory Lane
When I was growing up, beef for dinner was considered a treat. Beef was as expensive then as it is today. When we did have it, it was usually ground chuck stretched with canned cream of mushroom soup or made into a meatloaf. Sometimes though, my mother would cook "chicken steaks," horrible thin cuts of beef with the vein running down the middle. She'd fry them in a pan on the top of the stove and cook them until they were ashen. I hated those steaks, and I have never, nor will I ever, cook one. They are called something else today, although I don't know what. (I did Google "chicken steak" and found a lot of great recipes for chicken and steak dinners and for chicken-fried steak, but no leads on the slab of ash I ate as a kid.)
Thus my fear of cooking beef. What if I made a pile of ash?
Experimenting With Beef and a Meat Thermometer
I've had wonderful steaks and roasts in my adult life, cooked by friends or enjoyed at dinners out. But it was only a few years ago that I found the courage to experiment with cooking beef on my own. The turning point was when my mother gave me a meat thermometer as a housewarming gift, which was really funny, because I don't think she ever used a meat thermometer in her life. However, my mother is a genius at finding previously used and sale items for pennies on the dollar. I expect this meat thermometer was one of her "finds."
Armed with a meat thermometer, I now needed something to stick it into.
Although you can stick a thermometer into a number of meats (chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, veal, and even fish), I chose a beef roast because it was beef and therefore a challenge. Besides, true to my mother's bargain hunting instincts, I found the roast offered at a very good sale price and I couldn't pass it up. I brought the roast home and attacked it with the meat thermometer and a little creativity. The rest is history.
All You Need Is Beef
To make this wonderful beef, you need an eye round roast, a container of Mrs. Dash (I use the "original" blend), a meat thermometer, a pan with a rack that fits into it, and an oven. That's it.
Start with an eye round roast that's at least 3 pounds.
Take the roast out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before you start to pre-heat the oven.
Pre-heat the oven to 475 degrees F.
Shake the Mrs. Dash onto all parts of the beef-top, bottom, and sides, and press this wonderful seasoning into the flesh. You might want to do this in your freshly scrubbed kitchen sink. It can make a mess.
When all the seasoning is pressed into the flesh, place the beef onto the rack with the fat side down.
Put the rack and the beef into the pan.
Poke the thermometer into the fattest part of the roast so that the stabbing end of the thermometer goes only half-way down.
Time and Temperature
Your meat thermometer may have a temperature setting for rare, medium, and well done beef, or it may not. So set the desired doneness either by words or numbers:
Rare = 140 degrees F
Medium = 160 degrees F
Well done = 170 degrees F
When the oven is up to 475, put the pan and its beef in, uncovered.
Set a timer for 45 minutes.
After 45 minutes, turn the oven down to 275 degrees F.
Depending on the size of the roast, the rest of the cooking may take an hour or two or more. Just check the thermometer's progress. You can do this by turning on your oven's light and looking through the glass door. If you don't have an oven door with glass that you can see through, then you will have to open the door and look, which will delay the cooking time.
The beautiful thing about the meat thermometer is that it doesn't lie. It doesn't matter whether your oven's internal thermometer is working or not. The meat thermometer will tell you when the beef is done.
When the beef is done, take it out of the oven and let it sit in its pan on your kitchen counter for about 10 minutes before you slice it.
About Slicing the Roast
You need a sharp, finely honed knife. I use Sabatier carbon steel knives, which I acquired in the late 60s.
Cut across the grain. Think about your own muscles here. Like in your arm. Muscle tissue runs in very discernible straight lines from your elbow to your wrist. You can imagine threads of tissue in a straight line from elbow to wrist. When you cut across these threads, you are cutting across the grain. This is very obvious with a hunk of beef. You can see how the muscle strands go the length of a roast. You just cut across that.
As you cut, the roast will bleed. Make sure your cutting board can catch the juice, or make sure that you are prepared to pour the juice into a container as it flows. You want to save that juice.
Before you serve your magnificent roast, pre-heat your plates. A warm plate will keep a rare slice of beef warm without cooking it more.
Heat the reserved juice in a sauce pot for pouring over the beef-laden plates when you are ready to serve.
About Using the Leftovers
If you like rare roast beef, then you know heating the leftovers will turn the rare into the medium or well done. So here's an alternative...
We like cold roast beef sandwiches. To have these treats, slice what's left over of the roast very thinly. Freeze the thinly-sliced leftovers in little packets that approximate the size and shape of a deck of playing cards.
Are You Cooking for One?
Don't hesitate to make this recipe just because you usually cook only for yourself. Those frozen and thawed decks of cards are not only great for sandwiches but delicious when heated in a pan with homemade or prepared au jus.
When you want a roast beef sandwich for lunch one day, put a frozen packet in your refrigerator the night before. On the next day at noon, just make a sandwich!
My Future Engagement with Beef
I still have a long way to go to master the art of cooking beef. For now, don't ask me to charcoal grill steaks for a dinner party. I'd simply swill some Scotch and turn the tongs over to the nearest guy.
Recipes appearing in Sally’s Trove articles are original, having been created and tested in our family kitchens, unless otherwise noted.