Roast beef might sound fancy and complicated to make, but it’s actually quite simple! With a good piece of meat and some simple herbs, you can have roast beef that’s way more tender and flavorful than the store-bought kind. Pair it with pillowy mashed potatoes smothered in your favorite gravy. Below, we break down what’s most important to know when preparing this classic dish.
There’s no single cut of beef that is necessary to make roast beef. Some common cuts include:
• Top-round roast
• Top sirloin roast
• Bottom-round roast
• Eye of round roast
We usually use a top-round roast, but a bottom-round roast would work too. If you’re unsure, ask your butcher! Since the meat is slow-roasted for a long amount of time, tougher, lean cuts of meat are ideal because they will still come out tender. Most top-round roasts will have light to medium marbling. Just be aware that if you choose a particularly lean cut of meat, it should be sliced relatively thin to avoid being too chewy.
This is where you can really get creative. We kept things simple in this recipe: just garlic, thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Feel free to swap in any of your favorite herbs (sage, parsley, oregano, etc.) or use dried if you prefer. Spices like cumin or coriander seeds would be delicious as well, do what feels right to you! Just don’t be shy about the flavorings; this is a big cut of meat, and the more flavor, the better. We suggest 1 teaspoon of salt per pound. Alliums like onions, garlic, and scallions would be delicious additions as well. I prefer to mix all my flavorings with olive oil to make a paste — it allows for more even distribution and ensures your beef gets seasoned all the way around. (Don’t forget the bottom!)
You might be wondering why you have to change the temperature of the oven 15 minutes into cooking. I swear, there’s a good reason! Ideally, all roasted meats would be seared on all sides in a hot skillet to develop a golden, delicious crust. With something like a top-round roast, searing can be next to impossible. (AKA, it’s WAY too big and heavy to move around in a skillet.) Starting with a hot oven gives the roast a chance to get that beautiful crust without bringing out a pan. After you’ve got a head start on that crust, you can lower the temperature and the meat will start cooking from the inside out.
Dropping the temperature down to 325° lets the meat cook slowly and allows all of the tight muscle fibers to relax and will give you that tender slice of meat you’re hoping for. A longer cook time for a cut like this will give you better results. No need to rush things! If you are looking for something a little faster, try our Instant Pot Pot Roast!
Meat temperature myth
Conventional wisdom says to bring pretty much any meat you’re cooking to room temperature — especially big pieces of meat like turkey breasts, whole chicken, and roasts. The logic: Putting a roast in your oven straight from the fridge would cause the exterior layers to be fully cooked (or overcooked) while the center remains undercooked. But the truth is that letting the meat sit at room temperature raises the temperature by only a negligible amount. If your goal is to get meat to room temperature by letting it sit out, you really shouldn’t. A cut this large (e.g, roast beef) would take several hours to come to room temperature, which is not ideal.
For post-cooking temperatures, we prefer a medium to medium-rare roast with a little pink in the center. In our opinion, the meat stays super tender and flavorful this way. If you prefer not to see any pink, you can roast longer! One thing that’s not optional, though, is a meat thermometer. It takes the guesswork out of cooking big pieces of meat, and we swear it’ll come in handy more than just this once. Pro tip: make sure you’re inserting your thermometer far enough to hit the center of the roast for an accurate reading. For a medium-rare pot roast, aim for an internal temperature of about 130°F.* The temperature of the meat will continue to rise a bit as it rests as well.
I know it’s tempting to dig right in when your roast comes out of the oven. Resist! Transfer your meat to a cutting board and let it rest for 30 minutes to allow all the juices to redistribute throughout the muscle. If you cut it right away, all those flavorful juices will end up on the cutting board, and your meat will be dry and sad. 😢When it’s time, make sure to use your sharpest carving knife or chef’s knife to get nice thin slices.
How to store
Leftover roast beef can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. To help the meat retain moisture, don’t slice any uneaten parts of the roast before storing. Slice servings from the cold roast before reheating. To freeze, wrap the remaining roast in plastic wrap and store it in a freezer-safe ziptop bag for up to 3 months.