Roast Beef

How to cook Roast Beef…

There are many styles in which beef can be roasted, but in this article we’ll concentrate on how to produce the quintessential roast beef associated with the United Kingdom which is traditionally served with Yorkshire Pudding and Roast Potatoes.

Choosing beef to roast…

The two key elements in choosing a piece of beef to roast are:

1. Choosing the right cut of beef
2. Getting good quality, aged beef from a good source

Choosing the right cut

Rib of beef

The classic cut of beef for roasting is the rib – preferably served “on the bone.” Rib of beef from a good source will have a wonderful depth of flavour and have just the right amount of fat to keep the meat moist through the roasting process. Unfortunately the rib is one of the most expensive cuts of beef, but is well worth buying for special occasions as, in my opinion, it produces the best roast beef that money can buy.

Other roasting cuts

The sirloin roast is one of the most highly regarded cuts of beef for roasting – although it is also expensive. The eye of the rump is also has its fans, but it must be well aged and from a good source.

Topside and silverside are some of the most widely available cuts of beef for roasting. Although these will never produce roast beef of the quality of the cuts mentioned above (rib, sirloin, and eye of the rump) one has to take account of the fact that they are typically half the price. In general topside has the edge over silverside, and can produce roast beef of excellent quality when purchased from a good butcher who has taken the trouble to age it properly.

Buying quality beef

It is important to buy your beef from a supplier who cares about the product that he or she supplies. This is not just an ethical consideration – it also affects the flavour of the beef that you eat.

Your beef should come from a a breed that has been bred for beef production (rather than dairy production) – e.g. Aberdeen Angus, Hereford, Dexter, Welsh Black, or White Park. As much as possible, it should have been allowed to feed naturally on grass or pasture – rather than being fed cereal pellets and protein “cake.”

It is essential that beef is hung (or aged) if it is to produce the best flavour. This process increases the cost of the beef for two reasons:

1. It takes time and effort
2. It reduces the weight of the beef (due to evaporation of water)

Nevertheless, I would never consider roasting beef that hadn’t been properly hung for at least two weeks (and preferably longer). This is because the ageing process greatly enhances the flavour of the beef and makes it more tender.

Roast Beef

Roast rib of beef

Roasting the beef…

I like to season the beef with salt and pepper prior to roasting. Generally I use a little salt and a lot of pepper (freshly ground). I usually rub this all over the joint of beef to be roasted using some beef dripping or olive oil to make it stick.

Once the beef has been seasoned it should be placed in a suitable roasting dish and placed in a hot oven (220°C / Gas Mark 7) to start the roasting process. Starting the roasting process at such as high temperature allows a “crust” to form on the meat. Depending on the size of the joint this high temperature roast will last 30 to 40 minutes before the oven is turned down for the remainder of the cooking time.

The summary below gives typical roasting times for roast beef – although these will vary slightly depending on the shape of the joint and variability between ovens. The only way to be certain that your beef has been roasted to the extent that you desire is to use a meat thermometer .

1. Preheat oven to 220°C (Gas Mark 7).
2. Roast for 30 minutes at 220°C (Gas Mark 7).
3. Reduce oven temperature to 160 °C (Gas Mark 3) and continue to roast for:

  • Rare – 20 minutes per Kg (9 minutes per pound)
  • Medium – 30 minutes per Kg (14 minutes per pound)
  • Well Done – 40 minutes per Kg (18 minutes per pound)

4. Remove the joint from the oven and rest for 20-30 minutes before carving.

Very large joints – above 5Kg (11Lb)

1. Preheat oven to 220°C (Gas Mark 7).
2. Roast for 40 minutes at 220°C (Gas Mark 7).
3. Reduce oven temperature to 160 °C (Gas Mark 3) and continue to roast for:

  • Rare – 18 minutes per Kg (8 minutes per pound)
  • Medium – 24 minutes per Kg (11 minutes per pound)
  • Well Done – 36 minutes per Kg (16 minutes per pound)

4. Remove the joint from the oven and rest for 30 minutes before carving.

Whether to aim for rare, medium, or well done is a matter of personal preference – although I really don’t see the point in spending money on good quality beef only to over-cook it. Remember that even if you cook the beef medium or rare there will be plenty of “well done” beef on the outside of the joint.