Difference Between Beef Roast Cuts
How well do you know your beef roast cuts? Not all roasts make an excellent pot roast. Some cuts are far too lean and don’t have enough marbling or fat to break apart in the slow cooker or the oven.
Some beef roasts are optimal for slicing for roast beef, while others shred easily, making a perfect option for barbacoa beef or shredded beef for tacos, salads, enchiladas, and more.
Whether you’re looking for a lean cut for a weeknight family dinner or a large, tender cut for your holiday roast, this guide will provide you with everything you need to choose the perfect roast cut next time you’re at the meat case.
All of Safeway’s beef is USDA Choice meat, hand-cut in each store, by expert butchers so you know the beef is fresh and hasn’t traveled far to get to the store. You can always request a custom cut every day.
The beef cuts diagram (courtesy of the Cattleman’s Beef Board) highlights the various beef cut primal areas. Beef roasts are cut from the chuck or shoulder; the rib and loin areas; the round, or butt and back leg, and the brisket, or chest.
The most tender (and expensive) roasts come from the parts that move the least (like the rib roast and tenderloin). Alternatively, the tougher roasts that are more affordable, come from the areas that get the most exercise, like the round and the chuck (shoulder).
Boneless Chuck Roast
Also known as a chuck center roast, this is a budget-friendly cut from the shoulder, with marbling throughout, making it ideal for oven roasting or slow cooking. It is a heavily exercised muscle, which gives the beef good flavor but it also makes it tough. Chuck is often ground for hamburger meat because of its high ratio of fat to meat.
Chuck can be used for a pot roast or beef stew when cubed because the connective tissue melts as the roast braises and bastes the beef, making it very tender. It’s also an ideal cut for shredded beef because of the higher fat ratio – the meat falls apart easily and can be shredded with a fork.
A chuck roast and cross rib roast are the best cuts for a traditional pot roast, whether slow-cooked, pressure cooked or oven-roasted.
Recipes for chuck roast:
Chuck Cross-Rib Roast
A savory cut for roasting or slow-cooking to achieve a tender finish. The name originates from the muscle groups extending across the main rib bones of the Chuck, thus the name “Cross-Rib”. This roast is always tied with twine because it has a seam of tissue through the center, which melts during the roasting or slow cooking process, yielding a delicious flavor.
While the cross rib roast comes from the chuck primal, the cross-rib roast has slightly less fat than a center chuck roast.
In my opinion, the cross-rib roast makes an excellent pot roast. The roast falls apart after 6 hours in the slow cooker and yields the most tender and flavorful meat imaginable.
Recipes using Cross-Rib Roast
Bottom Round Roast
Also Known As Bottom Round Oven Roast; Bottom Round Pot Roast; Bottom Round Rump Roast; Round Roast
Great value roast and very lean. Best for roasting or slow-cooking and slicing thin. This cut comes from the primal section from the rump and hind legs. The muscles in this area are used for movement, so the beef is leaner and less tender.
This roast is best prepared roasted in the oven with a braising liquid or slow-cooked in a crockpot. Because it is lean meat, you won’t get the fall-apart texture that you would with a cross-rib roast or chuck roast. This is a good slicing roast.
Recipes for Bottom Round Roast
Eye of Round Roast
A circular, very lean roast from the bottom round primal. Like the other rump roasts, it’s best when roasted and thinly sliced. The roast is often used in pho and ramen.
While similar in appearance to the tenderloin, it is actually lean and tough because it is cut from a well-exercised muscle, unlike the tenderloin which is cut from the loin. Eye of round can be cooked by searing over high-heat and slow roasting or braising.
However, because it is very flavorful, it can also be cooked as roast beef. Like with other tough cuts, the eye of round should always be thinly sliced against the grain.
Recipes for Eye of Round Roast:
Top Round Roast
A cut from the inside of the animal’s back leg, similar to the top sirloin in fat and flavor. This is what’s typically used for deli roast beef. The top round is not a heavily worked muscle, which results in a roast that’s more tender and flavorful than other cuts from the round.
How to Cook a Top Round Roast – coat with olive oil and dry herb rub of choice and place in a roasting pan. Cook on high heat (450) for 15 minutes to sear the outside, then reduce heat to 325 for 60-70 minutes, depending on the size of the roast. You want it to reach 135 degrees for medium-rare or 145 degrees for medium. Cover and let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Thinly slice it against the grain.
A top round steak, otherwise known as a London Broil is an economical and full-flavored cut. Best when marinated and sliced thinly against the grain.
Ribeye Roast aka Prime Rib
Also known as standing rib roast or prime rib. The quintessential holiday roast, a full prime rib roast is 7 ribs, or close to 18 – 22 pounds, and will feed 16 – 20 people. For a generous serving of roast, plan for two people per rib. The Rib-Eye Roast is the boneless center cut of the rib section. Very well-marbled, tender, and flavorful, it is the most desirable and one of the most expensive of the roasts.
Recipes for Rib Roast:
Also known as Filet Mingon Roast, or Chateaubriand Tenderloin Roast this roast is the most tender and luxurious of all the roasts. The tenderloin beef roast is well known for being lean and succulent. The tenderloin comes from the loin, under the spine with very little fat. The most expensive of the roasts, the tenderloin price is driven by the labor involved in trimming the roast to get it to market.
How to Cook a Tenderloin Roast:
You can roast it, broil it, grill it or prepare by sous vide. It’s important to tie the roast with kitchen twine before roasting so that it has an even thickness throughout the roasting process. Roast tenderloin in 425°F oven 45 to 55 minutes for medium-rare; 55 to 65 minutes for medium doneness. Remove roast when meat thermometer registers 135°F for medium-rare; 145°F for medium. Tent with foil. Let stand 20 minutes.
Recipes for Tenderloin Roast
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