What Type of Meat is Roast Beef?

Roast beef is a beloved dish for holidays, special occasions, and Sunday dinners. When you think of classic roast beef, you likely imagine a large roast oozing with juices and served with a side of horseradish sauce. But what cut of meat actually makes the best roast beef? There are a few good options to choose from.

Common Cuts Used for Roast Beef

While many different cuts of beef can be used, certain ones are ideal for roast beef based on their fat marbling and tenderness. Here are the most common types of meat used:

  • Top round roast – This roast comes from the back leg of the cow. It is very lean and budget-friendly. Top round has good flavor but can be slightly tougher. Slow roasting helps tenderize it.

  • Top sirloin roast – Coming from the hip and rear back area, top sirloin is lean and flavorful. It has more marbling than top round to keep it juicy.

  • Bottom round roast – This is cut from the upper leg near the rump. It is inexpensive but flavorful, though it contains a lot of connective tissue. Moist cooking methods help break that down.

  • Eye of round roast – This is a small cylindrical roast that sits inside the bottom round. It is very lean yet tender when roasted correctly.

  • Ribeye roast – Cut from the rib section, this has beautiful marbling for flavor and tenderness. Because it’s so fatty, ribeye is great for roasting.

  • Tenderloin roast – Extremely tender though not as flavorful as other cuts. Tenderloin makes a luxurious, special occasion roast.

For classic roast beef, top round and bottom round are likely the most common cuts used. They contain enough fat for flavor without being too expensive. Whichever cut you select, choose a roast that is 2-4 pounds to serve 4-6 people.

Why Top Round and Bottom Round Work Well

Top round makes excellent roast beef because of its great beefy flavor. While it can be slightly chewy if cooked incorrectly, slow roasting tenderizes it nicely. Top round strikes a good balance between leanness and tenderness. It provides enough rich taste without too much fat.

Bottom round has tons of connective tissue that must be cooked slowly to break down. The long roasting time makes it incredibly tender and gives the meat a chance to develop deep flavor. Bottom round benefits the most from moist, slow cooking.

Both cuts come from active muscles in the cow’s leg and rump. This gives them a stronger beef taste. They have enough marbling to impart juiciness and taste without a high price tag. When roasted gently, they become fork tender with concentrated meatiness.

Other Tips for the Best Roast Beef

  • Ask the butcher for a roast that is trimmed and tied. This gives it an even shape for cooking.

  • Choose a roast that is 2-3 inches thick for ideal cooking. Thinner cuts dry out too quickly.

  • Look for some visible marbling fat streaked through the meat. This adds moisture and beefy flavor.

  • Before roasting, bring the meat to room temperature for better cooking. Give it at least 30 minutes.

  • Season the roast simply with just salt, pepper and herbs. Over-seasoning masks the natural flavor.

  • Make sure the oven is hot when first putting in the roast to sear and seal juices.

  • Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness, not just cooking times.

  • Let the roast rest at least 15 minutes before slicing for juicy results.

The joy of roast beef is that cheaper cuts become meltingly tender when prepared right. With minimal work, you can turn top round or bottom round into a stunning centerpiece. Low and slow roasting works wonders on these flavorful cuts to give the ultimate roast beef. What is your favorite go-to cut of meat for roast beef?

Ask the Test Kitchen: What’s the best affordable cut of beef to use for roast beef?


What cut of meat is used for roast beef?

A top loin roast is ideal. It’s got plenty of brawny flavor, and all of the fat is on the surface, which you can easily trim off after the meat is cooked. Here, the beef is roasted low and slow to ensure rare, juicy meat.

Is roast beef just steak?

While both roast beef and steak emanate from beef, their cooking methods and presentation are what set them distinctly apart. Roast beef charms us with its slow-cooked, tender texture, offering an ideal choice for family gatherings and celebrations.

What is it called roast beef?

Roast beef is a dish of beef that is roasted, generally served as the main dish of a meal. In the Anglosphere, roast beef is one of the meats often served at Sunday lunch or dinner. Yorkshire pudding is a standard side dish. Sliced roast beef is also sold as a cold cut, and used as a sandwich filling.

Is roast beef cow meat?

What is Roast Beef? The Roast Beef you enjoy is more likely than not cut from either the silverside or topside of a cow.

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