Saturday, January 24, 2009

Cheap Meats

Let’s talk about cheap beef. No, not the kind that’s on clearance at the local supermarket because it’s a day or two expired. That’s yuck. Is there anything that sounds less appetizing?

What I’m talking about are the less expensive, underappreciated cuts. You know, chuck steak and cuts from the round (rump). For some reason, these cuts get a bad reputation: too tough or too fatty. Personally, I find these cuts to be wonderfully beefy, particularly the chuck, which I think is the best cut to use for stir-frying. Fat can be trimmed away and if properly prepared, these cuts are not at all tough.

Roast beef seasoned with garlic, smoked paprika and thyme. 

Let's start with roast beef.  Who says it has to be made with the tenderloin? My first choice for roast beef has always been a round roast. It’s a lean cut from the rump of the cow. It has a nice flavor, little fat and is very reasonably priced ($4.99/lb for grass-fed beef). If it’s a special occasion, I’ll spring for a tenderloin or standing rib roast, but no need for everyday roast beef. We are trying to stick to a budget, after all.

If you’ve never made a roast beef, I will tell you it’s one of the easiest things to prepare. The key to success is a meat thermometer (at least for me). I recommend something that can actually go into the oven with your roast. Even better if it’s attached to a digital display that will alarm when the target temperature is reached. I know they sell them at William Sonoma, but I got mine at Ikea for $6, which makes it one of my best kitchen buys.

One of the things I like to do is season my roast overnight before cooking it. Not everyone does this. I do it because I like the salt to penetrate the beef. Seasoning it right before cooking just salts the surface. And contrary to popular belief, seasoning meat in advance does not dry it out. People should have paid more attention to their chemistry teacher discuss osmosis and equilibria. Anyhow, feel free to experiment with different flavor combinations. I kept it simple this time and only used garlic, salt and sugar. Yes, I said sugar. No it doesn’t make the meat sweet. You’ll see.

Hubby bought me a food slicer for Christmas! Roast beef with sauteed kale, mushrooms and blue cheese on toast. An nice appetizer for a dinner party, no?

Garlicky Roast Beef
3 lb round (aka rump) roast (get a larger roast if you have more people to feed)
1 tbs kosher salt
1 tbs brown sugar
1 whole head of garlic, minced or crushed to a paste
salt and pepper to taste

Make the seasoning rub by combining the salt, sugar and garlic. Rub it all over the beef and put the roast in a Ziploc bag (push out all the air) and refrigerate overnight up to 24 hours. Turn the bag occasionally to promote even salting.

About an hour before you are ready to roast, take it out of the fridge to take the chill off. Rinse the seasonings off otherwise the garlic and sugar will burn when you sear the meat. Pat the meat dry and apply a small sprinkling of kosher salt and pepper. Sear the meat in a hot pan (like cast iron), stick your thermometer in and throw the roast into a preheated 275°F oven. (Alternatively, sear it in a very hot oven, say 450°F, for about 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 275°). For the best results, put it on a rimmed sheet pan or even better if you have a grate or rack that will lift it slightly. You want good air convection to get even browning. For roast beef, I like to cook it until the internal temperature reaches about 125 to 130°F. When you take it out of the oven, let it rest for at least 15 to 20 minutes. During that time, don’t pull the meat thermometer out, otherwise all the wonderful beefy juices will just run out.  Slice and enjoy!

I wanna know.  Who makes roast beef and how do you like to eat it?


Heather said...

Appetizer? Shoot, pile that on a pillowy baguette (with a smear of hot mustard) and leave me be, thankyouverymuch.

I always buy the cheap-y chuck roast and grind it to make Bolognese. It's the best.

Lars said...

love roast beef! and i'm a big fan of using the cheaper cuts, that i find always to be more flavorful when cooked right.

i found and ancient castiron foodslicer that just need som restoration, and then it's time for roastbeef galore.

Just Cook It said...

Looks like a perfectly cooked piece of cow. Making me very hungry indeed. And there are so many great cuts of meat that get ignored, you;re right.

Mary Bergfeld said...

We love roast beef. Standing rib for Christmas. Rump roast for sandwiches and flat iron and tri tip for stir-fry and grilling. I also have a great recipe for eye of round that's delicious when thin sliced (makes a terrible mess of the oven because it cooks in a marinade at high temp).

QGIRL said...

Lovely looking beef there! It looks super expensive, you'd never know it was a frugal buy.
I have to get to Ikea for that thermometer now.

Hope you're feeling better. we have been sick with a stomach bug.
Counting down the days until warm weather!


Dee said...

Heather, I like to grind my own meat too and chuck is definitely the best cut for it.

Lars, is the blade cast iron? I have an unhealthy love (some may call it a fetish) for cast iron. If you get that fixed up, it will last you a lifetime.

Alex, thank you. I couldn't have done it without the thermometer.

Mary, tri tip is another one I love, especially grilled. And what's nice is it's tapered shape means there's different degrees of doneness that can please everyone.

Qgirl, that's the thing, everyone thinks roast beef has to be expensive and difficult to make. Get yourself that thermometer because it's difficult to do the touch test on a roast. At least for me.

As for feeling better, it's been up and down since Thanksgiving. Seriously, Sonny has three bouts where he's home due to fever. And my sinus won't let up. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this recipe darlene. It's good to know that a big hunk of grass-fed beef won't dry out when roasted. I have a probe thermometer too, so now all I need to do is find a round roast;)

Unknown said...

I am in total agreement with you about chuck. As you mentioned, it provides such great beefy flavor and is really so easy to make. I like you idea of seasoning it overnight; I've not done that but will for my next roast. I've not used brown sugar before, either, and I'm interested in what that brings to the beef party. The beef in your photo looks terrific. Both my hubby and son are HUGE beef lovers. This is a must try for me. Also, on a quirky side note, I was thinking of you yesterday. My daughter was working on her 7th grade science experiment (all geared up with goggles, apron, and safety gloves since she was using acid), and was patiently recording all her observations. It reminded me of something you said about being a scientist and being patient about doing things in stages or overtime. Ahhh, the food blog network reaches across many topics!

Paula said...

OH MAN I DID IT AGAIN! Darlene, the above message with the name Cole is actually from me (not my son!). Now that my kids have google accounts for school, I need to double check to make sure I'm the only one logged in! Sorry!

pam said...

I love chuck for pot roasts. I can't believe that I've never done a roast beef.

Lars said...

the blades in stainless steel, rest of the 'machinery' is in cast iron. And yes, when it gets done it should keep forever, i'm pretty sure it's already at least 50-60 years old, and the handle and blade turns like butter still :-)

Wandering Chopsticks said...

That roast beef looks gorgeous. I've never tried making it. Too much meat, I guess. And I'm guilty of hitting the clearance shelf for meat. If it still looks alright, I buy it.

Dee said...

Marvin, sounds easy, huh? It is! As long as you don't go over temp, it should be good.

Paula, haha! And I thought Cole was delurking. Your daughter sounds like a budding scientist! Does she have a love for food too? Because I am of the opinion that skills in the lab translate to skills in the kitchen :-)

Pam, I always thought they were difficult, and I think a lot of people think they are too. But turns out to be quite easy.

Lars, I'll definitely have to check it out next time I'm in your neighborhood :-)

WC, I couldn't look at beef the same way again after that massive beef recall we had last year (or was it two years before?). We like our beef medium rare, even our hamburgers, but I just couldn't stomach the thought of feeding the conventional beef that way to my family any longer. It's true that grass-fed costs more than conventional beef, but I have better piece of mind.

eatingclubvancouver_js said...

Thanks for the tip re sugar. Will try that next time I roast beef.

Which might be a long time coming since nobody here eats roast beef! I guess I have to wait for a party. ;)

Langdon Cook said...

I'm with you on the overnight rub. Try mixing in a little dried parsley and cilantro to your standard rub sometime. I like those green notes in there myself. Onion flakes too.

Anonymous said...

I do overnight rubs as well. But we don't often eat roast beef. Just for special occasions. Thanks for the tips!

Anonymous said...

This may not be the right place to post but who's hosting Regional Recipes for February and March? I might try to submit to either one if I can find the time.

Dee said...

momgateway, I'm hosting so send your submissions to me at blazinghotwok(at)gmail(dot)com.

I hope you find the time! The more submissions, the merrier!