No matter how inexpensive a chuck or round roast may be, if it turns out so tough and flavorless it's passed to the dog, that purchase was no bargain.
And now, thanks to very extensive research and experimentation by Christopher Kimball as reported in Cooks Illustrated magazine, we can confidently purchase those cheaper cuts and expect perfect results every time.
These days, with beef prices hitting all-time highs, buying the cheaper cuts of beef is one way to make our food dollars stretch as far as possible. Just know that what follows is for those of us with more time than money.
When looking for inexpensive cuts, keep these three words in mind: chuck, sirloin and round. The chuck is fattier and more tender; the round is lean and relatively tough. The sirloin falls somewhere between the two.
It was a kick to read the endless details of Kimball's testing. To be quite honest, he lost me somewhere between the five chuck roasts, seven sirloins, eight rounds and endless descriptions of cooking methods, internal temperatures, standing times and lengths of aging.
Curious as I am, I don't care about meat fibers, enzymes or moisture content. And that's when I raced to the conclusion and learned exactly how to prepare a cheap cut of beef. And here it is:
To achieve the best results, you'll need: a rimmed baking sheet with wire rack, a meat thermometer, an oven thermometer and cooking twine or string.
1 boneless beef chuck, sirloin or round roast (3 to 4.5 pounds)
4 teaspoons kosher salt, or 2 teaspoons table salt
2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (divided)
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
Exact temperatures are the secret to the best results. For Kimball, varying the oven temperature, internal temperature and cooking times, even slightly, produced roasts that were all the way from slightly dry to so tough they could not be eaten!
The following steps are for chuck, sirloin and round cuts of varying size, although 2- to 5-pound roasts are ideal and will produce the best results.
Tie the roast with white cotton string at 1 1/2-inch intervals. Tying the roast tightly makes it compact and shaped evenly, and that's the secret to even roasting.
Pat roast dry with paper towels; rub with 2 teaspoons oil, and sprinkle all sides evenly with salt and pepper. Heat remaining tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until starting to smoke. Sear roast until browned on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer roast to roasting pan. Place the meat thermometer in the roast so the tip reaches the center of the thickest part. Set the oven thermometer inside the oven close to the pan. Roast uncovered at exactly 250 F until the internal temperature of the roast reaches exactly 130 F (approximately 2 to 2 1/4 hours for a 3- to 4.5-pound roast). Remove the pan from the oven, and allow the meat to rest for exactly 20 minutes. Transfer roast to a carving board.
At that moment, according to Kimball, the roast will be succulent, tender, juicy and at its most flavorful. My family and I agree!
Would you like more information? Go to EverydayCheapskate.com for links and resources for recommended products and services in this column. Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, "Ask Mary." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."
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