When making a classic Sunday roast, beef tends to be the top choice of meat in the UK.
It’s full of flavour, has a great texture and is full of iron and vitamins that are important in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
With so many types available, it can be difficult to know what to purchase to make the best dish, whether that be for a roast, a beef stew or a stir fry.
I’ve put together this article with the best cuts of beef, compared their advantages (and disadvantages), and answered some commonly asked questions.
What’s The Best Cut of Beef For a Roast?
Before sticking the oven on it’s worth thinking about the beef itself. In order to get the best out of your beef cuts, you should always purchase them from a source that you trust, whether that’s a local supermarket, butchers or farmer’s market.
Local butchers and farmer’s markets will more likely be able to tell you more about the cut, such as where it’s from, how it was reared, whether it had a short journey to the slaughterhouse and how it was slaughtered.
All of these factors have an impact on the flavour of the meat and how tender it is. If you start with poor quality meat, you’ll get a poor quality roast!
Rib Of Beef/Forerib
Rib of beef is undoubtedly one of the best cuts to cook when it comes to a Sunday roast dinner, and although it may look intimidating it’s actually relatively simple to cook!
It’s one of the best cuts to roast due to the lean muscle being ‘marbled’, which is where natural streaks of fat run through the joint, which gives it a full, rich flavour.
The bone also acts as a conductor of heat and gives the roast extra flavour.
Butchers cut rib of beef into 2 pieces, the first and the second. If you’re looking for a leaner cut then go for the first – it’s closer to the short loin so has less fat in it.
The second cut has more fat and is more likely to have that marbled effect and produce more flavour.
In terms of cooking, it’s suggested that you allow 20 – 25 minutes of cooking time per 500g of beef, so it all depends on how large the cut is and how you like it done.
I’d recommend using a large, heavy-based roasting tray with handles and deep sides when it comes to roasting beef as this allows for ease of movement and there’s less risk of burning yourself.
The deep tray also allows the beef to sit in the juices it releases to ensure that it’s really flavourful and tender.
Sirloin as a Roast
You’re likely to have heard of a sirloin steak, but did you know that sirloin is also one of the best cuts for roasting too?
This cut comes from the upper middle of the animal, and has less fat than a rib of beef, but is still extremely tender when roasted.
This is because it has a natural covering of fat, which bastes the meat in rich juices as it cooks. This makes it extremely tender and flavourful.
Sirloin, if you’re roasting it, should be browned before cooking, and then roasted for 20 – 22 minutes per 500g of meat.
When cooking a joint like this, it releases juices into the tray that makes for a great beef stock gravy.
I love slicing an onion in half, and popping a leek round the edges of the beef in the tray. During cooking, they’ll caramelise and add a lovely colour and flavour to your gravy! You can blend the whole lot together to make a thicker sauce, too.
Top Rump Beef Roast
This prime cut is great for roasting as it’s really tender and can be carved into big, lean slices.
As it’s a leaner cut, it usually has less marbling and is sold ‘barded’ instead – but don’t let this put you off as it’s still flavoursome.
Barded beef is where sheets of fat that are usually taken from the flank of the animal, are wrapped around the outside of the rolled joint and tied into place, so you still get all the juices from the fat to flavour the cut, but the fat itself can easily be removed.
Before roasting, seal the joint in a hot pan over a high heat. For a medium rare cook, you should roast the before for 20 minutes initially and then 20 – 25 minutes per 500g.
This cut is best cooked rare/medium rare and is amazing when the leftovers are used in sandwiches or salads with a bit of horseradish or mustard.
Roast beef can last for up to 4 days in the fridge after cooking, so there’s plenty of time to use leftovers – my favourite way is to caramelise some onions, add in a few slices of beef and melt some cheese in a baguette – delicious!
Fillet of Beef as a Roast
Fillet of beef is also a good option for roasting – though may of us only know it as one of the finer steak cuts.
It’s one of the most tender cuts on the market as it comes from the least worked part of the animal.
As fillet is so lean, it can dry out when roasting, but this can be avoided by buying it barded, or adding some bacon around the outside of the beef and tying it to keep the juices inside and make sure it’s succulent and tender.
This cut is also the best to make the classic Beef Wellington!
For a medium fillet, you should roast it for around 25 minutes per 500g of beef.
Roasting Times for Different Beef Cuts
Check out this beef roasting guide for timings on the cuts mentioned above!
|Cut||Marbled/Barded||Average Size (kg)||Juiciness||Minutes per 500g|
|Rib||Marbled||2.5||High||20 + 20-25|
|Sirloin||Barded||1.25||High||20 + 20-22|
|Top Rump||Barded||1||Medium||20 + 20-25|
|Fillet||Barded||0.5||Medium||20 + 23-25|
Tips For Roasting Beef:
- Pre-packaged or vacuum-sealed beef from supermarkets should be stored at the bottom of the fridge.
- On the day of roasting, remove all the packaging and pat dry with kitchen roll. Put it back into the fridge, uncovered, on a plate. This allows the beef to air dry and will give you a better ‘crust’ when searing it.
- Take the beef out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature before roasting.
- Let the meat rest before carving, this allows the fibres that contract during cooking, to relax again and will give you a more tender cut.
What’s The Best Beef Cut For the Slow Cooker?
Slow cooking is the best way to achieve beef that melts in your mouth as cooking this way guarantees tenderness.
Not only does slow cooking achieve flavoursome dishes, but it’s really convenient too as you can prepare everything the night before, turn on the slow cooker before you head to work and when you come back – dinner is practically ready!
Slow cooking the meat for a long period of time in a liquid, such as a stew, means that the connective tissues are broken down, including collagen which breaks down into gelatin.
Collagen can make meat tough when cooked quickly, but as it’s broken down it gives the beef a juicy and soft mouthfeel. As you’re using a slow cooker to cook beef, cheaper cuts of beef can be used.
Chuck Beef for Slow Cooker Dishes
This cut comes from the shoulder of the cow and is practically perfect for when it comes to slow cooking.
As it comes from a worked muscle of the animal, it’s full of collagen so it can become tough when cooked quickly, but is juicy when cooked slowly.
It’s a very tasty cut due to the large amount of intramuscular fat that flavours it and it can be sliced or diced.
Brisket in the Slow Cooker
This cut can sometimes be fatty as it comes from the belly of the cow, but that only adds to the flavour.
When slow cooked, this cut is great for shredding as it falls apart and can be a great addition to a rich pasta sauce.
If you like pulled pork, you can effectively make ‘pulled beef’ like this, the same way.
Shin of Beef Slow-Cooked
This is a flavoursome cut that is made up of connective tissue and lean muscle that becomes tender when cooked slowly.
Shin can also be cooked on the bone, which is full of marrow that makes for a delicious beef stock or gravy!
What’s The Best Beef To Stir Fry?
Stir frying calls for beef to be cooked quickly, so you should go for tender beef cuts that won’t go tough and will absorb flavour.
When making a stir fry, you should always marinate your beef to really bring out its flavours and against the muscle lines to avoid ripping the fibres and altering the texture.
Skirt beef in a stir fry
Skirt beef is one of the only cuts that doesn’t go tough and chewy when it comes to stir frying.
Both the outside and inside skirt works as both cuts are known for their flavour due to their higher fat content. The fat also ensures that the meat doesn’t dry out.
Stir Fried Flank
Flank steak is tasty and can easily be tenderised to ensure a really juicy dish.
It is a lean cut and is boneless that means it’s easy to slice and throw into a pan.
It’s also one of the most popular cuts used by Chinese restaurants when it comes to making their stir fries, so you know it’s a good stir fry cut!
What’s The Best Beef For A Stew?
A beef stew is one of those classic, hearty meals that make you feel warm inside after a long day.
Surprisingly, if you want a rich stew with melt-in-the-mouth beef, you should use tougher cuts of beef.
This is because tougher cuts come from more worked muscles in the cow, that have plenty of connective tissue that is full of collagen.
Chuck Steak for Beef Stews
A chuck steak is the firm favourite when it comes to choosing a beef cut for a stew.
It has a good balance between fat and tissue content that gives the beef flavour and also texture as the tissue is broken down.
This cut is widely available and is often sold pre-diced to use in certain dishes – you might even see it labelled “stewing beef”.
The fat in the cut also absorbs the flavours of the stew as it’s cooked, so you’ll get an overall great dish.
What Are The Best Herbs To Go With Beef?
Adding herbs and spices to beef before cooking can add to the flavour of the meat, and take your dish to the next level.
Experimenting with herbs can be a fun experience as you can use just the one, or a few in conjunction to make a dish your own.
If you’re unsure on what will pair well with beef, there’s a few commonly used herbs and spices that really hold their own against the rich beef.
Dried Herbs to Go With Beef
Dried herbs can be used as a rub for the beef before cooking.
- Parsley – adds a fresh flavour to winter warmers that can normally be a bit heavy.
- Rosemary – a piney flavour that pairs well with heavy or greasier flavours that some beef dishes can have. This herb works well with tougher cuts of meat.
- Thyme – a slightly floral flavour that adds depth to any beef dish.
- Bay leaves – adding an almost minty flavour, bay leaves work well in beef stews and casseroles. They add subtle bitterness that lifts the dish and stops it feeling so heavy. Take them out before eating.
Fresh Herbs to Complement Beef
Fresh herbs work best when sprinkled over the top of the meat prior to serving.
- Basil – a powerful herb that complements the deep flavours of a beef dish.
- Chives – a mild flavour, similar to that of onion or garlic (both of which go great with beef too!). Adds a freshness to beef.
Spices That Go With Beef
Using spices in slow cooker dishes, such as a curry, casserole or a beef stew can add an extra depth of flavour and bring some vibrancy to the meal.
- Cumin – nutty and spicy, this spice contrasts the richness of the beef and surprises the mouth. Used to get a Cajun, Indian or African flavour.
- Mustard powder – a firm favourite in beef dishes, it’s sharp and strong that complements richer flavours.
- Curry powder – adds an extra flavour and spiciness to beef curries and allows the meat to absorb extra flavour.
Cayenne pepper – although it may seem an unusual choice, cayenne works well as a rub as it gives an earth and spicy flavour that contrasts the fat in beef.
Overall, there’s tons of versatility with beef and the possibilities are wide, once you know what to do with each cut – using the right cut of quality meat will go a long way towards the quality of your dish, too.