This time of year, it can feel like you have to shell out big bucks in order to impress your holiday dinner guests.
The key is to pick the right inexpensive roast, salt it for at least 18 hours, and cook it at an extremely low temperature.
The result: a beautifully tender, rosy, beefy-tasting roast.
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Putting Affordable Contenders to the Test
Not all bargain cuts have the potential to taste like a million bucks—or look like it when carved and served on a plate.
We found the bottom round rump to be too tough. Top round seemed like a good contender, but its irregular shape cooks unevenly. While undeniably flavorful, chuck-eye is too gristly and fatty—it’s best left for stews or pot roast.
Our favorite? Eye-round roast.
This cut comes from the back of the cow. While its relative leanness helps explain its less expensive price tag, it’s still got good meaty flavor and a uniform shape that guarantees even cooking and yields slices that look appealing on the plate.
Meat IllustratedLearn to cook any cut with confidence! Meat Illustrated empowers home cooks to expand their meat recipe repertoire with 350+ foolproof meat-centric meals tailored for over 70 cuts.
Transforming Humble Eye-Round into an Impressive Centerpiece
The eye-round cut does not have a lot of fat within its fibers to help make it taste tender and juicy or to boost meaty flavor. We transformed this roast with a four-step process.
- Salt for up to 24 hours. We salt the roast and allow it to rest for 18 to 24 hours. Salting for this length of time seasons the meat throughout and breaks down proteins, enhancing tenderness.
- Sear. Searing the meat in a hot pan before roasting boosts beefy flavor.
- Roast in a very low oven. We cook the meat in an oven set to 225 degrees. This keeps its internal temperature very low, below 125 degrees. Below this temperature, the meat’s enzymes act as natural tenderizers, breaking down its tough connective and muscle tissue and turning it tender.
- Finish in a turned-off oven. When the roast reaches 115 degrees (after about an hour and a half), we turn off the oven and continue to cook it as the oven cools. The roast gently comes up to temperature after about 30 to 50 minutes longer.
We let it rest for another 15 minutes before slicing. The results are a uniformly rosy and succulent roast for a whole lot less than better-known roasts command.
Serves 6 to 8
Time 2½ to 3 hours, plus 18 hours salting
- 1 boneless eye-round roast (3½ to 4½ pounds) (see note)
- 4 teaspoons kosher salt or 2 teaspoons table salt
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil plus 1 tablespoon, divided
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
Before You Begin: We don’t recommend cooking this roast past medium. Open the oven door as little as possible and remove the roast from the oven while taking its temperature. If the roast has not reached the desired temperature in the time specified in step 3, heat the oven to 225 degrees for 5 minutes, shut it off, and continue to cook the roast to the desired temperature. For a smaller (2½- to 3½-pound) roast, reduce the amount of kosher salt to 3 teaspoons (1½ teaspoons table salt) and black pepper to 1½ teaspoons. For a 4½- to 6-pound roast, cut in half crosswise before cooking to create 2 smaller roasts. Slice the roast as thinly as possible and serve with Horseradish Cream Sauce (see related recipe), if desired.
1. Sprinkle all sides of roast evenly with salt. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate 18 to 24 hours.
2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 225 degrees. Pat roast dry with paper towels; rub with 2 teaspoons oil and sprinkle all sides evenly with pepper. Heat remaining tablespoon oil in 12-inch 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 wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Roast until meat-probe thermometer or instant-read thermometer inserted into center of roast registers 115 degrees for medium-rare, 1¼ to 1¾ hours; or 125 degrees for medium, 1¾ to 2¼ hours.
3. Turn oven off; leave roast in oven, without opening door, until meat-probe thermometer or instant-read thermometer inserted into center of roast registers 130 degrees for medium-rare or 140 degrees for medium, 30 to 50 minutes longer. Transfer roast to carving board and let rest 15 minutes. Slice meat crosswise as thinly as possible. Serve.