Most people who love a beef roast relish it on day one, when it’s freshly seared and the rosy center floods your palate with savory juices. But for me, a roast is even more appealing on day two. The leftover beef is full of potential—not just for a repeat of the original meal (though that’s lovely) but for all of the vibrant salads and sandwiches it could be a part of.
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I’ve got just the roast for the job: a succulent, boneless eye-round. A recipe developed years ago by test kitchen alum David Pazmiño is a staff favorite. Instead of relying on a primo cut such as prime rib to deliver beefy luxury, it relies on smart science—salting the meat and letting it sit overnight before cooking it low and slow—to turn one of the leanest and least expensive roasts you can buy into a tender, juicy, beefy-tasting marvel. Plus, lean roasts make nicer leftovers because there are no unpleasantly waxy pockets of cold fat to avoid.
Science: The Low, Slow Route to Ultratender Roast Beef
You don’t have to splurge on a spendy cut such as tenderloin to get succulent roast beef. Eye-round, one of the least expensive cuts you can buy, cooks up gloriously tender and juicy if roasted sufficiently low and slow.
The key is to take advantage of tenderizing enzymes in the beef called calpains and cathepsins. Because enzymes are most active at higher temperatures, we came up with a method that holds the meat close to its target temperature (130 degrees) for as long as possible to maximize tenderness. First, we roast it in a very low (225-degree) oven until the internal temperature hits 115 degrees—high enough for the enzymes to kick into higher gear. Then, we shut off the oven and let the meat rest in the fading heat until it crawls to 130 degrees.
The results are striking on the palate and on paper. When we compared our method to a more conventional one (roast at 325 degrees until the meat hits 130 degrees), using identical roasts and including a 15-minute rest at the end of cooking, our roast spent nearly twice as long in a temperature range where the enzymes are extremely active and came out markedly more tender.
If you’re like me and tend to crave something light and fresh the day after a big roast beef dinner, try the Northeastern Thai–inspired beef salad. The tumble of herbs, umami-rich dressing, crisp cucumber slices, and toasty rice powder all emulate nam tok. But instead of grilling or searing steak for the salad, I toss in thin strips of the leftover roast, making the dish a snap to put together.
Alternatively, here’s my take on the Beef 1000—arguably one of the world’s greatest roast beef sandwiches. Rachel and Charles Kelsey, also test kitchen alums, dreamed up this stack of thin-sliced beef, Thousand Island dressing, cheese, and crispy shallots for their Brookline, Massachusetts, sandwich shop, Cutty’s. It’s worth roasting an eye-round just to make it.