A 1,000-lb. whole steer, after processing, ends up as 570 lbs. of beef you can take home. With all of those options, you might find yourself wondering which cuts would make the best roast beef. Other than ribs and thin cuts, which end up as ground meat, just about any cut of meat results in a good roast beef. The secret to good roast beef is proper preparation and cooking techniques matched to the cut of meat. For example, tender cuts don't need long roasting times while tough cuts do.
Very Tender Roasts
The tenderloin is the most tender cut of beef. It's also the most expensive because the demand for it is high and there isn't much of it on a carcass of beef -- only about 7 lbs. When the tenderloin is cut into round steaks, it's called "filet mignon." A roast tenderloin is melts in your mouth but has a tendency to dry out. Roast it quickly at high temperatures to sear the outside. It's best served rare to medium rare when the center of the slice is still a bright pink.
Cuts for roasts that are still tender but not quite as tender as tenderloin include prime rib and New York. New York strip is offered as steaks, but it's also offered as a roast as well, with or without the bone. Tender roasts benefit from fast cooking. About 100 lbs. of the beef carcass results in tender roasts. Start off roasting at 500 degrees Fahrenheit, then immediately lower to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sirloin is an "in-between" roast in terms of tenderness. A whole sirloin weighs about 15 lbs. and it's not nearly as tender as filet mignon, but not as tough as round or chuck. Sirloin benefits from marinating for tenderness. Roast until medium rare or the internal temperature reaches 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Start in a 500-degree Fahrenheit oven and decrease the temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Roast for about 17 minutes per pound for a 5-lb. roast. Rarer meat is more tender than well done. Cut across the grain when serving. Meat fibers in a muscle run all the same direction. Cutting the long fibers short by cutting across the grain makes the meat more tender.
Less Tender Roasts
Round and chuck are cuts of beef that are less tender. They make up the majority of the meat available from a carcass -- about 365 lbs. That doesn't mean they don't make great roasts, however. What it does mean is the roast must be cooked slowly and with moisture so the connective tissues in the muscle -- what makes the meat tough -- have a chance to break down. A slow-cooker works well, as does braising in the oven or on the stove. A pot roast is a classic example of a tough cut of meat that is well cooked.