A good roast dinner is hard to beat and you don't get much more traditonally British than roast beef with Yorkshire puddings and roast potatoes. Juicy meat roasted just enough to be still pink in the middle, this traditional family dinner just oozes comfort and it's not as hard to make as you may think.
Except perhaps during the heat of summer we like to serve a roast whenever the family is all together at the weekend. While for anyone new to cooking a full roast can seem a little daunting, with a little planning, as timings are important, it really is not as hard as you might think.
A big plus of serving a roast, be it beef, lamb, pork or chicken is the leftovers. These usually provide enough for at least one other meal so the extra time in the kitchen on the day of the roast is more than gained back the following day.
When it comes to roast beef I find any leftovers work well in sandwiches and salads and we also love cold beef with chips or jacket potatoes and chutney on the side.
There are basically two methods of roasting meat. The first is to cook quickly at a high temperature which seals the meat and gives a roast with a good colour and flavour. The other is a slower cook with a more moderate heat which gives the moister meat with less shrinkage.
Generally speaking for most roasts I like to do a combination of the two starting with a high temperature for 20-30 minutes then reducing to a lower temperature for the remainder of the cooking time.
For roast beef, I generally use Delia Smith timings preheating the oven to 240℃ (220℃ fan)/475°F/gas mark 9 for the initial blast. I give it 20 minutes cooking at this temperature and then reduce the oven temperature to 190℃ (170℃ fan)/375°F/gas mark 5 and cook the beef for 15 minutes per 450g (1lb) of weight for rare, plus an additional 15 minutes for medium-rare and 30 minutes for well done.
Which cut of beef do I use for roasting?
When it comes to roast beef, some argue that it should always be cooked on the bone as the bone both conducts heat and adds flavour. However, it is usually the prime cuts of sirloin or rib that are available on the bone and these can be rather pricy.
They are also more tricky to carve. So while I might serve beef roasted on the rib for a special occasion for a Sunday roast I often opt for Topside (but you can use the same method here for beef cooked on the bone if you prefer).
Allow 225-350g (8-12oz) raw meat on the bone per person or 175-225g (6-8oz) boned and rolled meat per person. This quantity will give you those precious left overs for another meal.
Topside of beef
Topside is the long, inner muscle of the cow’s thigh. It is a lean, joint of beef, which is available boned and rolled for roasting. Topside has less fat running through it than other cuts making it leaner. It is more tender than silverside taken from the hindquarters.
Sometimes nicknamed the ‘poor man’s sirloin’ it is not quite as tender as sirloin but what it lacks in texture is made up for a deliciously rich, savoury flavour. Being boned and rolled it is also so much easier to carve into uniform slices.
More important for flavour than the bone is the fat – don’t be tempted to trim it off as it will baste your meat while it cooks. You can always cut it away when you serve it. As topside is lean I make a rub of mustard and flour mixed with some additional oil this helps further baste the joint and adds a tasty crust to the meat.
Topside can be served lightly pink which is how wee like it. For the very best results use a meat thermometer to judge when the joint is cooked. I highly recommend investing in a digital thermometer probe. I love mine from Thermapen and won't cook meat without it (and I use it when making preserves and for candy making too). Once you have a good thermometer the guesswork is taken out of your cooking and you need never overcook a piece of meat again. Aim for an internal temperature of 48-50℃ (118- 122°F) for medium
If you don’t have a thermometer, then check your beef is roasted by piercing it with a skewer. The juices should run red for rare, pink for medium and clear for well-done. Also, a meat thermometer should read 40℃ (104°F) for rare (it will rise to 54-56℃ /129-132 °F), medium-rare, as it sits), 48℃ (118°F) for medium (it will rise to 65℃ /149°F).
Topside not only tastes delicious when roasted as a whole joint but is also delicious pot roasted or diced and slowly braised so the meat breaks down and becomes melt-in-the-mouth tender.
To store the meat before roasting
Keep in the fridge in the original wrapping or in a covered container, store below and away from cooked foods and any ready to eat food. Cook before the use by date.
To freeze, freeze on the day of purchase for up to 3 months. To defrost, remove from the original packaging and place in a container and defrost thoroughly in the fridge, below and away from cooked foods and any ready to eat food, before cooking.
Wash work surfaces, chopping boards, utensils and hands thoroughly after touching raw meat.
The importance of resting (the meat not you)
Whichever way you choose it is important to rest the meat after roasting for at least 20 minutes or up to an hour, so the juices are reabsorbed. If you carve the beef too soon it will be drier, resting also makes carving neat slices easier. Some juices will be released as it sits and you can tip these into the gravy.
To rest the meat – transfer to a plate or board. Cover loosely with foil and place somewhere warm away from drafts so it doesn't cool too much.
Take advantage of this time, as it allows you to up the oven temperature again to crisp up the roasties and cook the all important Yorkshire puddings.
While the meat rests you can also make the gravy.
Making the gravy
Spoon away any fat from the roasting tin so that you are left with about 1–2 tbsp of fat but reserve the juices (and those that weep from the joint as it stands).
Sprinkle flour into the tin and cook for a minute or two then stir stock and the meat juices and cook until thickened slightly. Strain into a jug to serve.
Use a good roasting tin that will not buckle and and go on the hob to make gravy. If your roasting tin cannot go on the hob you will need to transfer all the juices to a saucepan before progressing which means more washing up!
No roast is complete without roast potatoes and with beef, yorkshire puddings are traditional and a must although now I often serve them with other roast meats too as everyone loves a Yorkshire! Horseradish sauce on the other hand is also a traditional accompaniment to roast beef but if you come to my house you will probably miss out as it is not a favourite for me and never think to buy it!
Making a roast beef dinner step by step
Roast Topside of Beef
- 1½ kg topside joint of beef
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp English mustard powder
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
for the gravy
- 3 tbsp plain flour
- 1 beef stock cube
- Remove the beef from the refrigerator and place in a roasting tin. Allow to stand at room temperature for 1 hour
- Preheat the oven to 240℃ (220℃ fan)/475°F/gas mark 9.
- Combine 1 tbsp plain flour,1 tbsp olive oil, 2 tsp mustard, 1 tsp thyme, salt and pepper in a small bowl mixing to a paste. Spread over the top and sides of the beef.
- Roast in the oven for 20 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 180℃ (160℃ fan)/350°F/gas mark 4 and roast for a further 50-55 minutes. If you have a temperature probe test you are looking for a temperature of 48°C (118°F) at the centre of the joint for medium. °
- When the meat is ready, transfer to a board, cover loosely with foil and leave to rest. Turn up the heat to cook the Yorkshire puddings and finish the roast potatoes (if serving with the joint).
To make the gravy
- Spoon off any excess fat so that you have just about 2 tbsp of fat left. Crumble in a beef stock cube and stir in 3 tbsp flour. Cook over a low heat for 1-2 minutes stirring constantly and scraping up any beefy bits that have stuck to the bottom of the tin.
- Remove from the heat and gradually stir in 500ml (1pt) hot water, then return to the heat and cook stirring until thickened. Stir in any juices released from the beef as it has rested. Transfer to a jug to serve with the beef.