Thursday, September 01, 2005

Recipe: Perfect Roast Beef

It couldn't be easier . . .

For years, I watched my mother fret and worry over roast beef. It was expensive, so we only had it a few times a year, and therefore each time was fraught with emotional turmoil - or so it seemed to me at the time. It couldn't be overcooked - no gray beef in our household! - but it couldn't be purple in the center either, and of course, half the time it was overdone and half the time it was underdone.

Well, there's at least one way to cook a perfect roast every time (there may be other ways, too, but this has been 100% consistent for 30 years, so . . .) The secret? Cook it for one hour. Period. Don't care if it's a 1 lb. eye of round or a 10 lb. rolled rump. One hour. That's it.

here's what you'll need . . .

roast beef (we like the lean eye of round, but have also done tenderloin, sirloin, round and rump.
Now, I've never done a bone-in prime rib . . . but that's no reason you shouldn't!See the comments below. This technique is best suited to boneless roasts.)
onion slices (optional)
gravy makings

Here's how you do it.

First, remember never to salt your raw meat, especially beef. You'll just dry it out. So season your roast with a generous portion of freshly ground Tellicherry. If you wish, use some toothpicks to secure an onion slice or three across the top of the roast, or onto either or both end faces. Or, as I’ve been doing lately, just toss two or three thick slices into the roasting pan.

Pre-heat your oven to 500 °F. Yup. 500 °F. And give it 10 minutes or so at that temperature before you put the roast in. Don't stick it in as soon as the pre-heated light goes on. But when the oven is hot, put the roast in (center rack), and let it cook at that temperature for at least 15 minutes. The length of time at 500 °F will determine which side of medium rare your roast will be when it's done. 15 minutes will give you a nice warm red center; 20 minutes will give you hot light pink center; 17 minutes yields a perfect medium rare.

After the 15-20 minutes, turn the oven down to 325 °F and let the roast cook for the remainder of the one hour total cooking time. Don't let the total time exceed one hour if you want your roast to be perfect.

At the end of the hour, remove the roast from the oven and let it stand before carving. It must sit for at least 5 minutes, but 15 is much better.

Perfect 1 hour roast beef

Besides, it will take you at least 15 minutes to make the gravy anyway. So let the meat rest. You can take some of the charred onion and toss it in the gravy if you like - I always do. But, if you used toothpicks, leave them in place until you're ready to carve. If you pull them out, you'll be leaving holes in the meat where flavor, heat and juices will escape.

When the gravy is ready, carve and enjoy. This was a 1.5 lb. bottom round (or actually, ½ of a 3 lb. piece), left at 500 ° F for 16 minutes, and then finished at 325 ° F. Once I found the right direction for slicing, it was delicious. And Ma KoTo, the red-eared slider who’s staying with us for a while thought so too!

 Perfect 1 hour roast beef sliced


  1. Thanks for the tip! Now for perfect gravy?

    (Mine always turns out lumpy!)

    1. Anonymous5:53 PM

      Sift the flour before adding it... never add straight from the bag... sifting will allow it to be more of a powder with no clumps to break up. This should reduce your amount of "lumps".

  2. Hi Misslionheart♥,

    Thanks for the comment. I guess, one of these days, I'll have to put up a separate Makin' Gravy post. But for now, the secret to gravy is . . .

    Start with a roux. Add flour to the fat in your roasting pan. Stir it around over medium heat until you get a nice goop, and then continue to stir it around until it takes on some color (tan toward light brown). Then add the cooking water from vegetables and potatoes. Stir, stir, stir until all the roux is dissolved into the liquid. Bring to a gentle boil, add mushrooms if you wish, reduce the liquid until you get the thickness you like, and, voila: Perfect Gravy.

    The traditional proportions for a roux are 1 part fat to 1 part flour. And in general, 1 Tbsp. of roux will nicely thicken 1 cup of gravy.

    The reason it works (to prevent lumps) is that each speck of flour in the roux gets coated with fat before any water goes in. That keeps the flour from clumping together when it does get wet.

    Use the same technique to make gravy for beef, poultry, pork, or whatever you want! Everything's better with gravy! Good luck!


  3. Well, I finally got a Gravy makin' post up. Check it out at
    Recipe/Technique: Perfect No-Lump Gravy

  4. I want to thank you for posting this. I am almost 40 years old and my entire life I have cooked roasts the same as my grandmother and mother. With same results. Two days ago I came across your site/page here and said to myself ha! but I decided to try it today, for some out of town guests, and.... it turned out perfect. PERFECT. My guests went on and on about it, and the only person I have to thank, is you!

  5. Awesome...thank you so much for the tip!!! I have never made roast beef before and I don't exactly like it all that much. I decided to make a romantic dinner for my significant other and she loved it. I even liked it much for being better when someone else makes it. As far as gravy...try the Lowry's Brown Gravy in an was awesome too...sorry to all of you "From Scratch" people.. Anyway, 20 minutes at 500, 40 at 325, let it sit for 15 minutes and it cut perfectly, with the out side medium well and the middle medium...I just so happened to have a Pampered Chef Garlic and Peppercorn Rub that I used along with the a red onion. Perfect, Perfect, Perfect.

    1. Anonymous11:27 AM

      This doesnt even come close to woking,sear the meat in a frying pan then roast for 15 20 min per lb at 350 ...and for god sake season the meat first will not dry the meat out unleas you leave it sitting in salt for hours, last but not least use thermometer to check the this isnt as easy as ,HEY COOK ANY SIZE MEAT FOR 1 HR, but good cooking often isnt easy thats we get paid to do it :)

  6. Anonymous6:11 PM

    Dear Tommy - I have a new data point for you on your recipe for "Perfect Roast Beef":

    - I cooked a 6 pound rib roast using your recommendations. I put it in at 500° for 17 minutes, then turned down the oven temp to 325° and cooked it for another 43 minutes - 1 hour total. I took it out of the oven and checked the internal temperature and found that it was 89°: way-way short of the recommended 130° for medium-rare.

    I ended up cooking it for another 75 minutes before it got up to the desired internal temperature. I took it out of the oven and let it sit for 15 minutes and then cut it. It was a perfect medium rare at that point.

    I suggest you amend your instructions. Perhaps round roasts or rump roasts cook differently than a rib roast.

    1. So ou cooked the rib roast at 325 for the remainder of that time?

  7. And Anonymous is perfectly correct. Bone-in meats take longer to cook than boneless meats, so the 1 hour cooking time approach won't work. I should have caught that on the initial post and deleted that remark about prime rib.

    Thanks to Anonymous for pointing out the error, and even more so for providing a good starting point for your own experiments with bone-in roasts!


  8. Anonymous3:22 PM

    covered or uncovered?

  9. With regard to 'covered or uncovered,' keep in mind that whenever you cover a dish in the oven, you are essentially steaming your food.

    There may be circumstance where that's a good approach to make sure something cooks through in a shorter amount of time.

    But in my book, a 'roast' beast of any sort should be cooked and rested uncovered.

  10. Definitely worth trying! I must salt my meat, however--or brine. I cooked my 2.5lb bottom round for 20 mins at 500 degrees, then 40 minutes at 325. It was rare to me, and I like medium well. Next time I might take its temperature, but I hate to keep poking the meat and letting all those juices out. Having said that, I might have known that it wasn't quite done, as there were virtually no juices in the pan. I do agree that this is the best method for cooking roast beef, just need to tweak the time a little. Thanks!

  11. Hi. I have a 3.60 lb roast. I am looking for a med. rare roast. Do you still suggest 17 min at 500 degrees and then an hour or so at 325?

  12. Anonymous6:06 PM

    I did a three pound boneless roast at 500 degrees for between 20 and 25 minutes followed by 325 degrees for an additional 50 minutes. I let it rest for 15 minutes.

    It came out a little on the rare side for us but it was beautifully cooked. There was nice browning on the outside and rare in the middle. Next time I would do 500 degrees for 25 minutes and 325 for an hour after that. I think I would then get a nice medium to medium rare roast which is the way we like it.

    You are bang on with the combination of 500 degrees followed by low heat though. I will use this method from now on ... just a little bit longer.

  13. Anonymous4:02 AM

    what about salt? do we need to add that at all at any point?

  14. HOLY COW this was good, and the gravy came out perfect too- thanks so much! I crushed garlic and onions and rubbed them on the outside of the roast with dried mustard. Mushrooms and onions in the pan with the roast, and let me tell you it was heaven! Thanks for this!!

  15. Anonymous10:25 AM

    I did a 3 lb bottom round at 450 in convection oven(as high as they go)for 30 min,then 325 at 30 min and rest it in a turned off oven for 30 min and was beautiful rare like we loved it.

  16. Anonymous10:29 AM

    I should of said my 3 lb roast was partially frozen when I put it in my convection oven at 450..That is a safe way to keep it rare or med rare...

  17. Anonymous5:31 PM

    Thia was absolutely scrumptious and worth filing in my cognitive bank . I am a gourmet cook, hard to beat, but you got me on this one, my method is on the back burner.


  18. Anonymous9:09 PM

    I am so glad that you've left this post up since 2005! My family has never raved over any beef dish I've made the way they have this one. I think I'll start creating our weekly menus from your blog. Simply fantastic!

  19. Anonymous7:42 AM

    How about for a 20 lbs. Roast beef? Would it be safe to cook for 500 degrees for 20 minutes and 1 and 1 1/2 in 325 degrees?

  20. Good grief! 20lb.??? I've never seen a retail cut of boneless beef that size and haven't a clue. Yeah, I know, I said any sized roast, but hey . . .

    The fundamental concept remains true; initial high heat to crust up the outside and then slow gentle heat to finish the inside. It's the same idea you use to sear a steak in a skillet and then finish it in the oven.

    But 20 lbs is a serious hunk of 'cold' to put into your hot oven. If I were faced with such a task, I'd probably try to get the oven to 550 or 575; I'd leave the beast for 30 - 35 minutes at the high temp; and then I'd turn it to 325 and cook for another hour.

    'Course the best approach would be to check the temp of the beast after an hour at 325.

    If anybody out there has actual practical experience with a slab this size, please chime in - me, I'm just guessing . . .

    One other thought - if your plan is not to carve and serve this at the table for dinner (for 50), but rather to thin slice it for sandwiches and such, then a 'low and slow' approach from start to finish might be the better way to go.

    I have not posted a low/slow recipe/technique as yet, but I have done it a number of times (usually with a top round of 3 - 5 lbs.). Preheat your oven to 180; sear your roast in a skillet for no more than 2 or 3 minutes total; deglaze the skillet with a cup or three of water; put your roast on a rack in a pan; add the skillet water and enough more to give you 1/2 to 1 inch of water in the bottom of the roasting pan; cook it for at least 8 hours. For a 20 pounder, I'd think in terms of 10 or 12. You will end up with a 'deli-style' medium rare, evenly cooked from center to edge. And the liquid in the pan can become a delicious au jus.

  21. Anonymous10:00 PM

    This did not work for me. It's been an hour and a half and still cooking...

  22. jessica7:51 PM

    Do you cover ur roast wen cooking

  23. Anonymous1:33 PM

    What kind of oven do you use....i tried a recipe once like this, and the meat was virtually raw after the allotted cooking time, but after I read the reviews on the recipe (Yep, something I should have done beforehand...yeah, yeah, I know) many stated that the only way this recipe works is if you have an electric oven. Mine is gas, so that one didn;t work. Does your method matter what type of oven it is? Just wondering. Thanks,

  24. Anonymous2:28 PM

    i have a five and a half pound roast, should i cut it in half first?

  25. Do you start your roast straight out of the fridge or do you let it sit?

  26. Anonymous5:32 PM

    From Yousef Salem in Sunnyvale, CA: To mae a lump free gravy I put flour into a cup and very slowly let cold water from the faucet into the cup as I stir continuously until it forms a pancake batter consistency. I keep stirring and ten add more water so it forms into a slurry. When the gravy liquid comes to a low boil I slowly pour the slurry in and keep stirring with a wood spoon or a whisk until the gravy thickens. For a rich flavor I add about a teaspoon of Knorr's Vegetable Bouillon powder. Use it when making vegetables, rice, soup, etc.

  27. We like your comment about 15-20 minutes per pound at 350F! That would be about right! Or, if you want a very tender roast, smoke it at 200F for about 30-40 minutes per pound!

  28. Anonymous9:19 AM

    After searching the web for a time I decided this would be my method. I did make a few changes. 3.29# rump roast @500 deg for 25 min and @325 for 65 min. I slit the meat and added slivers of garlic with fresh ground pepper all over. I laid the roast with the fat side up on a bed of sliced onions and mushrooms and added 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup red cooking wine when I reduced the temp. I ended up with beautiful roast that was done on the ends and med rare in the center which pleased all my guests. A tip from my butcher I bought a roast that was tapered so that the ends would be done for those who don't like to see pink and more rare in the center for those who prefer their meat less done. The drippings were used to make a perfect au jus. Served with some wonderful yorkshire pudding dinner was a hit. Thank you for making a so so cook look like a talented cook.

  29. Anonymous8:57 AM

    Thanks for the idea. I tried cooking
    a 2 pound london broil using this
    method and while the outside was nice
    the inside was way over cooked and tough.
    I'm not sure where I went wrong with this.

  30. The primary reason is that London Broil is a cut of steak, not a roast. In addition, even when cooked to a perfect medium rare, if you slice London Broil with the grain instead of across the grain, the meat will be very tough.

    When I cook steak inside (instead of outdoors on the grill), I usually sear the meat in a cast iron skillet and then finish it in the oven.

    After you get the skillet seriously hot (I use the 5 o'clock position on my electric stove), toss in the meat and wait for at least two minutes. By around that time, the meat will 'release' from the pan and you can turn it over to sear the other side. Another 2 minutes and then the skillet can go into the oven to finish.

    You can use an oven preheated to anywhere from 350 to 450 degrees - you'll just finish faster at higher temperatures. We often have potatoes baking when we do a steak, so my oven is typically about 400 degrees. At that temperature, a 2lb. steak will finish in about 7 or 8 minutes. You'll have to experiment to find out what works best for your kitchen and for your preferred doneness.


  31. Anonymous9:01 PM

    This ruined by holiday meal. Did not work and followed the instructions exactly for a 5 pound roast. Totally raw.

  32. Anonymous3:34 PM

    This is seriously the BEST way to cook a bottom roast! It really does come out perfect every time. I tend to cook it 17/43 this leaves it a bit on the rare side for dunking into au jus for French dip sandwiches later! I totally love this recipe, it's impossible to screw up provided you have the time and temperatures correct. LOL.

  33. Well, it's been 9 years since you posted this and I came across it for the first time yesterday. I've cooked crown roasts and such but never a boneless roast beef in all these years.

    Now that I live in France, I was worried I'd not find a recipe that could handle as small a cut as 3/4 kilos, but your specific reference to 1.5 lbs fit the bill. I confess I was nervous, because I'd spent $25 on this tiny roast (meat is expensive in France!) but I took a leap of faith. And I'm glad I did.

    I followed your 16 min at 500 degrees, followed by the remainder of the hour at 325, however, because I was cooking it in a toaster oven, I knew I had to lower the time and be careful. I skewered onions on it like you suggested, put it in for the 16 minutes and then, when I lowered the temp to 325, I slid in a flat piece of foil so that it just rested lightly on the toothpicks holding the onion but wasn't "covering" the meat so it risked steaming. (The onions on top were burning because they were barely an inch from the elements.) Then I cooked it for 30 min, did a finger pressure test, and gave it another 5 minutes. I took it out and let it go cold because I was making it to serve cold atop an arugula salad today. I was nervous it might be overcooked, not having been cut, but it was perfectly pink, and oh, so tender! I could not believe it. Thank you so much.

    I read the other comments about 20-lb roasts and such and rolled my eyes. The reality is that, for a normal-sized roast, this appears to do the trick, but it always pays to either use a food thermometer or take it out periodically and press the meat with your finger if you know how to gauge rare vs. med-rare vs. medium, etc. Mine was perfection and I am so grateful to you!

  34. MyraMains12:42 AM

    I ran across this post by accident a couple of days ago and tried it tonight. Worked perfectly! My husband was very impressed with the technique. Also, for the first time in my life, I made proper gravy. Thanks for the tips!!

  35. Mmm this looks great!

  36. Well I tried this on a 10.47 lb round roast and it took 3 hrs to finish to 133 degrees. After I got to the one hour mark my roasting thermometer read 87F. The roast was room temp when placed into the 500F oven. Perhaps this works well with smaller roasts but not for a 10 pounder. Sorry, I wish it had worked.

  37. I still use this as my "go to" for roast beef. Thank you so much for sharing it so many years ago!!

  38. Anonymous5:41 PM

    Note to self.. open a window while roasting at 500 degrees.. Smoke detectors working very well. Ceiling fans are working well and front door opened..stopped the detector sounding before any neighbors called the fire dept. This is a good meal to cook during the first snow of the season...Nothing like filling the outdoors with roasting beef and onions... and filling the inside with smoke.

  39. Brilliant. I used a Corning-ware pot with a lid in the oven and my 1.5 lb roast turned out perfectly. I added vegetables and it's a super simple meal fit for a king in an hour.