Roast beef makes an impressive main for a holiday feast, but it’s also an easy option for weeknight meals. And roast for dinner means you’ll have lots of leftovers for lunch the next day. With very little prep and no tending required once it’s in the oven, roasting beef is a no-fuss method you’ll want to add to your cooking repertoire. The expert advice, simple tips and effortless how-tos in our ultimate guide will help you plate up succulent slices for dinner parties, family meals or dinners for two.

Pick It

Beef comes in numerous cuts to suit every occasion and budget. If you’re looking for an economical choice for weeknight dinners, try blade roast. For a casual family gathering, flavourful and juicy oven roasts, such as inside or outside round, cross rib or sirloin tip, are all well suited to low and slow cooking. For holidays, birthdays or other special celebrations, you may want to select a premium oven roast such as tenderloin, which is buttery and rich yet relatively lean, or prime rib, a bone-in cut that bastes itself while cooking with the outer layer of fat.

Cuts of beef should be matte, dry and red in colour, with abundant flecks of marbling throughout and a ribbon of fat along the edge. Any fat on the meat should be white or cream coloured and feel firm and waxy. Raw beef can be refrigerated for up to four days. Store in sealed plastic bags or containers and place on the bottom shelf of the fridge, so juices don’t contaminate other foods.

How much do you need to buy? Plan on four ounces (125 grams) of raw beef per person to get the Canada Food Guide recommended two and a half-ounce (75-gram) serving. If you like having leftovers, buy a generous eight ounces (250 grams) per person for a boneless cut, or 12 ounces (375 grams) per person for roasts with a bone.

Prep It

What You’ll Need

  • Large aluminum, cast-iron or glass roasting pan with high sides to accommodate larger cuts of meat, and a rack insert to allow air to circulate.
  • Instant-read meat thermometer to check doneness with the most accurate results.
  • Foil for covering the roast if it’s browning too quickly, and for tenting the roast to keep it warm while it rests.
  • Kitchen twine for securing the roast to maintain its shape, keep any fillings inside and help the meat cook evenly.
  • Long, sharp carving knife and fork to neatly slice meat.

Preparing the Meat

Pat roast dry with paper towel. Rub evenly with two to three tablespoons (30 to 45 millilitres) of olive oil and sprinkle seasoning over roast, or make small cuts over the surface and tuck in herbs and flavourings, and then tie the roast with kitchen twine in several places, using double knots. If you want to stuff the meat, using a long non-serrated knife, slice alongside the rib bones without cutting all the way through, opening the meat like a book. Spread on flavourings before rolling and tying the roast.

Seasoning

Experiment with flavours that complement the rest of your meal, whether it’s a feast of comfort foods or a lighter evening meal. Mix together a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and then stir in a seasoning combination such as:

  • minced garlic + dried thyme + dried rosemary + lemon zest
  • cilantro + minced garlic + ground cumin + smoked paprika
  • ground black peppercorns + coriander + hot pepper flakes

Roasting Techniques

Most small beef cuts, such as one- to two-pound (500-gram to one-kilogram) quick roasts like cross rib, can simply be seasoned, placed in a pan and roasted, uncovered, to savoury, richly coloured results. If you have time for an extra step, pan-sear the roast in a bit of olive oil in an ovenproof pan on the stovetop, and then pop the pan into the oven to finish cooking. The best way to get that coveted crispy, brown exterior for larger cuts, such as prime rib, is to oven-sear the meat, uncovered, at 450ºF (230ºC) for 10 minutes, and then reduce the heat to 275ºF (140ºC) and cook to desired doneness. (Larger cuts may require higher heat and longer cooking times.)

Remove the roast from the oven when it reaches its finished temperature – 145ºF (63ºC) for medium-rare, 160ºF (71ºC) for medium or 170ºF (77ºC) for well done. Bone-in prime rib will take an extra 30 to 45 minutes; tenderloin will take 30 to 60 minutes less. (See our chart below for cooking times.)

Perfect It

How to Roast Beef Like a Pro

  • Don’t crowd your meat in the pan – leaving some space around and under the meat allows it to heat evenly.
  • To give your meat a flavourful crispy exterior, cook uncovered on a rack set in a shallow roasting pan. Don’t add water!
  • Invest in a digital thermometer that lets you monitor the temperature of your roast – or even alert you when it’s done – without opening the oven door.
  • Tent your roast with foil and let it rest before carving, so the juices have time to moisten the meat.
  • Carve against the grain (usually in the same direction that the roast was tied) to get tender cuts of meat. Create uniform slices by holding the knife at the same angle with each cut.
  • Keep your countertop clean by placing the cutting board inside a rimmed baking sheet, which will collect any juices that run out when you carve the meat.

Quick Fixes

  • Meat drying out in the oven? Add one inch (2.5 centimetres) of water or broth to the bottom of the roasting pan and replenish every 30 minutes.
  • No time to defrost? You can cook a beef roast from frozen – simply add 50 per cent more cooking time.
  • Roast too rare for some dinner guests? Make a few more well-done pieces by slipping them into a pan of simmering gravy, broth or sauce for up to two minutes.
  • Short on time? If you’re making prime rib, look for a roast that has the bones pre-cut and tied back on to the meat. When the roast is all cooked, simply cut and remove the twine to save time on carving.

Cooking Times

The amount of time it takes to perfect a roast will vary depending on the thickness of the cut and your desired doneness, so using an instant-read thermometer is essential. Make sure the tip of the thermometer is inserted into the thickest part of the meat. Don’t let it touch any bone, because you could get a false reading. Refer to our handy chart below for common temperatures and cooking times.

 

Cut Preheat oven to… Roast for… Cook until internal
temp is…
Let rest for…
Premium oven roast (prime rib, sirloin, tenderloin) 425°F (220°C) 30 min.; reduce heat to 300°F (150°C) and cook 2-2 ½ hours. 145°F (63°C) medium-rare; 160°F (71°C) medium;
170°F (77°C) well done
15 min.
Oven roast (inside round, outside round, sirloin tip, cross rib) 425ºF (220ºC) 40-50 min. (20 min per lb) 145°F (63°C) medium-rare; 160°F (71°C) medium;
170°F (77°C) well done
15 min.

 

How to Cut and Carve Beef Roast

Carving against (or across) the grain is the secret to getting tender slices of meat. The grain in meat looks similar to the grain in wood. By carving against the grain, you shorten the muscle fibres (the longer the fibres, the harder they are to chew). In some cuts of meat, the grain direction is not consistent, so keep an eye on it and change the direction of slicing accordingly.

Finishing Flavour

Leftover drippings are just what you need for making savoury, delicious gravy. Regardless of how much you have left, scrape up any browned bits in the bottom of your roasting pan. Add broth or wine and simmer in the roasting pan (if it’s stovetop-safe) over medium-high heat. Whisk until mixture thickens, or add flour till the desired consistency is reached. Turn the flavour up even more by stirring in a splash of red wine, balsamic vinegar or cream; sautéed mushrooms or shallots; or a few dabs of your favourite jam or jelly.

Perfect Presentation

Roast beef looks elegant and hearty presented on a warmed platter and sliced for easy serving. If you’ve also roasted vegetables, place them around the meat. Roasted carrots, turnips or potatoes add colour and texture. Garnish with a few fresh sprigs of whatever herbs you used for seasoning. Serve gravy or sauce in a separate dish or gravy boat so people can serve themselves the amount they prefer.