This is a classic recipe for a juicy, tender beef top round roast. Cooking any beef roast in a cast iron skillet or oven-safe pan makes for a quick process and easy clean-up. And it's not a long ingredient list that leads to succulent slices. But a well-chosen piece of meat, ample seasoning, and two simple techniques.
In pursuit of cleaning fewer dishes, I love to roast beef in a cast iron skillet. Especially when cooking for my clients, I brown the outside of the meat in the pan before roasting it. This technique is called pan-searing and gives the roast a slightly crispy crust that leads to those tender, juicy slices. It also gives the meat a jump start on cooking before it hits the oven (we chefs are notoriously impatient).
This recipe and the techniques described work with any two-to-four-pound beef roast. A top round is one of my favorite cuts because it's on the leaner side and has a nice shape. But roast your favorite cut or what you can find.
- Top round, bottom round, or eye of round beef roast. Most round roasts are between two-and-a-half and four pounds. And since they hail from the same part of the animal (the leg), they're interchangeable for this recipe. You'll need to adjust your cooking time based on the size of your roast.
- Avocado oil. This is my favorite all-around cooking oil. But you can use what you have or what you like. Sunflower, safflower, and canola oil all work well at high temperatures.
- Kosher salt. I season liberally with kosher salt because it's not as strong as table salt. If you use table salt, scale back a little.
- Ground black pepper. For clients and at home, I freshly grind black pepper on cuts of meat after cooking. But at the risk of forgetting, you can certainly add it before browning the meat.
- Beef broth or leftover red wine (optional). If you don't plan to make a sauce, you don't need any broth or wine. I recommend choosing an unsalted or low-sodium broth or stock. And when cooking with wine, just be sure it's one you enjoy drinking! I love pairing roast beef with Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot, Syrah (Shiraz in Australia), or any red from the Bordeaux region of France.
- Seasoning. Ample seasoning is key to flavorful roast beef. Being shy with salt and pepper on a large piece of meat equals a bland bite. With large cuts of meat like a roast, you can't season the bulk of the meat on the inside. So liberally season the outside. Whether with salt, pepper, or your favorite spice mix, sprinkle or rub it on evenly, excessively, and everywhere (to quote Chef Michael Garnero, one of my favorite instructors at the Culinary Institute).
- Pan-searing. This is a professional cooking technique that is just as easy in the home kitchen. To pan-sear, brown the outside quickly and deeply in a small amount of oil over high heat. You may see recipes that call for "oven-searing" which is first roasting at a higher temperature and then turning the heat down. I like oven-searing for roast chicken, but with beef, I find pan-searing best for creating a thin, slightly crispy crust. It also gives the roast beef slices beautiful color variation from the dark edges to the pink or red center.
- Preheat and prep. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Let the beef sit on the counter for about an hour to bring it to room temperature.
- Season and truss. Season the beef generously with salt and pepper or your favorite spice rub. Wrap butcher's twine around the roast in three, evenly-spaced places and tie it off at the top (optional).
- Brown the beef. Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. I recommend one notch down from the highest heat on the dial. Once the oil shimmers add the beef to the pan. Sear the top two sides of the roast first for two to three minutes each until deeply browned. Adjust your heat as necessary. Then brown the two small ends (you may need to hold it up with tongs for these). Place the roast right-side up in the pan and immediately put it in the oven (the bottom will brown in the oven).
- Finish in the oven. Roast it to your desired internal temperature. For a three-pound roast this will take about 30 minutes for rare (125° F when a probe thermometer is inserted horizontally into the thickest part of the roast). For an even smaller roast, begin checking after 20 minutes. For medium (140° F) cook the roast for about 40 minutes.
- Rest and slice. Remove the roast from the oven, and rest it lightly tented with foil. If you plan to serve it warm, let the roast rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing. If your roast beef is for cold sandwiches and the like, you can cool it to room temperature, then chill it and slice it cold. Always slice against the grain, or perpendicular to the lines in the meat. Use a very sharp knife for thin, even slices. Tilt your knife at an angle to get the thinnest possible slices, or use an electric knife.
Beef Jus (Pan Sauce)
- Transfer the skillet to the stove. After removing the beef from the oven take it out of the skillet to rest. Then place the skillet on the stove over medium-high heat and add beef stock or red wine, or both.
- Reduce to concentrate the flavors. Reduce the liquid by half, scraping the bottom of the skillet or pan with a wooden spoon to release drippings (the tasty bits).
- Taste and season. Taste the beef jus and add salt to your liking. Finish with chopped fresh herbs, melt in a couple of tablespoons of butter, or whisk in a little heavy cream.
- Brown the outside of the meat well. Don't be afraid to turn the heat up high on the stove to brown the meat before roasting. The oil should shimmer it's so hot (definitely turn on the stove exhaust fan). Lower temperatures won't brown the outside of the meat completely before the inside starts to cook. And for the juiciest slices, you want the inside of the roast to cook with the gentler, even heat of the oven.
- Rest the finished roast. This is a standard best practice for any piece of meat. You'll always see juices escape when you cut into any cooked meat, but resting it after cooking prevents total moisture loss. For the most succulent slices, rest larger cuts on the counter for at least 20 to 30 minutes.
- Scrape the pan for a flavorful beef jus. When the roast is done cooking and you take it out of the pan you'll see little brown bits in the bottom. These are deliciousness. And contain loads of umami and the seasonings you added to the meat before cooking it. So add a few cups of broth or stock to the pan. Then as it simmers scrape these bits up with a wooden spoon. The result is a classic, simple, downright flavorful sauce. A splash of cream or a finish of butter is especially indulgent for a special occasion.
Storage & Reheating
Roast beef keeps well for a week or more in the refrigerator. Wrap it tightly to prevent moisture loss, or slice the entire roast and store the slices wrapped in parchment paper in an air-tight container. You can also freeze the whole roast, which makes it very easy to slice (let the chill come off a bit before slicing if you freeze it whole).
Reheat cooked roast beef slices covered with foil in a lower-heat oven, no hotter than 350° F, to prevent the meat from cooking further. Do the same with a whole roast, keeping it covered with foil to prevent it from drying out. Or you can gently warm slices covered with leftover beef jus in a pan on the stove.
Frequently Asked Questions
A standard three-pound top round roast needs around 30 minutes in a 375° F oven to become rare. But it's not time that matters when cooking meat, it's temperature. And every oven and cut of meat will cook slightly differently. If you prefer your roast rare, cook it until a thermometer reads 125° F. For medium or medium-well, cooking times can take up to 45 minutes or even more. Until you get to know your oven with a specific cut, check the internal temperature of the roast with a probe thermometer inserted into the thickest part.
A top round roast and others cut from the leg of the animal are leaner and contain fibrous, tough connective tissue (namely collagen). So that means you either want to roast them quickly to a lesser doneness as described in this recipe. Or low and slow by either smoking or braising, as with short ribs.
So if you are roasting a round roast at higher temperatures, cook it quickly and aim for rare (125° F). Alternatively, you can cook a roast at a lower oven temperature, around 300° F until the meat is fork-tender and easily shredded. This is the style of most traditional pot roasts. For faster braising, you can cube the meat into two-inch pieces. Browning the pieces first in a hot pan with a little oil will add more flavor to your dish. Then you can braise the pieces in a little broth in your Instant Pot, slow cooker, traditional pot, or dutch oven over medium-low heat.
While I am partial to my cast iron skillet for a quick roast, you can roast larger cuts like top rounds in a variety of pans. Any oven-safe pan, a sheet pan with a rack set inside, or a dutch oven are all great vessels for the high-heat cooking of roast beef. If you prefer your roast with a thin crust, choose a pan with low sides so the heat of the oven can circulate around as much of the roast as possible.
Beef Top Round Roast
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 to 50 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour (15 minutes active)
- Yield: 1 Beef Roast 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Roasting
- Cuisine: Mediterranean
- Diet: Gluten Free
A simple and quick way to roast a beef top round or similar cut. Searing, or browning, the roast first in a cast iron skillet or oven-safe pan adds flavor and a lovely thin crust. And makes clean-up a breeze. Keep the seasoning simple with salt and pepper, or reach for your favorite spice mix. The beef jus is an effortless, two-ingredient pan sauce for when you're serving the beef right out of the oven.
- 1 2-to-4 pound beef top round roast, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons of high-heat cooking oil or pastured lard or beef tallow
- 2 to 3 teaspoons of kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
- 2 cups total of unsalted beef broth and/or red wine
- 2 teaspoons of ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons of onion powder
- 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika (pimentón)
- 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon of ground fennel seed
- Preheat and prep. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Let the beef sit on the counter for about an hour to bring it to room temperature.
- Season and truss. Season the beef generously with salt and pepper or your favorite spice rub and additional spices. Wrap butcher's twine around the roast in two or three evenly-spaced places and tie it off at the top (optional).
- Brown the beef. Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers add the beef to the pan with one of the top sides down. Let it cook in the skillet undisturbed for two to three minutes until the surface is an intense brown. Adjust your heat as necessary. Rotate the roast to brown the adjacent top side, then again for both of the small ends (you may need to hold it up with tongs to sear the small ends). Place the roast right-side up in the skillet and immediately transfer it to the oven.
- Finish in the oven. Cook the roast to your desired internal temperature. For a three-pound roast, this will take about 30 minutes for rare to medium-rare. Begin checking the roast after 20 minutes with a probe thermometer inserted horizontally into the thickest part to gauge its doneness. Aim for 125° F for rare and 140° F for medium.
- Rest and slice. Remove the roast from the oven and rest it lightly tented with foil for 15 minutes. Do this on a plate or platter if you plan to make the beef jus with the pan.
Beef Jus (Pan Sauce)
- Transfer the skillet to the stove. After removing the beef from the oven take it out of the skillet to rest. Then place the skillet over medium-high heat and add beef stock or wine (or both).
- Add the stock. Reduce the liquid by half, scraping the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon to release drippings (flavorful little bits).
- Taste and season. Taste the beef jus and add salt and pepper to your liking. Finish the jus with chopped fresh herbs, butter, or a splash of heavy cream.
- Brown the outside of the meat well. Don't be afraid to turn the heat up high on the stove to brown the meat before roasting. The oil should shimmer it's so hot.
- Rest the finished roast. This is a standard best practice for any piece of meat. You'll always see juices escape when you cut into any meat, but resting it after cooking lessens the amount. For the most succulent slices, rest a larger roast on the counter lightly covered with foil for at least 20 to 30 minutes.
- Scrape the pan for a flavorful beef jus. When the roast is done cooking and you take it out of the pan you'll see little brown bits in the bottom. These contain loads of umami and the seasonings you added to the meat before cooking it. So add a few cups of broth or stock to the pan. Then as it simmers scrape these bits up with a wooden spoon. The result is a classic, simple, downright flavorful sauce.
Keywords: cast iron roast beef, top round roast beef recipe, easy roast beef, beef jus
I'm proud to tell you, this is not a "food blog" published by a home cook. But a collection of professionally-developed recipes. There are few, if any, product links, or annoying pop-up ads. But there are:
- The culinary techniques and simple formulas for success in the home kitchen
- Recipes that work for nearly all types of diets
- How to save money on groceries
- A direct line to me, Chef Christina, to ask any cooking or baking questions you have, anytime
The first five emails will be my series: Just Cook. It's a free quick-start guide to get you cooking like a pro, without having your eyes glued to a screen. Think of it like free culinary school, with a friendly (not yelling) chef.
Because life's too short to waste time scrolling through recipes.
When you could be sipping wine while cooking, instead.
What if you meat is sliced into pieces. It’s not
like a whole roast. Can you fry it like round steak/chicken fried steak?
You certainly can sear (shallow fry) the steaks in a thin coating of oil in a cast iron skillet. Cast iron works great for that purpose, too. For the most tender steak, cook them more towards medium-rare (if that suits your liking). If you cook it past medium doneness (pink in the middle with brown around the edges), thinly slicing the steaks after frying will help make for more tender pieces. Hope this helps, thanks for reading! 🙂
Love the roast beef. Much prefer this rather than buying deli roast beef.
Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wished
to say that I have truly enjoyed browsing your blog posts.
In any case I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again soon!
OK. Really dumb question. I have failed at roast beef in the past but perhaps I'll give it another go. Just take my word for the tough embarracing meat that I've placed before my family. Do you cover the pan when in the oven? And it really only takes 40 minutes?
No dumb questions! You don't really need to cover any roasted item with foil. The outside will brown better if you don't and you'll get more even cooking. However, if the inside is not cooked to your preference and the outside starts to look too dark after some time in the oven, covering it with foil is a good move.
On cooking time, if you are first browning it on the stove before cooking it in the oven, then yes, it should not take more than an hour tops for a small 3-4 pound roast to reach medium rare/medium. A roast (regardless of size) will keep cooking a little once removed, covered and resting, so that can also be considered "cooking time". I pull mine out when my thermometer reads slightly below my "target temperature" of medium, at around 135 F.
The larger the roast, the longer it cooks of course, and time also depends on your oven and how done you like your beef (I recommended relying solely on a meat thermometer, 155 F will get you well done).
Hope this helps (keep the questions coming!), happy cooking, and thanks for coming by!
Looks wonderful and now since some thoughtful person gave me an iron skillet, I will try this.
Wrote this one with you in mind:)
Did you sauté the squash in the same skillet?
Hi Donna! I sauté the squash is a separate skillet.