Grassland Beef - U.S. Wellness Meats

The Best Cut of Meat for Roast Beef

Best cut for roast beef

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The rich, filling flavors of good roasted beef can’t be topped. From holiday dinners to weekend hangouts, you can have an amazing meal with a simple roast.

But what cut do you choose? Chuck? Rump? Prime rib? Well, that depends on the experience you want to have. Use this handy guide to pick the perfect roast, and remember — grass-fed, ethically-raised beef is always better.

What is roast beef?

Roast beef is, as you’d expect, any beef that has been roasted.

Roasting is simply cooking something in an oven or over a fire. Many of us have different conceptions of what roast beef is. For some of us, it may be a rich, filling pot roast. For others, it may be the deli slices at the local sandwich shop that we love.

Regardless of the cut you choose, as long as you cook it by roasting it, then it is considered roast beef. All you have to do is season it and let heat do its thing.

Choosing the best roast beef cut every time

If you want to know how your Uncle Rob always has the best beef during the holidays or how your favorite restaurant seems to nail the consistency in every dish you try, then this is how.

1. Don’t skimp on quality

The first secret of choosing the best cut for roast beef is to always opt for the best beef possible.

This won’t always be an option if you’re trying to save money, but by choosing the right beef provider, you can dramatically raise the quality of your meal.

The best beef providers use 100% grass-fed beef, don’t use hormones or antibiotics, and don’t use pesticides, herbicides or artificial fertilizers.

US Wellness Meats was founded in 2000 in Monticello, Missouri (pop. 98) by visionary farmers, who saw that big-business cattle-raising practices were taking a toll on our animals and our health.

By returning to rotational grazing practices that are good for the planet and good for our cattle, we led the way in introducing a new generation to the unmatched taste, tenderness, and healthiness of grass-fed beef.

2. Choose a cut based on what you’re cooking

Because roast beef is a broad term, the second secret is to choose the right cut based on how you’re going to use it. There are better cuts for pot roast than a quick oven bake, and those cuts are different than what you should use for deli slices.

The first step is to figure out what you want, and we’ve divided our advice by the four most common ways to have roast beef:

  1. For nicer meals when you want really tender meat as your main.
  2. For weeknight meals when you want to eat beef as your main entree but don’t want to spend a ton of money.
  3. For deli slices that are perfect for sandwiches.
  4. For pot roasts that pair perfectly next to mashed potatoes.

The right choice varies for each of those options, so we’ve broken them down for you here. We start each category with what to look for and then offer some specific recommendations. If you have any questions, ask one of our beef experts.

The best cuts of meat for roast beef

At a glance:

Ask your butcher for any of the recommendations under your chosen category, and you’ll be in good shape.

1. The best roast beef for fancy, melt-in-your-mouth cuts

Sometimes you need to have a classy night in. Whether it’s for a new promotion, holiday dinner, or an anniversary, these cuts are top shelf — and for good reason. Each of these cuts are wonderfully rich in flavor and texture.

What you’re looking for:

  • Cuts that are tender, rich, and prized.
  • The perfect blend of fat and beef that yield wonderfully tender roasts.
  • Beef that pairs well with a nice red wine.

Specific beef cut recommendations:

  • Ribeye — Ribeyes are a classic at events and holidays. With its generous marbling and coveted taste, a ribeye is always a good choice for a treat!
  • Beef tenderloin — Beef tenderloins are known around the world as a lean and delectable cut. The combination of moisture and richness makes it a treat anytime you have it. It is usually cut into small slices, and it pairs really well with a red wine sauce!
  • Prime rib — Prime rib and au jus is a combo so delicious that it will never go out of vogue. It is extremely tender and super juicy, and your guests will love you for it.

2. The best roast beef for weeknight meals

Looking to get the fix of a fancy meal without spending the same amount? That’s where these cuts come in. They aren’t top-shelf, but they get the job done and can emulate your favorite cuts.

What you’re looking for:

  • Cuts that are great value for your money.
  • Cuts that are versatile.
  • Beef that has a good mix of tenderness and beefiness.
  • Cuts that achieve a similar effect to more expensive cuts without having to pay a premium.

Specific beef cut recommendations:

  • Shoulder petite tender — If you want to get close to a beef tenderloin but can’t justify the price for a Wednesday night meal, then go with a shoulder petite tender cut.
  • Sirloin tip center steak — The circular sirloin tip center steak is even more tender than sirloin tip side steaks, and it works best when you marinate it in advance.
  • Bottom round steak — Bottom round steaks are thick, inexpensive, and easy to pair with almost any side.

3. The best roast beef for deli meats

The best roast beef sandwiches are made with large slices of beefy meats that taste good whether served cold or hot. We have two cuts in particular that we love for roast beef slices: the eye of round roast and sirloin tip.

What you’re looking for:

  • Lean and dense cuts.
  • Even shape.
  • Large muscles for full slices

Specific beef cut recommendations:

  • Eye of round roast — This lean and super tasty cut is the deli roast beef staple. If you want the most classic deli experience, go with this cut.
  • Sirloin tip roast — This lean cut also has an ideal shape for slicing thin into deli meat, and you can generally find this roast for a good price at your local butcher.

4. The best roast beef for pot roasts

Contrary to the other categories, it’s better to opt for tougher cuts with pot roasts. These cuts usually have a beefier flavor, and over time the connective tissues break down and make that perfectly stringy texture you know and love in a pot roast.

What you’re looking for:

  • Tough cuts — these usually have a beefier flavor.
  • Cuts with lots of connective tissues.

Specific beef cut recommendations:

  • Chuck roasts — Chuck roasts are from the shoulder area of the cow and are generally a bit tough and beefy. This makes it ideal for slow-cooking methods like braising and crockpots. The 7-Bone chuck, in particular, has a wonderful flavor and is one of our favorite cuts for homemade pot roast.
  • Beef rump roast — Rump roasts are well, from the rump. Movement and use of muscles make the meat tougher, so rump roasts tend to be great for pot roasts.

Best practices for cooking roast beef

The leaner the cut, the smaller the slices

The less excess fat a cut has, the thinner you should slice it. Lean cuts need time and proper slicing to really make them tender, so don’t rush this!

Always season, salt, or marinate in advance

Most pro chefs salt their cuts a day in advance. This gives time for the salt to permeate throughout the meat through the processes of osmosis and diffusion. It makes a big difference in how tender and flavorful your meat will be!

Don’t be shy on flavorings

People criminally under-season meat. Pick an avenue like classic BBQ or herb and commit to it!

Use a meat thermometer to get the perfect temperature

Guessing when you aren’t a complete pro is a safe bet to a less-than-ideal roast. Play it smart by investing in a meat thermometer.

Slice against the grain

The lines in meat are protein strands and connective tissues. By cutting against those strands, you are essentially snapping the protein “cords”, which makes the meat much more tender.

Our go-to roast beef recipes

1. Roast beef tenderloin with red wine sauce

Red wine reductions are so rich and delicious, and nothing goes better with it than a perfectly cooked roast beef tenderloin. When you nail this cut, it actually feels like the meat dissolves in your mouth. Anytime I have a chance to eat beef tenderloin, I take advantage of it. This recipe will guide you every step of the way so you can have the perfect night.

2. Chef John’s perfect prime rib

Prime rib has an air of grandeur and for good reason. You never have to do anything fancy with a prime rib — just let the cut speak for itself. This recipe from Chef John does just that.

3. Classic Sunday pot roast

A good pot roast is one of my favorite meals. The way the strands of beef interplay with the fat and seasoning is amazing. Pair it with some nice vegetables like carrots, onions, and potatoes, and you have one of the best things to eat on a cozy winter night. This recipe nails it!

4. The best deli roast beef

Imagine this: warm french bread and your homemade roast beef slices, topped with caramelized onions, provolone cheese, and just a bit of dijon mustard. Well, that dream can be yours. All you have to do is take the first step.

5. High-temperature eye of the round roast

Part of being a good cook is being able to adapt to any cut you get and still deliver a great roast. This recipe is simple but teaches you how to handle the Eye of the Round roast — one of our favorite cuts.

The bottom line on choosing the perfect cut for roast beef

Over half the battle is won by the decisions you make before you step into the kitchen. If you buy from a beef provider who follows the most natural and healthiest raising practices and choose a cut based on the best practices mentioned above, then you’ll be well on your way.

Happy roasting!


Nathan PhelpsNathan Phelps

Nathan Phelps is a writer, ethical foodie, and outdoors-aficionado hailing from Nashville, TN. He splits his time between helping sustainable businesses find new customers and managing his ever-increasing list of hobbies, which include playing guitar, baking bread, and creating board games.