I have a question for you, Misery Loves Cookery:
I try to cook low-carb, so dinner is often just meat with a veggie. This makes the meat all the more important, star of the meal. Unfortunately, when I cook a beef roast, I can do the exact same recipe and my roast is sometimes delicious, and other times very dry. How can I be sure to get a juicy roast everytime?
Also, I wish I could make sliced Italian beef like my favorite Italian deli in my hometown, but the only way I am lucky to enjoy that is if my parents bring some to us when they visit for Easter! Any good recipes?
Thank you for your questions!
I can really relate to this beef roast challenge. Since I had my vertical sleeve gastrectomy in December of 2014, I’ve had very limited carbs with my meals. My main focus is always on protein, then vegetables, and then if there is any room left, just a bite or two of a carb. With a tiny tummy, I need my meat to be juicy to be comfortable to digest, and I really want it to be delicious (since I only get a little bit.)
I, too, have had this problem with roasts. In fact, one of the meats we served for Christmas Eve this year was a pot roast, and because it was a special occasion, I splurged on a fancy chuck roast from the fancy grocery store with the fancy (read: expensive) prices. I cooked it exactly as I always do, and it was, well, horrible. The pieces I could pull off were tender enough in the accompanying sauce, but the whole roast was gristly and tough and generally disappointing.
You know what I did? I went back that store with the receipt, described the problems I had with my roast, told them how disappointed I was, and they gave me my money back.
I’m not suggesting that every time a roast turns out badly, you should go tell your store; with busy lives, who has time for that? In an age where we no longer shop at a butcher’s, a baker’s, a produce market, etc., I do think we have lost some of the back-and-forth relationship with our food sellers, and it is worth it (when you can) to let a store know when something they have sold you is either wonderful or awful.
So it was in that spirit that I went to the store, not seeking a refund, but simply to let them know they had sold bad meat, something (I hope) they don’t want to do when they can avoid it. I’m surprised I got a refund, but I think the gesture was an acknowledgement that some pieces of meat just aren’t as good as others, and the store didn’t like that a customer had purchased a crummy one for a holiday.
So, if we just accept the sad fact that sometimes a roast simply won’t be as tasty because that specific piece of beef just isn’t a great one, what other steps can we home-cooks take to ensure tastiness?
- Once you’ve seared the meat for flavor, cook it low and slow, either in a low oven or at a bare simmer on the stove. Crockpots can help you here, too, but remember…
- Don’t overcook the meat. Yes, you should cook it a long time, but overcooking will lead to dryness. 25–30 minutes per pound should do the trick, but checking the temperature will help because…
- Collagen in meat breaks down at 160 degrees. Melted collagen will take meat that is beginning to dry out and give it that smooth, gelatinous texture we love about slow-cooked pieces of cheaper beef. Of course, once you have it cooked to the right temperature…
- Let the meat rest before you slice it. Thirty minutes, minimum, is my rule of thumb, but I’d rather have slightly cooler meat that is tender than hot, dry slices of beef.
As for slicing thin, there is (sadly) no substitute for a professional meat slicer. I have several relatives who have scored these monsters at auctions when restaurants and delis have closed, and I can tell you that they are very popular. Once the neighbors know you have a slicer, you will have people showing up with all kinds of meats and cheeses ready for thin slicing.
It’s a weird kind of impromptu block party, but a tasty one.
I did, however, find a terrific video that features how to thinly slice a beef roast with a very sharp knife. Key take-aways are to work against the grain, and to take your time, without applying too much pressure. Give it a watch—I think with a little practice, her technique could be a winner for you.
Finally, for more wonderful tips for the science geek in you, this Science of Slow Cooking page is a great resource.
As for recipes, how about giving a totally new technique a try? If you have an Instant Pot (Amazon Affiliate Link)* or other pressure cooker, this Pressure Cooker Pot Roast might turn your entire beef roast routine on its head. I have found that meat cooked in our pressure cooker and allowed natural pressure release to be as tender and delicious as it gets.
I hope this helps! Happy Sunday suppers, friend.
*As always, should you click on my Amazon Affiliate Link and make a purchase, I may receive a portion of the sale proceeds. Thank you!