Roast beef

Roast beef

The centrepiece to a quintessential British Sunday lunch, flavoursome roast beef deserves the spotlight

Whether you like it rare, medium or well done, tender juicy slices of beef with all the trimmings are hard to beat. Here are our top tips on how to achieve the perfect roast beef. 

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Gravy & sides

1) Choose the right cut

The go-to joint for a succulent beef roast is a wing rib of beef, which has an eye of tender, marbled meat. Taken from the back of the loin, it can also be cooked off the bone by rolling it into a sirloin joint. 

Fore rib is a great alternative – taken from further up the loin, it has a seam of fat running through it, giving it lots of flavour. 

Beef cuts

For a leaner roast, topside is an excellent choice and for a slightly fattier cut, top rump is also a good option. Both are best served rare/medium rare and are delicious served cold in sandwiches and salads.

2) Size matters

Try to buy a joint slightly larger than you actually need, as smaller joints tend to shrink a little in the oven; use any leftovers for delicious midweek meals.
As a general rule, when you’re buying a joint of meat on the bone you’ll need to allow approximately 400g meat per person. So to feed 6 people you’ll need a joint that weighs around 2.5kg, which will usually be a 2 or 3 rib joint. For lean joints off the bone, allow 200 - 250g meat per person, so choose a joint around 2kg for 6 people. 

Beef prep

3) Prep for perfection

Take large joints out of the fridge one hour before cooking to allow the meat to reach room temperature and cook more evenly. Smaller joints need 30 minutes out of the fridge. Don’t remove the fat as it adds flavor and keeps the joint moist – if you prefer not to eat it, simply remove it after it's cooked.

Season your joint with a little salt just before it goes into the oven. Salt draws moisture from the meat, so if you season too early you could dry out the joint. Add a grinding of black pepper or rub a little English mustard powder into the fat to add a 'crust’ on the meat.

4) Get cooking

Calculate the cooking time according to the guide below, with the meat positioned in the centre of the oven. Choose a roasting tin that’s a little larger than the joint – not too large or your precious gravy juices will evaporate. Add a peeled and halved onion and few sprigs of herbs such as thyme or rosemary while your beef cooks. This will caramelise the onions and add more flavour to your gravy.

Preheat your oven to the correct temperature to ensure your cooking time is accurate: 220C/Gas 7/fan 200C. Cook larger roasting joints on a high heat for the first 20 minutes to let the heat really penetrate the meat and give it a good crust on the outside. Remember to reduce the temperature after 20 minutes and deduct the 20 minutes from the total cooking time - leave the oven door open for a couple of minutes to help it cool down. There’s no need to cover your beef while it cooks; you want to get a good crust on the outside and foil won’t help with this.

Cooking times

Medium rare – 20 minutes per 500g

Medium – 25 minutes per 500g

Well done – 30 minutes per 500g


5) Baste your meat

Basting simply means spooning the juices from the roasting tin back over the meat while it cooks. Take the roasting tin out of the oven and tilt the tin slightly so that the fat and juices collect in one corner. Use a spoon or turkey baster to scoop them up and drizzle them over the meat. Baste the beef 2 or 3 times while it’s cooking and remember to shut the oven door while you do this, so you don’t lose heat.

6) Check your meat is cooked properly

Rare, medium or well done? Our guide to cooking times will help you cook the beef to your liking. Check your beef is cooked by piercing the thickest part of the joint with a skewer - if the juices are pinky-red, the meat will be medium-rare, slightly pink and it’s medium, and if you want it well done, they should run clear. A meat thermometer is useful for large joints. Push the probe into the meat as close as possible to the centre (avoiding any bones) and leave it for 20 seconds before taking the reading. Rare beef should read 50C, medium 60C and well done 70C.

Carved beef resting

7) Take a rest

It’s crucial to rest any roast meat after it’s cooked. Resting allows the juices on the outside of the meat to settle back into the middle and throughout the joint, making it juicier and easier to carve. Top rump joints are best served medium-rare and will benefit from an even longer resting time of 30 minutes or more.

Transfer your cooked beef joint to a warm platter or clean board and cover with foil. Leave it to rest for 20 minutes minimum before carving. It’ll give you time to make the gravy and finish off any last minute trimmings too.

What to drink with beefThe intense savoury flavour of a rib of beef demands depth and backbone making the reds of Bordeaux an excellent match. Particularly those from the Left Bank, such as Saint-Estèphe or Haut-Médoc, which traditionally have more Cabernet in the blend. Scientists have even suggested the high levels of tannins in Cabernet help break down the proteins in beef making it easier to digest. Sounds like a great reason to open your best claret.

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