Laura Vryhof/Demand Media

When you see a “round roast” at your local supermarket, you, like many consumers, may be confused. In the meat case, you may see a variety of cuts that all include the word “round”: the eye of round, the inside round, the outside round and the bottom round roast. The bottom and outside round roast are the same thing, but to further confound you, it’s also sometimes called the _rump roas_t. A roast by any of these names will taste just as great provided you cook it properly, because technique matters when buying a budget-friendly meat like these.

Understanding Outside Round Roasts

The “round” is basically the cow’s hip or butt and top of the back legs. It’s a muscle-y, tough piece of meat, but cooked and carved right, it’s a crowd-pleaser often used by the delis that sell roast beef sliced thin for lunchmeat. And that’s part of the secret, too; outside round needs to be carved thinly across the grain to be tender – after it’s been slow-cooked through roasting or braising.

The outside round has more fat marbling than the inside round, and you know what that means – fat is flavor. It also has connective tissue, which is partly why it’s tough when cooked wrong. But if you’ve seen “stewing beef,” which is designed for everything from beef stew to chunky chili, that’s usually a rump roast. These meats like to be braised, and they’re perfect for anything to do with crockpots and Dutch oven-braised meals, like pot roasts, but you can roast them too.

Low and Slow: Roasted Perfection

How you cook your outside round depends on what you enjoy. Some folks don’t like the braised pot roast method because it results in meat that's all well-done, and they’re fans of medium-rare meat. A slow-cooked roast will come out tender and falling apart, but if you want to have the medium-rare experience, then that’s easily done by roasting until it’s at 145 degrees Fahrenheit on a meat thermometer – an essential tool to make a proper roast.

Pot Roasts for Beginners

So easy! Lightly coat your roast (3 pounds is a good size) in flour seasoned with generous amounts of salt and pepper; then sear it in a heavy Dutch oven over medium-high heat in some oil for a couple minutes on each side until browned. Add up to 2 cups of beef stock, a good stout beer or red wine; cover and bake at 325 degrees F for 3 hours.

With an hour left on the timer, add large chopped veggies like onions, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms and even garlic to the pot; season generously with salt and pepper, and maybe throw some sprigs of fresh thyme in there. Cover it and cook for 45‒60 minutes, until the veggies and meat are fork-tender. Enjoy!

Classic Roast Beef for Beginners

Horseradish and beef go together like chocolate and peanut butter. For a roast that packs a punch, mix ¼-cup hot horseradish with 2 tablespoons cracked black or mixed peppercorns and a tablespoon of coarse salt (but not rock salt). Smear this mixture all over a 3-pound roast and let it get happy for an hour at room temperature.

Heat your oven to 425 degrees F; then pop the roast onto a roasting pan with low sides (don’t cover it) and “oven-sear” it for 10 minutes to seal in the juices. Then, lower the temperature to 275 degrees and cook it until a meat thermometer reads 145 degrees – medium-rare – usually between 70 and 90 minutes.

As you cook the roast, keep an eye on the pan; if the juices are evaporating or burning (which happens when the pan is too big for the roast), then add ½ cup of water. When the roast reaches medium-rare, take it out and let it rest under a loose sheet of foil for at least 10 minutes before carving thinly, against the grain. Now make a simple pan gravy with pan drippings.