Slow, low heat

Photo of rare roastbeef

I was at a Halloween party a few weeks ago and found myself chatting with two of my favorite foodie friends. If you aren’t into food, I’m probably a pretty boring guest. Sure I can talk about current events and the weather, but food is what puts a little light in my eyes.

My two friends went on and on about standing rib roasts (with Yorkshire pudding, which is not in the least bit puddingy). Apparently the only special equipment that you need for a standing rib roast is a piece of paper, a marker and some tape so you can make a sign warning people not to open the oven. The degree of your threat is, of course, up to your creative self. You’ll also need an instant read, ovenproof meat thermometer.

I was intrigued, but the part about standing rib roasts being very expensive made me decide to hold off on that experience for a bit. Plus, I figure that I might want to practice with more budget-friendly roasts.

My friend, cookbook writer Brigit Binns, being the meat diva that she is, said that she used to turn her nose up at lesser meat cuts like top-round roasts. She thought that they were cheap, tough and flavorless. It took the guys at the Athens Volunteer firehouse to change her mind. They gave her a simple recipe, which turned a ho-hum top-round into a juicy, delicious piece of meat. The key: slow, low, heat.

I am a roast novice. I’ve never really had good luck cooking them. Sure, I’ve made something edible by throwing a roast into a crock pot, but it was more of a pot roast. I’m just not a pot roast gal. Can’t tell you why, but I’ve never been a fan. I am a big fan of a rare slice of roast beef. That’s what I wanted to cook.

As it so happened, Jimmy Bulich of Pathfinder Beef dropped off our beef order recently, which included a small sirloin tip roast. Cook’s Illustrated considers sirloin tip roast to be the poor man’s prime rib. Works for me!

Since I only buy local, pasture-raised meat, I almost always buy it frozen. It’s just hard to come by any other way. Don’t be afraid of frozen meat. I don’t mind it one bit. The only thing you have to keep in mind is that you have to plan ahead. I usually take out the meat I need for the week and keep it in my fridge. Easy enough.

According to the FDA’s website, there are three safe ways to defrost beef: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave. Never defrost it out on the counter.

To defrost in a refrigerator, place the frozen beef in the refrigerator. Be sure it’s on a plate or pan to catch any liquid. Ground beef and small cuts should defrost within a day. Roasts may take two days or longer, depending on the size. Once the beef has defrosted, it will be safe in the refrigerator for about 3 to 5 days before cooking.

For cold water, be sure the meat is in a leak-proof bag. Submerge the beef in cold water. Change the water about every 30 minutes. Small packages of beef should defrost in an hour or less; a 3- to 4-pound roast may take 2 to 3 hours.

I never use a microwave but if that’s your thing, just hit the defrost button. Plan to cook it immediately after thawing since it will have already started to cook.

I don’t know how I made it this far in my culinary life without knowing how to make such a delicious roast. While this recipe takes a daunting 2 or more hours to cook, it is super easy, and super worth it. It’s perfect for a Sunday night dinner. If you aren’t serving a crowd, you’ll have plenty of leftovers to get you through a few quick, week-night dinners. I plan to make Shepherd’s Pie, beef tacos, and I know my husband is hoping for a roast beef sandwich with lots of horseradish. I image we’ll even have enough left over for a small pot of chili!

Slow Roasted Beef
You’ll need a ovenproof meat thermometer for this. I love my digital probe thermometer. Since I can no longer see through my glass oven door, having the thermometer reader on my stovetop is a big help.

3 pound roast (if larger, cook longer, if smaller, cook less)
salt pork or bacon (optional)
2-3 garlic cloves (optional)


  • Set the roast out. It should be room temperature before it’s cooked.
  • Heat the oven to 450 degrees for at least 30 minutes; you want it nice and hot
  • Liberally salt the roast. If there is a fat-side, place that side up. Mine didn’t really have any fat. If you have some bacon or salt pork on hand, lay slices on the top. You can also make small incisions and insert a garlic cloves slivers.
  • Put in a meat thermometer and roast for 20 minutes. Then turn the oven off and be sure not to open the oven! It will continue to cook. When the temperature gets to130ºF, turn the oven back on to 450º. Cook until the temp is 133 to 140 degrees (stick with the lower end if you like it very rare). For a three-pound roast the total cooking time will be 1 1/2-2 hours.
  • Remove from the oven, cover with foil and let rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.

Participating in Monday Mania.