Beef round is a large and lean meat cut that’s perfect for barbecue cooking. From top round roasts to tenderized steaks, discover how to prepare and cook this delicious beef steak primal cut.
Beef round is a prime beef cut and another name for beef steak. It comes from the ’round’ region of a cow’s body — another name for its rear legs. Depending on how it’s cut, it may or may not include the leg bone (the femur). However, the round cut is always further cut into top round, bottom round, and eye round.
Let’s look into what makes beef round and its various cuts perfect for barbecuing and other slow roasting methods.
What is Beef Round?
Beef round is one of the most popular, yet inexpensive, cuts of beef. It is cut into 1-inch steaks without the bone, making the perfect dinner for those watching their weight since beef round contains very little fat. This non-fatty beef can also be cut into strips or cubes in other recipes.
Since it has little to no fat and comprises only muscle, it has a very smooth and even texture. Such a texture makes it ideal for all kinds of recipes.
There is little-to-no marbling in beef round. While a thin layer of fat covers the muscle, your butcher will remove this before the cut makes it to your store’s shelves. If you check the shelves of your local store, you will be able to spot the difference between other beef steaks and round beef by the absence of marbling in the round beef.
Sometimes though, there can be one or two thin white strips of white fat visible against the purplish-red hue of the muscle, but this is rare. Most of the time, you’ll find beef round steaks as pieces of pure muscle around the size of your palm.
However, as there is almost zero fat content in a beef round, it can be a little tricky to cook. In beef cuts with considerable marbling, i.e., fat content between muscles, the fat dissolves upon cooking and makes the cut juicy and moist.
But in an all-muscle cut such as a beef round, there is no fat to render it moist and juicy while it’s cooking, meaning it can sometimes turn out dry, tough, and chewy when cooked. As it’s often the preferred cut for low-fat recipes, it’s more likely that the cooked beef will end up dry, as reduced-fat recipes use either little or no oils or fats.
Where in the Cow Does Beef Round Come From?
Beef round is one of the eight primal cuts of beef and comes from the steer’s back-end and consists primarily of muscle around the cow’s hind legs and rump. It’s split into three subsections: top round, bottom round, and eye round.
The top round cut of the beef comes from the insides of the two legs of the cow. It is sometimes called the inside round since it comes from the inside portion. While it comprises two different muscles, it still has very little fat or connective.
While still economical, the top round cut can be a little pricier than other round cuts as it’s more tender and easier to cook.
The bottom round cut of the beef comes from the outside portion of the cow’s legs. It is also known as the outside round, and sometimes as rump roast since it is commonly used for roasting. This cut of beef round can be sold on or off the bone, while the other two cuts are always sold bone-off.
If you buy a whole piece of bottom round with bone, you can separate the bone and muscle and use the bone for broth. Since the femur is a large bone, you can make a large potful of broth from it easily. You can then use this broth in a number of stews and soups.
Eye (of) Round
The eye round, or eye of round, cut comes from between the top round and bottom round. The eye round is the leanest cut of the beef round joint, as is just as good served up as eye of round steaks or whole roast joints. When separated from the other two cuts, the eye-round muscle cut looks the cleanest possible beef cut. It only has a thin layer of fat covering it, which can be easily removed.
However, you can also choose to leave the fat layer on the eye round. Eye round is the toughest cut of beef round to cook, and the layer of fat can help make it juicy. But only leave it if you don’t mind the additional calories it brings!
How to Buy Beef Round
Beef round cuts can be sold under a number of different names. However, most cuts labeled as ‘beef steak’ or ’round steak’ refer to the eye round cut of the beef round. A whole piece of eye round is sometimes labeled as ’round beef’ or ’round.’
Bottom round cuts can also be sold as ‘boneless round roast’ or ‘bottom round with bone’ depending on whether it comes with or without the bone, respectively. Whole pieces of the top round are labeled as ‘rump roast,’ while smaller pieces are labeled as ‘rump beef’ or even just’ rump.’ They can be found alongside other beef cuts suitable for barbecuing.
However, if you want to buy meat that’s as fresh as possible, you may prefer to buy your meat from a local butcher rather than a store, where you can never be sure about the freshness of the beef. What’s more, when you go to a butcher, you can often buy your meat in bulk, and you can even ask the butcher to prepare the meat cuts according to the various recipes you want to follow.
How to Cut Beef Round
If you get a whole piece of beef round, you will first need to remove its bone. Since this can be tricky to do, we suggest you will need to remove the layer of fat covering it so you can then separate its subsections into individual pieces. The layer of fat can be easily removed with a sharp, thin knife. If there’s any excess fat on the sides of the beef, you can remove that, too.
Once you’ve removed all the fat surrounding the muscle, you will be able to see the separation between the top round and bottom round — and the eye round between the two. The subsections will be separated by fat pockets. It will be easy to distinguish these fat pockets from the other subsections since there will be hardly any fat in the muscle.
Once you have separated the top round, bottom round, and eye round by removing the aforementioned fat pockets, you can then start to cut up your meat. All the different subsections of the beef round can be used as cheap steak options. If you want steaks, just cut one-inch-thick portions of top round and eye round. You can also cut a wide portion of either to use in barbecue roast recipes, or cut the beef round into cubes for use in stews.
The bottom round is best reserved for beef strips. All subsections can be ground to be cooked as beef mince or burger patties. However, don’t forget to add a bit of the fat you removed from the ground beef round to make the mince or burger patties juicy and flavorful.
While cutting the beef steaks, cubes, or strips, always cut against the grain. Cutting along the grain can make the beef pieces look rather lumpy, and can also make the beef pieces fall apart — even if they’ve only been slightly overcooked.
Beef Round Substitutes
Beef chuck can be an easy substitute for beef round as all the cuts of beef round can be tricky to cook and tend to become chewy and tough after cooking. However, beef chuck contains a much higher fat percentage than beef round.
If you want to use beef chuck in place of beef round, remove all that fat. On the other hand, beef chuck can make a juicier substitute for beef round if you are following a specific recipe but are struggling to keep the meat moist.
How to Barbecue Smoke Beef Round
Smoking is the best way to cook any subsection of beef round. As beef round has little fat, the slow and low smoking method is ideal for keeping it juicy and tender.
To smoke beef round, preheat the smoking grill to a temperature of 225°F for 15 minutes before placing the piece of meat inside. Keep the temperature constant throughout. A general rule of thumb is to give each pound of beef 30–40 minutes’ smoking time.
Hence, smoking a four-pound piece of beef round will take anywhere between two hours and two-and-a-half hours. The internal temperature of the meat should reach 130°F by this time.
Our smoked top round recipe uses just a simple dry rub and calls for smoking over oak wood for approximately 5 hours until the internal temperature is 130°F and the beef is cooked medium-rare.
For our smoked bottom round roast, we use a cayenne pepper and paprika rub before smoking our 2-pound beef to medium-rare (about 2 hours).
While beef round can be used to make a number of dishes, it’s most suited to barbecue recipes. Grilled or roasted beef round can be served with roasted or grilled vegetables. It also pairs well with mashed potatoes, puddings, or gravies.
Cubes and strips of beef round can be cooked in a variety of ways, too. Strips can be used in noodle or rice recipes, while cubes can be used for soups and stews. You can also enjoy ground or minced beef round in noodle dishes or pies.
Another popular way of enjoying beef round steak is by cooking it using the reverse sear method. As the name of this method suggests, a thick-cut steak is cooked and then seared. To do this, place a seasoned steak on a wire rack in a low-heat oven. Once the steak temperature reaches 15°F below the required temperature, take it out and sear it on a hot grill or skillet. Then enjoy!