How to cook a tender Top of the Round Roast using the pre-salt method.

Today we’re going to share a technique for cooking a tender Top of the Round Roast!

The top of the round is cut from the hind quarter of a steer, and it’s a very affordable cut of beef to buy at your local grocery store. Because it’s essentially muscle meat, a top round roast is lean and very flavorful, but it lacks fat and marbleizing throughout – so it can be tougher, and not as juicy as roasts made from more expensive cuts of beef.

Top of the round roasts are often cooked at home as pot roasts where they get tender during a braising process. (Top of the round roasts are also the cut of beef that is typically sold as pre-cooked roast beef at your supermarket deli counter!)

But today, we’re sharing an alternative method – called the pre-salt method – that also makes this kind of roast more tender after cooking. Pre-salting involves coating the beef in salt, herbs and spices (almost like a dry rub) and then placing the beef in a sealed plastic food bag for 24 hours before cooking.

Top of the Round Roast - A Family Feast

Pre-salting 24 full hours in advance does two things: It breaks the sinew of the meat down a little. And – it adds flavor to the inside of the meat.

The magic in this technique is achieved with the salt. The salt draws the liquid from the roast, grabs the flavors you have added (herbs and other seasonings) and then sends all of that flavor back into the meat. As it sits for the full 24 hours in the plastic food bag, you can watch the juices come out – but when you look at the top round roast after the 24 hours – there will be little, if any, liquid left in the bag. That is because the juices all went back into the meat.

How to cook a tender Top of the Round Roast using the pre-salt method.

This pre-salt method can actually be used on any meat, but not on fish. There is a slightly different method (we do not cover that in today’s post) that is used for a steak where less time is needed, but the general idea is the same.

If you decide to follow our recipe, please note that we don’t want to mislead you into thinking that your top round roast will be as tender and juicy as a more expensive rib eye roast – it simply won’t be the same as that! But for an inexpensive cut of beef like Top of the Round, this method works pretty well to make it tender for eating.

Also – below our recipe, we’ve shared some suggestions on cutting and slicing this roast. Be sure to read that as well!

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Top of the Round Roast - A Family Feast

Top of the Round Roast

  • Prep Time: 24 hours
  • Cook Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 26 hours
  • Yield: 6-8 servings

Description

Please note: This recipe gives you proportions of salt, herbs and spices to use based on each pound of beef. Depending on the size of roast you purchase, calculate the exact amounts needed using our recipe below.


Ingredients

  • 1 Top of the Round roast, about 34 pounds
  • ¾ teaspoon of kosher salt per pound of beef
  • ¼ teaspoon of freshly ground pepper per pound of beef
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder per pound of beef
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh herbs per pound of beef (any combination of fresh thyme, parsley and rosemary)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions

  1. Mix herbs and spices and coat beef. Place beef in gallon zipper seal bag 24 hours prior to cooking. (So if you want it for dinner tomorrow at 6:00 PM, it needs to go into the bag today at 2:00 PM to allow for 2 hours to come to room temperature and 2 hours cooking time.) If you remove it sooner than 24 hours, some of the liquid that the beef gives up in this process will not have worked its way back into the meat and it will roast up dry.
  2. Refrigerate and after 24 hours, and two hours before serving preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
  3. Four hours before serving, remove the beef from the bag and pat dry with paper towels. The only liquid should be just a little surface moisture.
  4. Let roast come up to room temperature, about 1-2 hours.
  5. Heat a cast iron skillet to smoking hot and add olive oil. When the oil is shimmering and hot, add beef and sear on all sides, top and bottom for about 2 minutes on each side. Have a sheet pan or roasting pan ready with an oven proof rack in it.
  6. Once the meat is completely seared, place on rack in pan, if using, insert remote meat thermometer into the thickest part of the roast and place in oven. (Our roast was 3.3 pounds and took exactly 95 minutes to get to 135 degrees for medium rare.) After it is removed from oven and sits, it will cook to 145 degrees so removing at 135 is the perfect temperature. If you are not using a remote thermometer, test for doneness with probe thermometer at the 90 minute mark.
  7. The bits left in the cast iron skillet should be discarded. The searing process sears the meat but burns the herbs so what is left in the skillet after searing is not usable for gravy. However what drips onto the bottom of the sheet pan or roasting pan after it comes out of the oven is usable. See below for a simple gravy.
  8. After the roast comes out, leave thermometer inserted and tent the roast with foil. Let rest for 15 minutes. Make gravy (if desired) while the meat rests.
  9. After it rests, slice on an angle against the grain and serve. Some more liquid will drip as you slice. Add that liquid to your homemade gravy (see notes below for gravy guidelines.)

Notes

Some more notes from Jack on Top of the Round cuts:

Usually the roast is cut with two sections of beef connected by connecting tissue – a large cut and a smaller piece. The smaller piece has grain that runs in the opposite direction of the larger piece so when I carve a roast like this, I run a boning knife between the two pieces after the roast comes out of the oven and rests, and I completely separate them. Then I turn and carve each piece against the grain.

If you really want to take this to the next level and have the entire roast cook at the same doneness, you could separate these two pieces prior to roasting and pull the smaller piece out of the oven before the larger one. I have done this before if I know everyone likes the same doneness, however leaving them connected gives you medium rare from the larger piece and medium from the smaller piece for those who don’t like it too rare.

Gravy Guidelines:

For every four ounces of fat, add four ounces of flour and that will thicken one quart of liquid. This will work for any sauce using chicken stock, beef stock or milk. Reduce or add proportionally to your needs.

To make a simple gravy, in a two quart sauce pan, melt four ounces of butter and add four ounces of flour and cook over medium low heat for about five minutes until the raw flour smell is gone. Stir this often with a wooden spoon while it cooks. This is called a roux and should smell like cooked chestnuts when done. The longer you cook the roux, the darker the sauce will be. For a white sauce, cook it three minutes, for a darker gravy like for this beef, cook five minutes.

Pour off any juices from the sheet pan into another two quart sauce pan and add water or canned stock to equal one quart total liquid (half the two quart pan). Heat stock to almost boiling.

One third at a time, add hot stock to hot roux, whipping after each addition with a wire whisk. The first one will make a thick paste, the second will thin it out a bit and the third will be perfect pan gravy. Both the roux and the liquid need to be hot to avoid lumping. Adding it one third at a time will also eliminate lumping.

Season the gravy to your taste with salt, pepper or chopped parsley. If using canned stock added to pan drippings, you may want to taste first before adding salt. Let the sauce stay on low while you slice the meat. Then serve both to your guests or family.

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    Comments

  • Summer Bustin wrote:

    Ok I’ll try that! Great idea to try both methods! I’ll let you know how it turns out! Thank you again 🙂

    • Jack wrote:

      You are welcome.

  • Summer Bustin wrote:

    Thank you so much for your reply! I really appreciate the advice and tips. I definitely use an accurate thermapen as well as a leave in remote thermometer and temp everything … I know that’s key in final outcome. I think that’s a great idea to test out the chuck roll … as far as cooking it would you recommend rightly covering with foil and broth and braising or the same dry roast method as the top round? Also how do I know when it’s done and tender (I understand medium rare is out the door for that option) is there a target temp to reach? I’ve only used chuck before for fall apart pot roast and I want a finished product that’s sliceable. As far as the roasters on the counter – I know people use them to roast 20lb turkeys all the time … I did roast top round about a year ago for an event (2 20lbers in each roaster and 1 20lber in the oven) … the meat turned out a little above average for my expectations being a bit tough despite not being over cooked and trying to slice against the grain was a nightmare I believe due to the two or three different muscle groups running different ways in that large a roast … I’m hoping with your 24 hour presalting method and separating the cap after cooking like you mentioned in another comment to make slicing against the grain more manageable will take it from average to stellar! What do you think? Again … thank you for your time!

    • Jack wrote:

      Happy to help. Any time I have ever used chuck, I have used it for stews, soups, pulled meats, pot roast, etc. so cooking for a long length of time in my opinion is the only way to get this tasty but tough meat tender. Try this, buy a chuck roll and cut off one quarter of it (assume it will be log shaped). Cook the bigger portion like you would any pot roast with foil and broth as you describe. But separately, follow the top round directions for the smaller piece and cook it to medium rare. Let it rest then slice it and see how tender it is. We know the flavor will be there, just not convinced it will slice up tender at medium rare. We may both be surprised, in which case I’ll eat my words.

      Interested to see the results. Don’t be afraid to communicate back, this is what we are here for.

  • Summer Bustin wrote:

    Hi I’m cooking roast beef for 600 people in April and due to the shear quantity will probably have to cook 20lb pieces of top round at a time in my oven and in my counter top roasters (like the ones you roast a turkey in) … my questions are do roasters with a rack on the bottom cook more like an oven or a crockpot? Would you lower the temp being such a large piece of beef? And also a butcher I talked to at Sam’s Club suggested using the 20lb chuck roll due to the better marbling and assured me it wouldn’t fall apart like pot roast if roasted whole in the 20lb and would be sliceable. I really want this meal to turn out excellent and would appreciate any tips or advice you have! Thank you!

    • Jack wrote:

      First, a chuck roll is from a different part of the steer and must be cooked longer to get tender. Any hopes of medium rare would be out the window. A top round is the same cut of meat that you find in the deli at your local supermarket. If cooked properly, I can be incredibly tasty and does not have to be over cooked to be tender. However if it was me, I would buy a small chuck roll and test it to see if you like it before committing to buying enough for 600. The time to roast a 20 pound top round will obviously be longer than the 3-4 pound roast in our recipe because of the mass of the roast. It will take longer for the center to reach proper temperature. Suggest you roast one in advance to get your timing right, making sure you use a probe thermometer to get it fully cooked. Then you can base that timing on the rest. The oven question would be moot, as the internal temperature will dictate cooking time, however the general rule is that if the roast has enough room for the heat to circulate, it should cook the same, regardless of the oven. If you are trying to jam a 20 pound roast into a small counter top oven, it may take longer and may not cook evenly if the heat can’t properly circulate. Assume this is not the main event? If it is the main event, you are talking about somewhere between 100 and 150 pounds of beef for each person to get a four ounce portion. Can’t image cooking that much meat in a home oven and have it all be roasted properly. Either way, wish you luck!!!

  • Kathleen Marks wrote:

    Thanks for the delicious sounding recipe. I plan to make it tomorrow. BUT the only fresh herb I have is rosemary. Do you think dried thyme would be okay?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Kathleen – Yes – dried thyme will still work. Typically, you would use half the amount of dried as fresh.

  • Glenda wrote:

    Question: my top round is frozen. If I thaw for 24 hours and then follow this recipe (seasoning in bag for 24 hours), will ther recipe turn out okay? Or does the meat need to brew fresh?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Glenda – You do ideally want the meat to be thawed before you begin the salting process. You could try speeding up the thawing my process a bit by placing the meat in a seal plastic bag and running tepid water over it (but not hot water). Hope that helps.

  • TP wrote:

    This came out pretty good. I made this on a weekday so didn’t have time to let the marinade sit for 24 hours. I marinade the roast at 10pm at night, then put it in the oven at 6:30pm the next day after sitting at room temperature for 1 hr. My roast was almost 4 lbs so it was in the oven for about 2 hrs for medium rare. The roast still comes out juicy and tender. It is slightly salty on the outside when eating only the outer crust of the meat but balance well with the middle part of the meat when eaten as a whole. Hubby loves it. I will definitely make this again, but next time will let it sit for a full 24hrs to see if it makes any difference. Thank you for the recipe!

    • Martha wrote:

      Glad you liked it TP!

  • Melody wrote:

    Thank you for this recipe. I’ll be making it as a “side” to the Thanksgiving Turkey. I have a 5 lb roast. Based on your time I’ll try 2 hours but will be using a probe type thermometer so it will let me know when it hits 135. I’ll post after Thanksgiving with my rating. Y question is can this marinate for 48 hours?

    • Jack wrote:

      Hi Melody, this is Jack. You can over marinate beef. Basically it breaks down the muscle to the point that the texture will not be the same. That said, this should not be a problem for this particular recipe because there is no acid in the marinade. So the short answer is, although I have never tried it, marinating 48 hours should not be an issue.
      Good luck and Happy Thanksgiving.
      Jack

  • Cathy wrote:

    I only have 9 hours to marinate the roast. Is it worth it to even try to get the same results or is this just too short a time?

    • Jack wrote:

      It is possible that in nine hours, the meat will give up the liquid and then pull it back in with the spices, but also possible it won’t. Not the answer you were looking for I know. After nine hours if you pull it out of the bag and the bag is full of liquid, the roast will cook up dry. If it pulled the liquid back in and there is no liquid left in the bag, then you are good. You will need to decide to take the chance or not. Wish I had a better answer but this is food science and it does what it does.
      Happy Thanksgiving
      Jack

  • Theresa Szczesny wrote:

    So you actually can make top round roast out of pot roast

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Theresa – We actually recommend using a chuck roast for a pot roast recipe as it has more fat and yields a softer texture and more flavor. You could use a top or bottom round cut and cook it like a pot roast, but it won’t be the same as using chuck. Hope that helps!

  • Ginny wrote:

    I am about to make this recipe for guests…eegad! I’m not sure what you consider med. rare. I want to be sure we have it red. I read somewhere that 120 degrees is rare. Should I take the meat out of the oven at less than that to be sure it is rare? If so, what temperature do you suggest? It’s a 6lb eye round.

    • Jack wrote:

      The general consensus is that medium rare is between 135 and 145 degrees F. In order to achieve that, it needs to come out of the oven about 15 degrees sooner. I like rare to medium rare and usually pull mine at 120 degrees F, then let it sit for 15-20 minutes loosely tented with foil. One suggestion is that you roast it with a thermometer probe inserted from the end through the center attached to a readout with the alarm set for 120 degrees F. When you remove the roast from the oven, leave the probe in until after it rests. If you pull it right out, the juices will flow out of the hole like a faucet. For a six pound eye of the round, at a low cooking temperature, it will take 2-3 hours, maybe longer, maybe less. Since I don’t know your oven and you didn’t mention the cooking temperature, I can’t predict the exact cooking time. By the way, make sure the roast is at room temperature before roasting. Good luck, Jack.
      P.S., If you make a loose fist and press down on the pad below your thumb, that is what the roast should feel like when poked for rare to medium rare. Make a tight fist and that is how it should feel for medium to well.

  • Maybelle wrote:

    OMG we could not stop eating this!
    I had bought a top round roast on sale but I had no idea how to cook it. I found your recipe on Pinterest. I had never used this salted method before but I decided to try it. My husband helped out and salted the meat, wrapped it up and put it in the refrigerator. I didn’t notice until the morning that he never put the other seasoning on it. So, I unwrapped it, added the other seasonings( all dry because I didn’t have any fresh on hand) and wrapped it back up. My roast was just under 3 lbs. and I cooked it just under 1 1/2 hrs. However, some of my family likes it done a little more, so it wound up perfect for everyone. I was still snacking on it as I was pack up the leftovers.
    Thank you for a great recipe and very clear instructions. I was nervous having never made this before but it was awesome!

    Can I use this method for other cuts of roasts? Eye of round roast? Bottom round roast?

    Thanks

    • Jack wrote:

      Hi, this is Jack. You can use this method on any cut of beef that usually cooks up tough. Eye, bottom and top round roasts are perfect for this.
      Good luck.

  • Jeremy Sneed wrote:

    This is one of the best recipes I have ever made. Thank you so much for the clear detailed instructions. Turned out PERFECT! Now I want to check out the other recipes on the site 🙂

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Jeremy! So glad you enjoyed the recipe!

  • Stevie wrote:

    Generally when cooking any beef i always let it sit to room temperature so the meat does not tighten. I have made many roasts and wanted to give this one a try. You don’t say in the instructions about if you take the beef straight from fridge to oven. Do you also let this sit to room temp before cooking.

    • Jack wrote:

      Fantastic question. I’m mad at myself for not thinking of this. You are 100% correct and I am going in and editing the recipe to include this step. Yes, let the roast come to room temperature, about 1-2 hours depending on the size. Great catch.

  • Vera wrote:

    I have been cooking for 40+ years and this is the first time I cooked a Top of the Round Roast outside of a crockpot. My roast was 2.89 pounds and I followed the recipe exactly. I checked it after 90 minutes as suggested with my Thermapen, and at the thickest part of the roast it was shockingly at 154 degrees and 172 at the thin end. I immediately pulled it from the oven, let it rest for 10 minutes, and as I expected, it was sadly well done. It was salvaged by dousing it in lots of gravy. It was flavorful thanks to the 24 hour marinading – which I recommend. I will try again and make sure to check it after 60 minutes because I like my roast medium rare. I also know that my oven is properly calibrated and that it was cooking no higher than 325. I am sure this will be fantastic if cooked to medium rare. If at first you don’t succeed, try try again!

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks for sharing your experience Vera! I’m sorry our general timing didn’t match up with yours – sometimes we are surprised ourselves when things cook faster than anticipated. We do recommend using a probe thermometer that stays inserted in the roast as it bakes (vs instant read thermometers like the Thermapen, although Thermapens are awesome tools too!) – the probe thermometer will alarm once the inside reaches the desired temperature, which can help prevent over baking when something cooks faster than expected. I hope you’ll give the recipe another try!

  • Mary Smith wrote:

    If you roasted the beef in the oven bag after the presalt, would it be even tastier?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Mary – Would you believe that neither Jack nor I have ever used oven bags for roasting? So we can’t say for sure…but we think it would work from what we’ve read about the bags. Please let us know how it works out if you try it!

      • Mary Smith wrote:

        Flavour of roast was delicious and tender, but a bit dry, even when cooked in an oven bag to medium. I served with the juices that collected in the bag during roasting. The roast was topside cut, small and very lean – just over a kilogram (2.4 lb) and this may be why it was not as moist as I would have liked. Definitely will make this again.

        • Martha wrote:

          Thanks for letting us know that the oven bag works Mary! (Yes – this is a very lean cut of beef!)

  • Anne wrote:

    Tried this recipe today for New Year’s Day dinner. I don’t often cook roasts – my husband is Italian as are most of my recipes lol. But our son doesn’t tolerate the red sauce well, and as an Irish girl – I love a good roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy so thought I’d try this. It was very tasty, could have cooked it a little bit longer (maybe 10 minutes or so) and my husband thought it was very salty. But I see in other comments the I should have used Kosher salt – I believe this would have toned down the salt taste – correct? I’ll def be having this again – alternating with my Sunday sauce, meatballs and sausage; lasagna; eggplant; etc. 🙂 Thanks for the recipe!

    • Jack wrote:

      Ah, good one. Yes, Kosher salt. I will go in and correct the recipe now.

  • Patti wrote:

    How long would you suggest for a 5 1/2lb roast?

    • Jack wrote:

      Hi Patti

      It depends on the shape. If a 3 pound roast and a 5 pound roast are 6″ thick at the thickest part, they will take the same amount of time. However if the 5 pound roast is thicker than a 3 pound roast, it will take longer because the heat needs more time to penetrate to that thickets part. Always cook to the correct internal temperature by inserting a probe into the thickest part. In your case, I’m guessing that your roast is probably thicker than the one we roasted in the recipe so I would guess that it would take an extra 30-40 minutes. Again since I can’t see exactly how thick your roast is compared to ours, i’m taking a guess but it’s probably pretty close.

      Good luck
      Jack

      • Patti wrote:

        It was delicious! We raise our own meat, so this grass fed round roast along with your recipe and cooking tips was spot on! Thank you!

  • Sue p wrote:

    Can you keep roast in the marinate bag for longer than 24 hours. Up to two days? Just wondering

    • Jack wrote:

      I wouldn’t. I tried this once and it just didn’t roast right. I’m not sure what chemical reaction goes on but leaving it in longer just makes the meat funky. I looked through a few cook books and they all say “up to 24 hours” but don’t really say why. So simple answer is no, I wouldn’t let it go for more than 24 hours.
      Good Luck!
      Jack

  • Joanne wrote:

    My husband and I are cooking 80 pounds of bottom round cut in 10 pound pieces. Any suggestions?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Joanne – I just shared your question with Jack. He said that the process would be exactly the same and you’ll want the same internal temperature at the end of the roasting. However, the cooking time will be longer for such a large roast and if you are cooking more than one roast in the oven – just plan accordingly. Good luck!

  • Sandra wrote:

    I have not tried this yet. It looks luscious!!! My question is: can it be cooked in a slow cooker instead of the oven after searing?

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Sandra – Slow cooking is totally different…you won’t see the same results or texture of the meat. Sorry!

      • Cecil wrote:

        Sandra….im thinking of doing this in my Weber kettle grill. I can hold the 325 F pretty steady for the required time. Do you see and issues with this cooking method??

        • Martha wrote:

          If you can hold an even temperature Cecil – it might work! Please let us know how it comes out!

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