Grass-Fed Beef: How To Cook Roasts

Cooking A Lean Roast   By Don R

picture of roast beef

Lean roasts can be marinated and slow roasted to improve tenderness.

Having trouble cooking a lean roast? Me too, I’ve heard all the complaints such as: “Too dry,”  “No flavor”, “Fell apart!”. “It was tough.”, and “Took 8 hours to cook.” A friend of mine split a side of pasture-raised beef with me and told me how his wife cooked a shoulder roast. It was juicy, delicious and cooked in a slow cooker. I often use a slow cooker but roasts usually turned out dry and sometimes tough. Why? Simple question, simple answer! 

To cook a perfect roast, the cook needs to realize that roasts cut from the shoulder (chuck)  or rump my be tougher while roasts cut from the hip (loin) and upper ribs may be more tender to start with.

The age of the animal and amount of fat in the muscles (marbling) also affects how juicy and tender the meat will be. You will know this by looking for the grade of beef (US standards) which includes:

  • Prime (highest quality used in upscale restaurants)
  • Choice (High quality but less marbling than prime)
  • Select (the lowest grade usually sold by grocers)
  • Standard and commercial  (older animals used for hamburger)
  • Utility, cutter, canner (the low quality used for canning etc.)

The third thing to consider is how it was finished before harvesting. Commercial feedlot animals usually feed on corn to fatten them up. Grass-fed animals will be leaner and have good natural flavor.

If the meat is tough, you have several options:

  • Marinate the roast before cooking.
  • Inject a meat tenderizer into the meat.
  • Stab the meat with tiny blades.
  • Let the side of beef hang in a cooler to age before cutting.

Now you are ready to decide how to cook your roast. The general rule is dry and fast for tender roasts (rib and loin, prime and choice)  These roasts can be rubbed with spices and cooked uncovered in an oven. Or, they can be broiled or grilled. Chefs I have interviewed mostly prefer cooking on high heat (450 degrees or hotter) for 30 minutes and then turn to 325 until almost done. Remove from oven and let it set before cutting.

For tougher cuts of meat roasts, Wet and slow (for shoulder and rump, select & standard) will make the meat more tender. This takes special care as described below:

  1. We started by placing a 2# tip roast in a freezer bag along with 1/2 C Italian salad dressing to marinate in the fridge for 2 hours.
  2. Cook roasts in a covered pot to retain juices, add flavor, and tenderize the meat.

    Cook roasts in a covered pot to retain juices, add flavor, and tenderize the meat.

    We then sauteed garlic in hot oil in a 5 qt, cast iron pot,

  3. Next we browned the meat in the same pot for 1 min per side.
  4. The next step is important. We removed the meat, placed a steam basket in the pot, & put the meat in the basket,
  5. The pot was covered, set in an oven preheated to 200 degrees F.
  6. The recipe said to cook for 8 hour so I checked and basted the meat after 2 hours. At the 5 hour mark, I checked again and oops the roast was 185 degree, in the middle and done.
  7. I took it out, let set for 5 minutes and carved the roast. 
  8. It was delicious, tender, and moist. Next time I’ll cook it for 4 hours, max and expect to have two simple family meals from the roast.
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About Don R

Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. Retired teacher. Multiple successful business endeavors including screen printing / sporting goods business, executive director of a Boys & Girls Club, commercial fishing, and co-founding an alternative high school. Interests include family, hiking, cooking, Parkinson's research and developing an educational cooking program.