Beef roasts aren’t just for Sunday supper (or the carving station) anymore. With new cuts of beef and bold flavor profiles, that hunk of meat can do a lot on a foodservice menu. While the price of beef has gone up in recent years, there’s no substitute for that medium-rare experience. In fact, it turns out roasts can be a cost-effective way to offer beef on the menu. We asked Dave Zino, executive chef, National Cattleman’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff program, for his advice on making the most of roasts.
For an operator who is doing the purchasing, the cost of beef has been a cause for concern lately. Why has beef become more expensive?
Zino: There are a lot of factors, but the drought of 2012 made it more costly for farmers and ranchers to raise cattle, and many sold their cattle without replenishing their herds. Right now, farmers and ranchers are growing their herds, but it takes 18 to 22 months to go from birth to maturity. I don’t have a crystal ball, but we’ve had good rains and a bumper crop of corn in the Midwest, so things could stabilize soon. The thing is, there is still a really high demand for beef from your customers, the highest it’s been in years. Consumers are willing to pay a premium for the steaks, roasts and burgers.
Are roasts an economic way to put beef on the menu?
Zino: Yes. They do double duty. One day, you could menu a roast at a carving station, and what’s left over, the next day could be sliced thin and used at the sandwich station. You can really stretch a roast. Also, roasts are “hands off” once they are in the oven, and that means a roast requires less labor.
Tell me more about the sub-primal cuts for roasts?
Zino: Ribeye, Top Loin and Top Sirloin can be broken down into roasts, as opposed to going into the grinder. Steaks and roasts will bring more value to operators than ground beef dishes or burgers. Operators can learn more about these cuts at BeefFoodservice.com/Tips
What’s a common mistake people make when cooking a roast?
Zino: You never want to cover it while it’s cooking. You want the outside to get nice and brown and caramelized. And never put water in the pan.
How can you add flavor during the cooking process?
Zino: Rubs—both dry rubs and paste rubs—are a great way to do that. The classic paste rub for a beef roast is cracked black pepper, Dijon mustard, chopped fresh parsley and minced fresh garlic. But beef has such a great, distinctive flavor that you would be fine to just use nothing more than salt and pepper.
It sounds like roasts have a broader appeal than just old fashioned Sunday Suppers.
Zino: Roasts can be menued in an old-school way, but giving them different flavor profiles with rubs can give them a more modern twist. Roasts can be Millennial-friendly.
You mentioned that leftover roasts can become something more. What are some examples?
Zino: Say you’re braising a chuck roast. That opens a lot of possibilities. You can shred it and it could become egg rolls, quesadillas, poutine, a barbecue sandwich, a Philly cheesesteak sandwich, or my favorite, a staple in Chicago: the Italian Beef.
Any tips for the roasting methods?
Zino: Roasting can be a dry heat cooking method (oven or grill-roasting) or a moist heat cooking method (pot roasting or braising). Chuck and round roasts can be dry heat roasted, but aren’t as juicy. Dry heat is better for Rib, Loin and Sirloin roasts because they’re juicy and well marbled.
Shh! Slow-Cooking Secret Ingredients
Add these ingredients to your roast during the slow-cooking process and you’ll boost the umami sky high without imparting any identifiable flavors to the roast (hence the secret).