Roast Beef: A Helpful Guide With A Gravy Recipe

When it comes to the Sunday dinning experience a good Beef Roast will always take the centre stage. This is guide covers all you need to know to get a winning consistent cook. Roast beef is a signature national dish of England and holds cultural meaning for the English dating back to the 1731 ballad “The Roast Beef of Old England”.

Generally roast beef is cooked at a high temperature to caramelise the outside, then the temperature is turned down. This method can also be reversed with a lower temperature to start before a blast of heat at the end.

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Tips For Roast Beef

Always allow the meat to get up to room temperature before cooking, drizzle it with a little olive oil and season with ground black pepper, rubbing it over the meat with your hands. Some of the best herbs for beef include: thyme, celery, marjoram, coriander, sage, rosemary, oregano, garlic.

Cooking Temps – If you want to cook your beef rare but don’t have a food thermometer to hand, Either check by piercing it with a skewer. The juices should run red for rare, pink for medium and clear for well-done. Or make a little cut with a knife: it should be bright pink in the middle.  If you prefer medium beef, it just needs to have a pinkish centre. For well-done meat, it should be completely cooked inside and show no signs of pink at all.

A meat thermometer should read 40°C for rare (it will rise to 54-56°C, medium-rare, as it sits), 48°C for medium (it will rise to 65°C).

Fat – don’t be tempted to trim it off as it will baste your meat while it cooks. You can always cut it away when you serve it. If you want the fat to make a crust, then you have to sprinkle or rub it with flour and/or mustard powder to absorb the fat released on the surface.

Resting – It is essential you rest your joint for at least an hour so the juices are re-absorbed. If you carve the beef too soon it will be dry rather than juicy. Some juices will be released as it sits and you can tip these into the gravy.

On or Off the bone

Whether it’s a sirloin joint or rib roast – as the bone both conducts heat and adds flavour. However, this doesn’t suit everyone and some of our most popular recipes are bone-free and much easier to carve. Buy what suits you best.

If cooking beef on the bone then a three-rib roast (about 3kg) will serve about seven to eight people. Calculate roughly 400g per person. If cooking beef off the bone, 1kg will serve four and 1½ kg will serve about six, so 200-300g per person.

Weigh joint of beef to calculate the cooking time. Allow 20 minutes per 450g for medium, 15 minutes per 450g for medium-rare and 10-15 minutes per 450g for rare.

For beef on or off the bone cook it at 240°C/220°C fan/gas 9 for 20 minutes, then turn down to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4 (not forgetting to take this 20 minutes off the timing you have just calculated

Cuts Of Roast Beef

First of all, you’ll need to decide what cut you want. Classic cuts, however, include silver-side, topside, rump, sirloin, fillet and fore rib. All but the last are usually sold boneless. If you’re nervous about carving meat, this may be tempting, but is it best for flavour? You end up with a more succulent piece of meat if you must go boneless.

Buying tips – Don’t buy meat that’s vacuum-packed or cling filmed. Meat sweats. It needs air to stay in prime condition, and to age properly. Beef should hang at a low temperature for at least 14 days. Dehydration concentrates the flavour and enzymes tenderise the meat.

It should be dry to the touch and smell slightly sweet. Unless it has just been cut that second, it should not be bright red. Bright red indicates it’s been kept in an oxygen-free environment. There should be fat, often the fat that adds most flavour is hidden in the fibres of the meat.

More About The Cuts

  • Sirloin – Can be roasted on the bone, but because of its size it is commonly boned and rolled. Enabling the butcher to prepare smaller joints. Sirloin carries less fat than the rib and is very tender, so it is one of the more expensive cuts.
  • Fore ribs – One of the prime roasting cuts because the main lean muscle is nicely marbled. The whole joint is covered with a natural layer of fat. It is usually roasted on the bone. However, it is important to ask your butcher to chine the backbone for you. I.e. saw through the bones to semi-detach the backbone from the ribs. This makes carving easier.
  • Topside, silver-side and top rump – These three prime cuts are all fantastic for roasting. They are very tender and can be carved into large lean slices. However, because the muscles used for these cuts carry less marbling, they are usually sold ‘barded’. This means that thin sheets of fat, are wrapped around the outside of the rolled muscle then tied in place. This will produce a neat, cylindrical joint.
  • Fillet – This lean cut of beef can be roasted in one piece but benefits from the addition of bacon or some ‘barding’ fat. This will stop it drying out during roasting. Used to make the classic dish, beef Wellington.

The Best Beef Gravy

To make the best gravy we need to roast the meat on a trivet. For the trivet, roughly chop the celery and carrots into big chunks, peel and chop the onion into wedges and break up the garlic bulb into cloves.

Cast Iron Trivet
Beef On Veg Ready To Make Gravy
  • ½ a head of celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
  • 1 heaped tablespoon blackberry or blackcurrant jam
  • 125 ml red wine
  • 1 litre organic beef stock


  1. Throw the trivet of vegetables into the tray with the bay and rosemary, jiggling the tray to coat the veg in any juices, then roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes for medium and blushing, or cook to your liking. Baste the beef halfway through and if the veg looks dry, add a splash of water to the tray to stop them from burning.
  2. Remove the beef to a platter, cover with tin foil and leave to rest while you make the gravy.
  3. For the gravy, place the tray on the hob over a medium heat. Sprinkle in the flour, then mash everything with a potato masher, scraping up all the goodness from the base of the tray.
  4. Stir in the jam, then pour over the wine and let it bubble away for a minute or two, before pouring in the stock. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down low and simmer for around 30 minutes, or until thickened and reduced, stirring occasionally.
  5. When the gravy is the consistency of your liking, pour it through a sieve into a pan, pushing all the goodness through with the back of a spoon. Keep warm over a low heat until ready to serve, skimming away any excess fat that comes to the surface, then pour into a gravy boat.

Serving Suggestions

A Classic Roast beef should be served with a good side of roast veg and golden Yorkshire Puddings. Of course you have the amazing gravy recipe above too. All You need to know about the classic beef. Now all that’s left is to get roasting.

Roast Beef Serving Suggestion
Sunday Roast
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