Dry Brined, Herb Infused, Round Roast

(how to take a cheap cut of meat and make it taste like you spent money)

by Kristin Clara

If grass fed organic is not in your budget, I have another option. We purchase from a local farmer so it becomes much more affordable to buy grass fed pasture raised animals, but there are some cuts I’ll still buy from the local grocer. One of them is Top Round Roast. Top Round is muscle meat with very little fat and marbling, so it can be a tougher, drier cut. This makes it less attractive to many people, and hence more affordable for you. Even better….lean cuts are the way to go when you can’t purchase organic. Pesticides and hormones are stored largely in an animal’s fat, so all that marbling that makes for a tender juicy porterhouse is exactly what you don’t want from a factory farmed animal.

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Dry Brine

But I don’t want a tough, dry piece of meat you say. I hear you, there are generally two solutions to the tough and dry dilemma. One is cooking low and slow with lots of moisture, a braise like this will break down connective tissues and turn them into meat butter. Another option, and one I think works better for very lean cuts, is a brine….or in this case what I call a dry brine. The addition of salt, herbs and time works some kind of alchemical magic. The salt draws out the juices which meld with the herbs you’ve added, in time the juices are reabsorbed into the meat bringing the herb flavor with them. Not only do you end up with a juicy roast, you get an herb infused one as well.

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Herbs

I need to talk about herbs for a moment…I love everything about them. They are nature’s way of ensuring you don’t eat bland food. They are easy to grow, easy to store, and can change the flavor profile of anything you put them on. I grow pots of herbs each summer, and when I walk outside to snip their fragrant stems, I feel like I’ve really accomplished something.  I love that my boys know how to identify them based on their aroma…food becomes a living thing at that point… which I find wonderful.

  • Ingredients

    3-4 pound top round roast

    1 tsp salt per each pound of meat (so a 3 pound roast would require 3 tsp of salt)

    ¼ tsp pepper per each pound of meat

    4-5 chopped garlic cloves

    2 TBSP chopped rosemary

    2 TBSP chopped thyme

    1 TBSP chopped parsley

  • Directions

    1. Gather your herbs and garlic and chop them

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    2. Add your salt, pepper, chopped herbs and garlic to a bowl, mix well

    3. Cover the beef with your herb mixture and place the beef in a gallon size ziplock bag. Place in the refrigerator and leave for 24 hours.

    4. After 24 hours, remove the beef from the bag and pat it dry with paper towels.

    5. Heat some ghee in a cast iron skillet…wait for it to get hot and the ghee glistens. Brown the meat on all sides…about two minutes each side.

    6. Once the meat is completely seared, place it on a rack in a roasting pan.

    7. Heat the oven to 225 degrees and follow this guide for desired degrees of doneness.

    Rare to Medium Rare…the internal temperature should be 115 degrees, that’s about 1 ¼  hours for a 2-2 1/2 pound roast. 1 ¾  hour for a 3-4 ½  pound roast.

    Medium…the internal temperature should be 125 degrees, that’s about 1 ¾ hours for a 2-2 ½ pound roast. 2 ¼ hours for a 3-4 ½ pound roast.

Finishing the Roast

Turn your oven off and don’t open the door. Not even a little, not even to peek.

Rare… leave it in the oven with heat turned off another 20-25 minutes.

Medium Rare… leave it in the oven with heat turned off another 30 minutes.

Medium… leave it in the oven with heat turned off another 50 minutes.

Once the roast has reached your desired doneness, remove it from the oven and let it rest 10-15 minutes. Carve thinly against the grain and serve. Leftovers make for amazing  lunch meat.

The dry brine recipe is my own, but cooking times were taken from Cook’s Illustrated. Owning an instant read thermometer is a must for leaner cuts of meat with specific cook times for doneness, but they aren’t expensive and once you’ve used one you’ll wonder how you survived without one.