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How to choose the right beef or lamb cuts for a roast

Kiwis' love of roast beef and lamb, particularly for lunch on the weekend, is nothing new, in fact, it’s part of our national identity and a source of p[ride for home-cooks and chefs alike. With NZ Roast Day just around the corner, we decided to take a look at some of the best beef and lamb cuts to use for a roast.

Beef cuts

The thing about roasting beef is the enormous variety that you have in cuts. This is a double-edged sword as it means the possibilities (and tastes) are endless, however, with all those options available how do you go about selecting the right cut?

Classic cuts to consider are silverside (7) and topside (6), rump (5), sirloin (4), fillet (3) and beef rib (2). All but the last are for the most part sold boneless. If you’re nervous about carving meat, this may be tempting, but you tend to sacrifice flavour. I personally look to roast on the bone as you end up with a more succulent piece of meat. If you have your heart set on going boneless then you should look at rump, although it’s not often sold as a roasting joint. For a smaller joint, you could do a lot worse than rolled ribeye (1), cut from the centre (or “eye”) of the ribs.

In terms of buying tips, make sure that the beef that you’re buying has ideally been hanging at a low temperature for at least 14 days – dehydration concentrates the flavour and enzymes tenderise the meat.

A good piece of beef will be dry to the touch and smell slightly sweet. Additionally, 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 also be fat, but don’t get hung up on visible marbling – often the fat that adds most flavour is hidden in the fibres of the meat, barely discernible.

Lamb

Shoulder (1) is a good choice for lamb too, alongside rack (2) (pretty much a row of unseparated chops), chump (3) and, of course, leg (4). If you’re looking for a forgiving cut that you can just leave in the oven and not worry too much about, the lamb shoulder is a great option. It’s so easy and there’s no precise timing like there is with a rack of lamb, where it has to be all nice and pink.

Things to look out for at your butcher include matured lamb which should have a slightly darker colour than un-matured lamb. It has good marbling with small creamy-white flecks of fat throughout the muscle. This is critical to the flavour of the meat, as the fat melts during cooking to make the meat juicy and tasty.

So now that you know the perfects cuts of beef and lamb for roasting, it’s on to the fun part - cooking!

We’ve collected some of our favourite roast recipes here as well as some tips for how to roast in the oven. You can also check out our website for our full collection of roast recipes here.

Posted by Shawn Moodie

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