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Jan 4, 2009 03:08 PM

rescue a tough roast?

I bought a rump roast yesterday, with the intention of making a pot roast. However, after looking around for cooking instructions, I came to understand that meats graded choice or prime should not be braised because they become mushy. They should, rather, be roasted.

So I roasted my roast (labeled choice) at 325 for a little under two hours, adding vegetables and hot liquid along the way. I pulled the roast when the insta-read hit 140 and left it to sit tented for 20 minutes.

The results were horrible - almost every bite contained sinews of fat that were at best a chore, at worst impenetrable.

Question 1 - a) did I screw this up, b) was I misinformed about the appropriate cooking method, c) was I mislead about the grade of the meat, or d) other?

Question 2 - can I do anything to rescue this roast? Like braising it for a few hours on the lowest temperature on my electric stove? (I should note that it is now in approximately 3/8 inch slices)


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  1. Yep, I think you were misinformed. Although you might find a prime cut of rump roast that will roast pretty nicely, anything less IMO, isn't worth roasting. Braising is the best method, I believe, for cooking a rump roast.
    I think you can rescue the remaining left-overs. I'd go through it and cut out as much of the objectionable elements of gristle etc. and cut it up into thin strips or, if necessary, bite size pieces before submitting it to a braise and, perhaps, use it in a stroganoff or something similar. You could also braise it and prepare a nice biscuit and gravy breakfast or use it over mashed potatoes.

    1. I don't know what you can do to rescue the meat now aside from todao's suggestions, but in the future, you may want to try the following recipe (which worked brilliantly for me):
      (the only modification was leaving the oven at 200F instead of off; used on a marinated rump roast)

      1. fwiw, this (the #3 listing when Googling "rump roast") is where I read that I COULD roast a choice grade rump roast

        and this (the #4 listing when Googling "rump roast") is where I read that you SHOULD NOT braise a choice grade rump roast

        the latter, especially, is why I question whether or not I did something wrong.

        todao - thanks for providing hope. ending up with a stroganoff, or serving over mashed potatoes is not in the least objectionable.

        Caralien - why does your recipe emphatically state not to add water? and with what, and for how long, did you marinate the rump roast?

        12 Replies
        1. re: coolgeek

          I read your link and didn't see any mention of NOT braising a choice grade rump roast. What it says is "If your roast is rated "prime" or "choice," you can roast it ..." Meats are graded, for the most part, based upon the age of the animal and the degree of marbling in the meat. A well marbled rump roast that is full of gristle and other unpleasantness may be graded as "choice" but it won't be a pleasure to chew. I just noticed a portion of your original post referring to adding liquid along the way. Liquid generates steam and steam toughens meat - that may have been a factor. If you want to try it again, using the same method, try cooking longer at a lower temperature - essentially an oven braise. That might help produce a better outcome.

          1. re: todao

            Until the recipe Caralien posted, I had never seen a recipe that proscribed the addition of liquid when roasting meats. I did so because the pan would get so hot that the fluids seeping from the meat would evaporate, burn and smoke during roasting.

            Furthermore, I've had much success adding water to the pan when roasting pork loin

            wrt NOT braising, from the second link:

            "This method should not be used with choice or prime grades of beef, or the more tender cuts, as slow cooking more delicate cuts will make them mushy."

            1. re: coolgeek

              ~~"the pan would get so hot that the fluids seeping from the meat would evaporate, burn and smoke during roasting"~~

              Sounds like your oven thermostat is off, too. At 325F, some of the drippings will definitely evaporate, but they shouldn't burn or smoke. In fact, it's pretty hard to get smoke until you get up around 425F. I'd recommend a cheap oven thermometer to verify the temperature of your oven while roasting.

              The language you quote from the second link is advising against slow roasting; it doesn't say anything about braising. And it's just wrong.

              Maybe a short primer is in order. If I'm being too pedantic, just ignore this.

              Roasting = dry heat. It can be high heat, low heat, or a combination of the two, but no moisture is added. Braising = searing followed by long cooking with low, moist heat. Think stew. Or pot roast.

              As far as cuts of meat go, you have three things to consider: fat content, tenderness, and amount of connective tissue. USDA grading relates only to intramuscular fat. Prime beef has more marbling than Choice, which has more than Select, etc.

              Tenderness will vary from animal to animal, but the general rule is that muscles that get exercise will be tougher than muscles that don't. And while tenderness may correlate loosely with USDA grade (animals that get more exercise tend to be leaner), the correlation isn't direct. But on any given animal, muscles that get more work (chuck, brisket, rump, etc.) will be tougher than muscles that don't have to work as hard (rib, sirloin, tenderloin, etc.) The rule of thumb is that the further from the head and the hoof, the tenderer the meat.

              Presence of connective tissue (aka gristle) is easily confused with lack of tenderness. But tenderness refers to the **muscle's** resistance to breaking; connective tissue isn't muscle, but stuff like tendons and ligaments (which are also very resistent to breaking). A cut of meat can be fairly tender but shot through with gristle, or it can be an individual muscle, completely devoid of connective tissue, and still be very tough.


              Braising works well when the meat has a lot of connective tissue. After an hour or so at an internal temperature of 160F, the collagen in the connective tissue dissolves into the liquid, making gelatin, which produces an unctuous mouthfeel even in the absence of fat. Chuck and brisket have tons of connective tissue, and are ideal for braising. The rump has some, so it will braise reasonably well.

              But braising a cut of meat that has no gristle - even if it's a tough cut - will tend to lead to dried-out meat. So things like flank, skirt, and eye of round should be cooked with dry heat, even though they're tough. The way to deal with the toughness is to slice the meat very thin against the grain.

              Of course, cuts that are tender and have minimal connective tissue are ideal for dry-heat methods, and will produce delicious steaks and roasts. But they come at a premium price.

              Bringin' it home, now...

              The rump is a fairly tough cut of meat with some connective tissue. So roasting it isn't a bad move, but you need to slice it paper-thin. Braising is also an option, although you won't end up with as much gelatin as if you'd cooked a chuck roast. Since you've already got 3/8" thick slices, your best bet is either to chop them up fine or braise them. Given your comment about the amount of gristle, I'd lean toward braising.

              Good luck!

              (Can you tell I'm avoiding work I need to do this morning?)

              1. re: alanbarnes

                Thank you, alan!

                I am truly not worthy ...

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  I want to grow up to be Alton Brown. ;-)

                  1. re: alanbarnes

                    I think Alton Brown wants to grow up to be ... you!

                2. re: alanbarnes

                  That was a good overview - much of which I knew on paper (cooking methods, cuts and tenderness), but have yet to translate practically. So the second half of the post should prove helpful in the future.

                  (And you're right about the oven thermometer... something else I've known, but ignored.)

                  That was clearly my misreading of the Cooking site. I was going back and forth on whether I was going to roast or pot roast the rump. And the divergence in cuts/cooking times/temps I saw on multiple sites (as well as in books I have here at home) served to blur my reading. With the probably incorrect oven thermostat, and the steaming from the added liquid, I was probably screwed from the beginning. But hey, as noted below, I did let the meat sit for an hour before roasting, and I did position it fat side up. So it could, theoretically, have been worse.

                  Those 3/8 inch slabs have been cut across the grain and have been submerged in onion soup on the lowest setting of the stovetop for 3-1/2 hours. I'm going to check it in about an hour

                    1. re: alanbarnes

                      so the lowest setting didn't seem to be enough. It was at 115 after 4 hours. I kicked it up to the next setting, 2, and it's up to 150 on the insta-read. I'm shooting for 160 for an hour

                      this seems to be the kind of experiment/lesson that would benefit more from whiskey than wine

                  1. re: alanbarnes

                    Absolutely right. Next time slice paper thin, serve with hot rice and Asian dipping sauces of choice.

              2. re: coolgeek

                I marinated the roast overnight because it was too late to cook it for dinner that evening. Since 1/2C was to be added to mince, I only used cider vinagre, grated ginger, black pepper, and sea salt.

                My guess is the reason for not adding water or covering, is to prevent the meat from steaming, which might give it a liver-like flavour (not true with pork or poultry).

                I have been an abject failure at braising, and prefer slow oven roasting or fast broiling after a sear because for me they're fail-proof.

                1. re: Caralien

                  BTW: I've made this twice over the past 2 months, and my husband's comment after his third serving was "if you keep making this, I'll soon lose all interest in going to steakhouses"

              3. The rump can be roasted, but it tends to be tough. Even prime cattle walk around, and when they do they use their hind legs. So that muscle gets a fair amount of work and it will never be particularly tender. The best way to deal with the toughness is to slice the meat paper-thin.

                The other alternative is to cook the toughness out with a braise. Low, moist heat will dissolve that connective tissue. Cook it long enough and you'll be able to eat it with a spoon.

                I'd recommend just treating the initial roasting as the browning phase of a braise. Put the meat in a pot with some liquid and simmer it for a couple of hours and you'll be good to go.

                1. After reading your subsequent post: you
                  had bad luck. You found
                  bad.bad. bad. very bad web sites.
                  Do not revisit.

                  Probably the best site is,
                  highly recommended by food writers I know.
                  The Food Network is also reliable, but slow to
                  download. Other good sites seem to
                  be and Though
                  I will not personally guarantee every recipe.

                  Quick and easy course on beef : cuts
                  from the loin and rib are suitable for
                  dry roasting and steak. Just about all the
                  rest will need braising, i.e, slow cooking in liquid.
                  Unless it's a small piece of meat,
                  think a minimum of 3 hours. For beef info,
                  check out Beeitswhatsfordinner,
                  the Beef Council web site.

                  Those who say to use a meat thermometer
                  for braising are, I believe ... way off base .

                  Here's how to tell when it's ready
                  to serve: stick a fork in it and raise
                  straight up, If the meat accompanies the
                  fork, it needs more cooking.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: mpalmer6c

                    I especially like the second link's claim that slow roasting "should not be used with choice or prime grades of beef, or the more tender cuts" because it will "make them mushy."


                    Clearly this person knows NOTHING about cooking beef.

                    1. re: mpalmer6c

                      "cuts from the loin and rib are suitable for dry roasting and steak. Just about all the rest will need braising"

                      sounds like advice to live by. thanks to you, and alanbarnes also

                      1. re: coolgeek

                        Looks to me as though you've got enough information at this point to be successful next time. One last point about grading meat. alanbarnes probably said it best, and his words brought the reality of grading of meats to my frontal lobe. USDA grading is done by inspecting an entire carcass, not individual cuts of meat. Therefore, an animal may rate as "choice" while hanging in the meat locker when portions of it are something closer to select, or worse.