Notes on the perfect roast beef

Christmas Dinner

I made roast beef for dinner. I also made pan-roasted duck which you can find the recipe here.

I’ve written a lot about roasting beef but this is the latest of what I’ve learnt and it seems to yield consistent results so far. This is not really a step-by-step recipe but notes, mostly for myself, on how to get the perfect roast beef consistently.

Christmas Dinner

Basically, there are 3 steps to roasting beef: Browning the beef, oven-roasting and resting the meat. Here are my notes for all 3 steps.

The most important tool you need for this is a meat thermometer, preferably an digital one because it reads the temperature quickly. This is key to getting consistent results.

Christmas Dinner

When I brown all sides, I really brown all sides

Browning the beef

If you don’t brown the beef, you’ll get a grey, insipid roast. Browning the beef starts the Maillard Reaction which gives, simplistically, your beef a pleasant brown color and more importantly, more flavor.

To get that going you need high heat. Therein lies the challenge: you need the high heat to brown the beef but you don’t want to over-cook it.

Many solutions to this. Some people would use a blow-torch but I don’t like this because if not done properly, I can taste the butane afterwards especially if this is done just before serving. My preferred method is the fast-flip pan-sear method.

The fast-flip pan-sear method is easy:

  1. Heat the pan on medium-high heat.
  2. Once the pan is hot, add a little oil and place the beef on the pan.
  3. Flip the beef to a different side every 15-20 seconds until you get the desired browning.

The fast-flipping ensures that only the surface of the beef gets seared and when you flip to another side, it gives the most recently seared side a chance to cool slightly. Thus you get a good browning but maintain a relatively cool interior.

You can use this for searing steaks too because it gives you greater control over the doneness.

Christmas Dinner

See how little juice is lost on the tray?


The most important variable to control is Temperature and not time. To get consistent doneness of the beef, the only practical measure is the internal temperature of the beef.

Here’s a handy chart for level of doneness for beef and its internal temperature.

Doneness Temp. Range Interior Description
Bleu 46–49°C Red and cold
Rare 50–54°C Soft, cold red center
Medium-Rare 55–59°C Firmer, warm red center
Medium 60–65°C Pink and firm
Medium-Well 65–69°C Firm, very small amount of pink in the center
Well-Done 71–100°C Very firm, grey-brown

The key here is to preserve as much of the internal juices within the meat and have very little leaking out. This means a juicy roast.

The solution to this is to have the cooking temperature to be as close to your desired temperature as possible. To this end, a preheated oven at 90°C seems to be the ideal. Usually takes 80 minutes for a 2kg beef (sirloin) to get to Medium-rare but I start checking the internal temperature at the 50-60 minute mark. But remember, it is the temperature that’s important and not the time.

When taking the temperature, remove the beef completely out of the oven to get an accurate measure.

Even after removing the beef from the heat source, there is still enough heat inside to continue cooking by itself. So what I do is to remove the beef about 5°C from the desired internal temperature to leave some room for error when you’re…

…Resting the Beef

The purpose of resting the beef is to allow the juices to settle and not spurt out too much when you cut into it. This is very important because after taking all the steps described above, you don’t want to screw up the roast beef by slicing it too early and letting all the juices flow out.

Resting times depend on the size of your beef. Steaks take about 10-15 minutes whereas 2kg roasts can take up to 30-45 minutes. The challenge here is to allow the beef to rest without letting it become cold.

What I usually do is to wrap the roast in foil to preserve the heat but I leave one end open to take the temperature and to vent if I detect the temperature going up too high.

Christmas Dinner

And yes, Happy Holidays everyone!

Posted on 27th Dec 2013 in Food and Drink, Meat, Recipes


There Is Only 1 Comment So Far


Seth Lui Food Blog Singapore commented on January 19, 2014 at 5:33 am

thanks for this post, really love beef and your guide to getting consistency for my beef is really useful. can’t wait to use your tips.

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