One of the most impressive centerpieces you can serve at a holiday dinner is a beef roast. And for good reason: perfecting this main dish is no easy undertaking. While I’m certain none of us will ever forget the holiday we dished out an overcooked, under-salted roast to a house full of hungry guests (or forced the entire family to mill around for hours on end while the meat finished up in the oven), there are plenty of paths to redemption.
Whether you’re a standing rib roast fan or have a lifelong love for tenderloin, here are the top seven dos and don’ts to get that perfect medium-rare roast every time, according to Chef Yankel Polak of ButcherBox.
1. Season the meat a day before.
Don’t wait until the last minute. Instead, load your roast up with salt and spices, wrap it up tight, and let the salt work its magic overnight. On the day you want to cook, leave
2. Cook your meat ahead of time, too.
For big roasts, there’s no better guarantee of nailing that gorgeous red center and perfectly juicy texture than the reverse sear method. And it’s so easy. Preheat your oven to 250ºF, then place the roast in the oven and cook until it registers 120ºF in the center. Let it cool uncovered at room temperature for at least an hour, then stick it in the fridge (this can be done the day before). If you’re close enough to dinner, you can simply leave it at room temperature up to one more hour.
When you’re ready, brush the meat with a bit of butter or olive oil, and put it into a 425ºF oven for about 20 minutes or until the inside registers 120ºF again. (It will actually have reached 130ºF from resting after the first cook, but reheating to that point again may cause it to overcook.) This method will give you a crispy outside and a perfectly cooked inside every single time.
3. Let your meat rest.
For a roast over three pounds, you’ll want to let it rest after cooking at least 30 minutes before slicing. This allows the juices to redistribute into the meat instead of onto the cutting board. If you follow the reverse sear method, most of the resting happens earlier—but when you reheat the roast for the final time, allow at least 10 additional minutes of resting time. This time, give it a foil tent to keep the surface nice and hot.
4. Don’t crowd the pan.
Roasts have plenty of surface area and you want to make the most of it. The more area open to the hot oven air, the better the roast will taste and smell. Chef Polak recommends cooking it on a wire rack on a baking sheet if possible and turning it around once or twice during the cooking process, since most ovens are typically hottest towards the back.
5. Don’t under-season.
When you’re mixing up your favorite spice combo to rub all over the meat, whatever you do, Do. Not. Neglect. The. Salt. “Salt is to meat like color is to television,” says Chef Polak. “You get the general idea without it, but once you add it in, you can’t imagine life without it.” Use a nice big handful, sprinkled from about eight inches above the roast to give you an even spread—and be sure to season all sides including the ends.
6. Don’t forget to cut off the string before carving your roast.
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but believe me, it’s worth the reminder. Butchers typically will truss a large roast with some cotton string: this helps the roast maintain its shape and ensures it will cook more evenly. But the string tends to blend in with the meat as everything browns up. Cut it off gently so you don’t disturb your nice crust, and then carve away.
7. Don’t get rid of the pan drippings.
“I typically pour off excess fat, then scrape the drippings into a sauce pot,” Chef says. Add a cup of wine, simmer until the wine is nearly gone, then add a little beef stock and reduce by half. The best beef gravy ever.