How to cook roast beef
Cook the perfect roast beef for Sunday lunch or a dinner party. We'll help you achieve tender, juicy meat whether you're cooking a rib, sirloin or fillet.
Roast beef is one of those classic dishes that suits any occasion. A simple family supper or a dinner party with guests to impress can both be instantly improved with a showstopping centrepiece of roast beef. Read our guide for everything you need about how to achieve the perfect result, from roast beef cooking time to oven temperature, resting time and serving suggestions.
Discover our top 10 roast beef recipes for more inspiration, including versions stuffed with veg or crusted with herbs. See how to cook topside of beef and more easy roast dinner recipes. Also achieve the perfect roast beef cooking time with our roast timer tool.
How to cook roast beef
When it comes to roast beef, the received wisdom is that it should always be cooked on the bone – whether it's a sirloin joint or rib roast – as the bone conducts heat and adds flavour. However, this doesn’t suit everyone and some of our most popular recipes are bone-free and much easier to carve. Buy what suits you best.
More important than the bone is the fat – don’t be tempted to trim it off, as it will baste your meat while it cooks. You can always cut it away when you serve it. If you want the fat to make a crust, then you have to sprinkle or rub it with flour and/or mustard powder to absorb the fat released on the surface.
Generally, roast beef is cooked at a high temperature to caramelise the outside, then the temperature is turned down. This method can also be reversed with a lower temperature to start before a blast of heat at the end. As an example, see our herb-scented slow-roasted recipe.
What temperature should roast beef be cooked at?
If you don’t have a meat thermometer, check your beef is roasted by piercing it with a skewer. The juices should run red for rare, pink for medium and clear for well-done. Also, a meat thermometer should read 40C for rare (it will rise to 54-56C, medium-rare, as it sits) or 48C for medium (it will rise to 65C).
It's essential you rest your joint for at least an hour so the juices are reabsorbed. If you carve the beef too soon, it will be dry rather than juicy. Some juices will be released as it sits and you can tip these into the gravy.
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How long does it take to cook roast beef?
To calculate roast beef cooking time:
If cooking beef on the bone, a three-rib roast (about 3kg) will serve about seven to eight people. Calculate roughly 400g per person. If cooking beef off the bone, 1kg will serve four and 1.5kg will serve about six, so 200-300g per person. Calculate your cooking time for medium-rare with 20 minutes per 500g or for medium use 25 minutes per 500g.
For beef on or off the bone, cook it at 240C/220C fan/gas 9 for 20 minutes, then turn down to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 (not forgetting to take this 20 minutes off the timing you have just calculated).
Roast beef recipe
- three-bone rib of beef (about 3kg)
- flour or mustard powder
- 1 onion, halved
1. Take the beef out of the fridge at least an hour before you want to cook it. Calculate the cooking time and heat the oven to 240C/220C fan/gas 9.
2. Season the fat with salt and pepper and rub in a little flour or mustard powder, if you like.
3. Lay the beef on top of the two onion halves in a roasting tin and roast for 20 mins before turning down to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and cooking for 1 hr 40 mins. Remove and rest for at least an hour.
Best roast beef dishes
Carve this rolled sirloin at the Christmas dinner table. The porcini butter adds a fabulous umami note and pickled peppercorns cut through the creamy sauce.
Transform béarnaise sauce into a flavoured butter for ease – it’s just as good and pairs beautifully with pepper-crusted roast beef for a Christmas lunch
Wow guests with an intensely flavoursome, peppered sirloin joint. Serve alongside our potatoes dauphinoise enriched with tarragon, shallots and gruyère.
This classic recipe makes the perfect Sunday lunch and will feed eight people easily. Herbs and pepper form a flavourful crust for the beef – they will darken as they cook, but don’t worry.
For a bone-free and cheaper cut, try a beef top rump for your roast.
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