Don’t get me wrong a crockpot can be darn handy when you’re busy chasing the American dream from 9-5. But, let’s be honest it’s hard to get excited about coming home to a roast that has been taking a 9-hour bath with a few carrots and taters. So, I am here to help provide some inspiration and expand your horizons on an underutilized cut of beef.
The top round garners its name from its anatomical location above the bottom round and eye of round located on the hindquarter or “rump” of the cow. These large muscles do most of the heavy lifting so they benefit from slow cooks. Hence the reasoning the crockpot got overprescribed. However, there are better ways to skin this cat. Roasting, smoking, braising or a combination of any of the three offer much more flavor.
Roasting - Start off with your oven at 400 degrees for the first 10 minutes in order to create a good outer crust. The crust that forms is part of the Maillard reaction. This is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars which enhance the flavor profile. From here drop your oven to 275 degrees and cook until an internal temperature of 150 degrees is reached. Now comes two steps that are crucial. Let your roast cool! Then, thinly slice ACROSS the grain.
Smoking- Smoke at 275 degrees until you’ve achieved an internal temperature of 150 degrees. Pull from smoker and sear all sides in a smoking hot skillet. Creating once again… the Maillard reaction. Let cool then. Then, slice ACROSS the grain. This thinly sliced meat makes one of the best sandwiches you will ever eat! (Stay tuned for our recipe dropping later this week.)
Braising- Start by browning your meat with a 400-degree oven, skillet or smoking at 275 for 2+ hours. Then transfer to a dish that is deeper than that of your meat, add braising liquid (broth, beer, wine etc.), cover with foil then continue to cook in oven or smoker at 275 degrees until fork tender. Let rest then pull meat with two forks. WAIT! DON’T SERVE YET! Take 5 extra minutes and place the meat in a skillet with some butter or oil to crisp up the sides. This adds texture and if you remember our science lesson from above…FLAVOR!
I know what you’re thinking. “couldn’t I do the same thing with my crockpot?” And my answer is no. I know its frustrating but it just isn’t the same. Whether the environment is too moist in a crockpot or maybe meat just likes the extra attention. Either way, some sort of extra magic happens when you forego the crockpot.