If you’re the type of person who enjoys eating beef, then you most likely understand that there are many different types of meat taken from the cow. While there are plenty of different cuts of meat to choose from, two of the most common cuts are top round and bottom round. While they’re both delicious cuts of beef, they each have their own appeal. If you’re unsure of the differences between these two types of beef cuts, then you’ve come to the right place. Understanding the difference between the two will not only allow you to choose the right piece for your dishes, but it will also help you understand how to cook each cut the best way possible.
Bottom round, also known as round bottom roast or round roast, is a cut of meat taken from the outside muscle of a cow’s upper leg. Bottom round is typically lean, full of flavor, and usually a little tough because they come from the muscles that do most of the work. Because of how tough this cut of meat can be, it’s typically advised to dry age your bottom roast in the refrigerator for a few days before you use it.
Purchasing Bottom Round
When it comes to buying bottom round, you want to look for a cut that has a clear, red exterior color, known as the Bloom. This color comes from exposure to oxygen, so you won’t find it in vacuum packed beef. The piece you choose should be cold and firm to the touch, and the package shouldn’t have any kind of hole or tear in it. It’s important to buy enough meat to feed the number of people you’re serving, so keep in mind that four pounds of bottom round will serve six people.
A raw bottom round should last in the refrigerator for up to four days, but add an extra day of cold storage if the meat has been marinated. If you put raw bottom round into the freezer it should last for two to three months without losing any of its flavor. Once the bottom round has been cooked, it can be in the refrigerator for one to three days.
How to Cook with Bottom Round
As we said before, bottom round is a bit tougher than other cuts of meat, so you might want to dry age your meat before you try to cook with it. In order to dry age bottom round, you want to leave it sitting uncovered on a wire rack over a pan in the refrigerator for one to four days. When you’re ready to use it, trim off any of the darker pieces that have dried out during the aging process. Typically, bottom round is used for making roasts, so make sure that you closely follow your recipe when it says to cook it “Low & Slow.”
Top round is a cut of meat taken from the rear leg of the cow, and it’s a bit more tender than bottom round. It can be cut into many different styles of meat, depending on whether or not the bone is used.
Purchasing Top Round
When shopping for top round, you want to look for a piece that has a clear, red exterior color, known as the “Bloom.” As we said before, this color shows that it was exposed to oxygen and wasn’t vacuum sealed into a package. Whenever you buy meat, it should be cold, firm, and the package shouldn’t have any holes or tears in it. Always pay attention to the “sell-by” date, and keep in mind that top round can be sold under other names, such as London Broil.
Just like bottom round, top round beef can be stored raw in a refrigerator for up to four days. If it’s uncooked, it can be kept in a freezer for up to four months. If you’ve already cooked it and want to eat the rest later, you have to remember that it can only stay in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Cooking with Top Round
As with bottom round, you want to make sure that you prepare top round before you cook it. While it may not be as tough as bottom round, it should still be dry aged for a couple of days before you intend to make it. Top round can be used in a variety of dishes, but it’s typically used for roasts or stews. The secret to a great roast is to slow cook it on low heat, so don’t try to rush the process or you could just end up ruining the meat.
As you can see, top round and bottom round are two excellent cuts of meat. The main difference is how much time you have to age the meat, and what you intend to use it for. If you’re making a stew, you might want to stick with top round, while pot roast sure does taste great with bottom round. Ultimately, the choice is yours, but if you’re still unsure, you can always see what cut of meat the recipe calls for and go from there.