Top round is one of the major subprimals of the beef round primal cut.
Beef round is a large primal cut consisting of well-exercised muscles from the leg and rump of the cow. It tastes very similar to top sirloin if braised or roasted slowly then sliced thin to enhance its tenderness. But the top round (also called inside round, because it comes from the inside of the leg), is actually a good cut of meat for roasting, as long as it's done slowly at a low temperature.
What Is Top Round?
Top round is very lean and tough, and thus it's one of the less expensive cuts of beef. For a budget-friendly cut, top round roast is relatively flavorful. It can also be fabricated into steaks, which are improved by tenderization or marination, but top round is most often roasted and sliced for roast beef.
How to Cook Top Round
Slow cooking top round at a low temperature ensures that it comes out medium-rare, thus preserving what little tenderness the top round has to begin with. It's also important to slice it thinly. Roasted top round is ideal for making roast beef for sandwiches.
Top round can also be fabricated into steaks, usually referred to as top round steaks. Top round may not be the first choice of steaks to cook over the grill, simply because there are many better options, but if you had a thick slab of top round and a grill, you could marinate it, grill it quickly over high heat and then slice it thinly against the grain. This particular preparation is known as London broil.
Another way of preparing top round steaks is to tenderize them with a meat mallet and make Swiss steak, which is prepared by braising rather than grilling.
You can cook a top round roast on the grill and it's surprisingly good. The key to grilling top round is to use indirect heat. That means building a two-zone fire in your grill. If you're cooking on a gas grill, that's easy. Just heat up one of the burners and cook the roast on the side away from the burner, with the lid closed. But with a charcoal grill you'll want to pile your coals on one side and cook the roast on the other side (again, with the lid on).
Keep the temperature of the grill to around 300 F. Again, this is easier using a gas grill, but with a charcoal grill, the air vents and a dome thermometer are helpful. A 3-pound top round should turn out medium rare in an hour or two, but a probe thermometer will take the guesswork out. Just set it to 125 F and take it off the grill when it beeps, then let it rest for 30 minutes while the temperature continues to climb to its eventual 135 F.
If you're smoking your top round, your smoker needs to be set at 225 to 250 F. At that temperature, the same 3-pound roast will take two to three hours to reach medium rare. And again, don't forget to rest the meat.
What Does Top Round Taste Like?
Top round has big, juicy flavor but its texture is chewy if not cooked slowly and at a low temperature. It is a lean cut, however, so be careful not to overcook it or you will dry it out.
Top Round Recipes
No matter the method you choose to cooktop round—grill, oven, wok, or slow cooker—you will end up with a flavorful dish that will impress your friends without blowing your budget.
Where to Buy Top Round
You'll find top round at the supermarket, wholesalers, and local butcher shops. You can also order it from specialty shops or online. It costs about $6 per pound, on average.
Top Round Storage
Top round will keep in the refrigerator for three or four days, and in the freezer—properly rewrapped in butcher's paper, plastic bags, or vacuum seal—for a year. Cooked meat should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking, and will last for three or four days in a refrigerator set to 40 F or below. Freezing cooked leftovers will preserve the meat's quality for two to three months.
Nutrition and Benefits of Top Round
This is an extremely lean cut of beef, with 140 calories and 3.2 grams of fat (of which only 1.3 grams is saturated) per 3-ounce serving. It packs 25 grams of protein and lots of iron and zinc, making it a healthy choice of meat.