Roasting beef means to oven-cook it, uncovered, in a shallow pan until gloriously browned on the exterior but still juicy inside. Because larger, thicker cuts benefit most from this hands-off style of cooking, knowing how to cook roast beef properly is the perfect entrée option for dinners, holidays, and entertaining. Though we're sure any leftovers from smaller gatherings will quickly disappear, too.

By Katlyn Moncada
Updated December 03, 2020
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Roasting beef is one of the easiest ways to cook beef. It's true that due to their size, most beef roasts will take a couple of hours to cook, but you can't beat their set-it-and-forget-it nature (not to mention the enticing aromas that'll fill your kitchen). We'll teach you how to cook roast beef so you can make recipes including ribeye roasts, tenderloin roasts, rib roasts, and more. You'll also learn whether to cook a roast covered or uncovered (spoiler: almost always uncovered) for the juiciest results. Get ready to wow the family at future Sunday dinners or special occasion meals.

Roast Beef with Beets and Chicories
Credit: Blaine Moats
Get the Recipe for Roast Beef with Beets and Chicories

How to Cook Roast Beef

Before we get into the roasting times and tools needed when learning how to cook roast beef in the oven, it's important to choose a tender cut that that will benefit from this slow and dry form of cooking.

Step 1: Choose Your Roast

There are many cuts of beef that work well for roasting (most have the word "roast" right in their name). When purchasing, look for meat that has good color and appears moist but not wet. Plan on 3 to 4 ounces per serving for boneless roasts and 6 to 8 ounces per serving for bone-in roasts. Here are the best cuts of beef to look for when you want to roast beef:

  • Boneless tri-tip roast (bottom sirloin)
  • Eye round roast
  • Ribeye roast
  • Rib roast (chine bone removed)
  • Round tip roast
  • Tenderloin roast
  • Top round roast
Our Roasting Guide Tells You Exactly How to Cook a Roast

Step 2: Prepare the Meat for Roasting

Preheat the oven to the temperature dictated by your beef cut (be sure to check our roasting chart); unless the chart specifies otherwise, roast at 325°F. You can choose to simply season your beef with just a sprinkle of salt and pepper or rub all over with olive oil and apply an herb or spice rub.

Place the meat, fat side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Roasts with a bone, such as a rib roast, don't need a rack. Insert an oven-safe thermometer or probe thermometer ($15, Target) into the thickest part of the roast, making sure it isn't touching the fat, bone, or pan. Do not add water or liquid and do not cover the roast. Covering the roast would result in more steaming than roasting in the oven so we cook a beef roast uncovered.

Test Kitchen Tip: A roasting pan ($25, Bed Bath & Beyond) is a shallow pan specifically designed for roasting. It has a rack, which keeps the meat above the juices and allows the heat to circulate around the meat. Ideally, the roasting pan sides should be 2 to 3 inches high. If you don't have a roasting pan, place an oven-safe wire rack inside a 13x9-inch baking pan.

Step 3: Cook Roast Beef in the Oven

How long to cook roast beef depends on which roast (and size of the roast) you're cooking. You can expect a 1½-pound roast to cook as quickly as 30 minutes for medium-rare (135ºF), while an 8-pound roast can take up to 3½ hours to reach medium (150ºF) doneness. Check our roasting chart for specific times and temperatures. Roast your beef, uncovered, to the desired doneness. After removing from the oven, tent with foil and let stand 15 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute, preventing them from draining out during carving (and preventing dry, disappointing meat). The meat temperature will rise about 10°F while it stands (the timings and temperatures in the chart allow for this).

Test Kitchen Tip: We've already said to roast your beef uncovered, which allows the outside to brown, but there is a caveat to determining whether to cook a roast covered or uncovered. Roasts weighing over 8 pounds should be loosely covered halfway through roasting to avoid over-browning.

Download Our Free Chart for How Long to Cook Roast Beef
Peppercorn Roast Beef Herbed Yorkshire Puddings
Credit: Kritsada Panichgul
Try Our Peppercorn Roast Beef with Herbed Yorkshire Puddings

Step 4: Carve and Serve the Roast

Time for the best part! Transfer the roast to a carving board ($87, Food52), ideally one with a well around the edges to catch any juices. Use a large fork to hold the roast in place while carving slices off one end with a long, sharp carving knife ($80, Crate & Barrel). For a bone-in rib roast (prime rib), turn the roast on its side; remove a thin bottom slice if needed to stabilize the roast. Insert a large fork in the side of the roast below the top rib. Carve across the front toward the rib bone and remove the slice; repeat with the remaining roast. Cut along the rib bone with the tip of the knife to release the slice from the bone. Transfer meat to a serving platter ($15, Bed Bath & Beyond) and enjoy!

That Christmas rib roast is going to need sides! Before it's time to dig in, plan on preparing some make-ahead side dishes or simmer some in your slow cooker for less stress.

Comments (2)

November 10, 2020
Some choose to make roast like this, and can do it, but I find you are more likely to end up with dry meat if you don't add any broth or stock to your pan. Also, covering it keeps all that flavor recirculating around your roast, which is actually from the name of the cut, not the method of cooking. I use 4 cups beef broth and red or white wine (1 cup of the latter, 3 cups of broth) and the carrots, potatoes, and especially the meat come out so tender every time. 425° for 30 mins, then turn down to 300° for 4-5 hours. Make little pockets and stick a few full cloves of garlic in the roast for amazing flavor 😍
August 17, 2018
Where do I find the chart of cooking times mentioned in this article? There is no chart ‘below’ and no link.