Preparing and Cooking A #2 Chuck Roast

Remember our friend from before?

In my meat chart, I indicate that a #2 is meant for braising and other long, slow cooking methods. While this hunk of meat still walked the earth as part of a cow, this particular muscle group was responsible for the constant daily back and forth motion of one of the two front legs, as well as a weight support for the front half of the animal. These muscles only rested when the cow was laying down (Cows do no sleep standing up. Cow tipping, while funny, is a myth).

It is a fairly lean piece of meat with well-developed connective tissue, which means it’s going to be tough. This meat needs a relatively long exposure to heat in order for the muscles to be tender enough to chew. In other words, if you take a steak-sized slice of this meat and throw it on the grill or in a pan for eight minutes, you’ll wind up with a steak that’s about as easy to eat as a shoe.

One of the problems this particular piece of meat presents is that this is actually a couple of muscles still attached. So that means I’m going to have to break it down a little more to get serviceable pieces from it. Another is that because all of these various pieces of meat come from the #2 cut, you’re not always going to get what I got when you pick up a shapeless #2 from the freezer section. Adding to the confusion is that “tzlaot” means ribs, and these aren’t, exactly. But more on that for another post.

The Slab

A quick overview of the meat shows us different muscles with grains running in all directions. I’m going to separate the chuck roast from the other pieces of meat to get a nice, trimmed piece of meat for Shabbat. The other meat I’m going to save for another purpose.

Different muscles, different directions of grain, more natural shape now that it's defrosted.

I did a short video of how I separated the pieces. I haven’t edited it. This is what I ended up with.

The roast is on the left, the very lean stew meat pieces are on the right, and another piece in the middle. Observant people will note that the roast is already trimmed in this photo, while I say to trim it in the next step. Yes, I took this picture out of order. Glad you're paying attention.

The Chuck Roast

 After separating the pieces of meat, I trimmed off the bits and pieces of sinew. silverskin, fat and ligaments to make a nice, presentable piece of meat.
By trimming off the silverskin covering the meat, it shrinks less. It also looks nicer.

Preparing and Cooking the Roast

Because there is no covering fat, we need to add some back onto the outside of the roast. I drizzled olive oil and sprinkled kosher salt and cracked black pepper on the roast. I have been known to put paprika, garlic powder and other seasonings on the outside of a roast, but this time, I kept it simple.

Myth: Kosher meat is not salty. It is rinsed of surface blood. It is then soaked for 30 minutes. It is then salted to draw out the excess blood, and the salt remains on the meat for one hour. Then the meat is thoroughly washed three times to remove all traces of blood and salt.

Olive oil, salt, pepper. Other aromatics and seasonings went into the pot.

There is a debate about whether or not searing a piece of meat destined for oven cooking is necessary. I fall on the yes side of the debate. By searing the meat, I believe that you are cauterizing the exposed muscle fibers, so that the moisture from within the meat remains within the meat. There’s no doubt that seared meat tastes good. I heated the pan to 300°C, and seared the meat on all sides.

First one side, then the other side, then the flat side, then all the little parts that got missed.

I set the roast aside and added equal parts of carrots (4), celery (4) and leek (1, white part) to the pan, then deglazed the pan with red wine (1/2 cup).

Usually you deglaze the pan with liquid only. Who says I don't take shortcuts?

I let that cook for a few minutes and dumped it all into a pot. I put some garlic and sage into the pot, some more salt and pepper, I inserted my probe thermometer and set it for 54°C/130°F then put the roast down on top of the vegetables. I covered it and put it into the oven heated to 160°C/325°F.

Now for the magic ingredient. Time.

The roast cooked for about one hour and ten minutes according to the timer set up next to the thermometer, which is exactly as long as it should have taken at that temperature. I knew I wouldn’t be able to take a picture of the roast on Shabbat, so I sliced the end off, just so we could see what it would look like. Then I seared it again and got it ready for the platta, and me ready for Shabbat.

Does anyone else even notice the carrot?

Additional Notes

The roast lost roughly 15% in its cooking weight. When we put it on the platta we didn’t put it directly on the heating element; it was on top of another dish. The meat was exactly rare. That’s how we like to eat meat, and it’s a matter of preference. I think that it needed more salt at the table, but that’s also a matter of preference.

In the end, I got three separate kilograms of meats from this piece, with minimal loss. One small piece of it was pan seared right then as tiny medallion steaks for a dinner treat [Full disclosure: The meat sat overnight in the refrigerator; most of this post was done on a Thursday evening]. It was probably the chuck tender (teris major) that was slashed through. The roast was eaten on Shabbat for dinner. Another kilogram of meat got cut up and refrozen for stew. The rest was scraps, and will go into a beef stock in the future.

This roast cost about ₪35 of the ₪117 from the total piece of meat, not counting time, vegetables and trimmings. It fed ten people along with a kilo of wings, chicken soup, and other usual Shabbat side dishes.

There are several ways to tenderize a tough cut of meat in order to make it more pleasant to eat. You can pound it, but that tends to flatten everything which isn’t always the shape of meat you want to eat. You can use a meat tenderizer powder, which is made from papaya or pineapple enzymes, but it kind of starts to dissolve the meat. You can use an acid such as vinegar in your marinade which will act on the meat fibers while you’re cooking. You can slice the whole thing pretty thin which is more geared to Asian cuisines. You can stab it with a fork, but not everyone can bring themselves to mutilate a piece of meat like that.



9 thoughts on “Preparing and Cooking A #2 Chuck Roast”

  1. We forgive you for not inviting us. Gorgeous, and instructive. Next request: Write a post about what kind (number) of meat to use for a cholent meat that is butter-tender after too many hours in a crockpot. I could do this in the States, but I have only recreated it here once — and I have no clue what cut they sold me. Also, I usually make my cholent with beer; but recent dietary considerations have caused me to experiment with wine. Is that somehow making the meat tougher than working with beer?

    1. #8 Shrir has all that buttery connective tissue that you’re looking for. Wine is going to have more acid in it than beer (fruit beers notwithstanding), so it’s actually better for breaking down the meat fibers. It’s also closer in relation to Beef Bourguignon. <brooklyn>It’s classier, honey.</brooklyn>

      #2 is going to be good for chulent; I could have chopped up the entire 3kg into stew meat.

      #3 also, but that’s best as a whole brisket. If you had bought a 5kg #3 (~₪170), and wanted to use a kilo in a chulent, that’s probably when you would do that.

      They sell “goulash” meat in the freezer section. I don’t know what the price comparison is. Check to see if they add water weight.

  2. Great article with excellent pictures!

    one thing I would add would be to put a small amount of tomato paste in with the veg before you deglaze. It will add richness and body to your jus.

    1. An excellent suggestion. I didn’t really get into the whole mirepoix/aromatics thing in detail.

      Full disclosure: Craig is a CIA-trained chef. So pay attention.

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