How to cook roast beef

Cook the perfect roast beef for Sunday lunch or a dinner party. We'll help you achieve tender, juicy meat whether you are cooking a rib, sirloin or fillet.

Beef fillet with slices

When it comes to roast beef, the received wisdom is that it should always be cooked on the bone – whether it's a sirloin joint or rib roast – as the bone both conducts heat and adds flavour. However, this doesn’t suit everyone and some of our most popular recipes are bone-free and much easier to carve. Buy what suits you best.

More important than the bone is the fat – don’t be tempted to trim it off as it will baste your meat while it cooks. You can always cut it away when you serve it. If you want the fat to make a crust, then you have to sprinkle or rub it with flour and/or mustard powder to absorb the fat released on the surface.

Generally roast beef is cooked at a high temperature to caramelise the outside, then the temperature is turned down. This method can also be reversed with a lower temperature to start before a blast of heat at the end. As an example, see our herb-scented slow-roasted recipe.

If you don’t have a meat thermometer then check your beef is roasted by piercing it with a skewer. The juices should run red for rare, pink for medium and clear for well-done. Also, a meat thermometer should read 40C for rare (it will rise to 54-56C, medium-rare, as it sits), 48C for medium (it will rise to 65C).

It is essential you rest your joint for at least an hour so the juices are re-absorbed. If you carve the beef too soon it will be dry rather than juicy. Some juices will be released as it sits and you can tip these into the gravy.

Rolled sirloin of beef in a tray of shallots

If cooking beef on the bone then a three-rib roast (about 3kg) will serve about seven to eight people. Calculate roughly 400g per person. If cooking beef off the bone, 1kg will serve four and 1½ kg will serve about six, so 200-300g per person. Calculate your cooking time for medium-rare with 20 mins per 500g, or for medium use 25 minutes per 500g.

For beef on or off the bone cook it at 240C/220C fan/gas 9 for 20 minutes, then turn down to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 (not forgetting to take this 20 minutes off the timing you have just calculated).

Roast beef recipe

Serves 7-8

  • three-bone rib of beef, about 3kg
  • flour or mustard powder
  • 1 onion, halved

1. Take the beef out of the fridge at least an hour before you want to cook it. Calculate the cooking time and heat the oven to 240C/220C fan/gas 9.

2. Season the fat with salt and pepper and rub in a little flour or mustard powder, if you like.

3. Lay the beef on top of the two halved onions in a roasting tin and roast for 20 mins before turning down to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and cooking for 1 hours 40 mins. Remove and rest for at least an hour.

Our top roast beef dishes

Herb & pepper crusted rib of beef

Rib of beef with herb and pepper crusted coating

This classic recipe makes the perfect Sunday lunch and will feed eight people easily. Herbs and pepper form a flavourful crust for the beef – they will darken as they cook but don’t worry.

Herb & pepper crusted rib of beef

Herb-scented slow-roasted rib of beef

Rib of beef with a bowl of roast potatoes

Our mustard, treacle and Bovril crust for this roast reverses the cooking method, which means slow-cooking the meat and then turning the heat up. 

Herb-scented slow-roasted rib of beef

Roast beef sirloin with simple Asian sauce

Roast beef sirloin with simple Asian sauce

Ring the changes with Chinese flavourings for a roast boneless sirloin. 

Roast beef sirloin with simple Asian sauce

Roast beef & carrots with easy gravy

Sliced roast beef with roast carrots

For a bone-free and cheaper cut, try a beef top rump for your roast. 

Roast beef & carrots with easy gravy

Roast fillet of beef with mushroom stuffing

Beef fillet rolled up and stuffed with mushroom

A stuffed fillet makes an elegant cut for a dinner party and is easy to carve.

Roast fillet of beef with mushroom stuffing

Like this? Find more mouth-watering roast recipes...

Roast beef recipes
How to make the ultimate roast potatoes
How to roast and carve rib of beef
How to cook duck
How to roast pork belly
4 ways with roast potatoes
Healthy one-pan roast chicken




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