Grilling Roast Beef

Don't waste your time grilling roast beef. That is, of course, unless you do it correctly. If you grill the right type of roast with the correct grilling method, you'll be serving tender and juicy grilled beef...and everybody will be happy!

Grilling a roast that's not dry, chewy and flavorless depends on a few things. First, it's important to know your beef, and choose the correct cut that's suitable for grilling. Second, the beef roast needs to be grilled using the proper technique. Third, the beef needs to reach the correct done temperature. And last, the meat needs to rest before being served.

Best Roast Beef for Grilling

There are lots of different cuts of beef roast, with many being great for grilling, and many others that are not.

Don't Grill These Beef Roasts

The roasts you don't want to cook on your grill include most of the chuck roasts, and some of the round roasts. These include the top blade roast, the 7 bone roast, the bottom chuck roast, the chuck shoulder roast, the eye of round, and the bottom round roasts. You're better off barbecuing the chuck roasts at low temperatures for hours. They have quite a bit of tough connective tissue, and varying amounts of fat that make them unsuitable for grilling. The round roasts listed above respond better to moist heat cooking rather than grilling.

Good Roast Choices For Grilling

  • Chuck eye roast - Of the chuck roasts, this one is a decent choice for grilling. It's a boneless cut that's tender, but also is usually very fatty.
  • Top round roast - This roast is one of the least expensive of the beef roasts listed here. It's also one of the leanest.
  • Rib roasts - These are great for grilling, but the cost is usually high unless they're on special. Prime rib roasts are the most expensive. Choice grade is what you'll typically find in grocery stores, and is a good cut, especially if there's a decent amount of marbling in the meat.
  • Beef tenderloin - Also known as the fillet (think fillet mignon), this is the best cut of beef you can get. It's great when grilled...but be prepared to spend some money!

Grilling Roast Beef

Most of these cuts of beef do best when grilled first over direct heat, and finished with indirect heat. The hot, direct grilling browns the surface a bit, creating some great flavor. The follow up cooking with indirect heat brings the internal temperature up to doneness gradually. Any large cut of meat, if cooked at too hot of a temperature, will be overdone around the outside, and underdone in the middle. Lower temperature cooking brings the meat to an even level of doneness throughout.

Roast Beef Done Temperatures

A general rule that I follow is, the more I spend for a beef roast, the lower internal temperature I'll cook it to. But that's just my personal preference.

Tenderloins and rib roasts are definitely best when cooked to no more than a medium-rare. Once they reach medium, they're less juicy and tender.

The following table shows the final internal temperature of the grilled roast beef when it's at the different levels of doneness.

But for the roast to reach the desired temperature and level of doneness, the meat has to be removed from the grill when its internal temperature is from 5 to 10 degrees under the target temperature. Read the next section for the explanation.

Rare 130ºF Remove at 120-125ºF
Medium Rare 140ºF Remove at 130-135ºF
Medium 150ºF Remove at 140-145ºF
Medium Well 160ºF Remove at 150-155ºF
Well Done 170ºF Remove at 160-165ºF

Resting the Beef Roast

The last step, and probably the most important, is to allow the roast to rest after removing it from the grill. Two things happen during this resting period.

First, the temperature equalizes. The exterior of the meat is much hotter than the interior when it comes off the grill. The heat travels inward, literally cooking the meat to a higher temperature as it sits, covered lightly with foil, on the counter top. This is why you must remove meat from the heat source before it reaches the done temp you're shooting for.

Second, the meat fibers relax during the rest period, which allows the juices that have been squeezed out of the meat to be reabsorbed. If you cut the meat right after you take of off the grill, juice will run all over the place. If you wait for at least 20-30 minutes, most of the juices will be trapped inside the meat fibers, making the grilled beef much more juicy and tender.

When grilling roast beef, first, choose the right cut. Use the proper grilling method, be aware of internal meat temperature targets, and let that meat rest before serving.

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