Top Of The Food Chain: Rump, Bottom Round
Welcome to Top Of The Food Chain, a column from Eat Me Daily's meatiest columnist, Ryan Adams. Every week we'll attempt to demystify the options available in your supermarket, breaking animals down piece by piece so that the next time you find yourself staring at endless Styrofoam containers, you'll be able to make an informed purchase. This week: Rump, Bottom Round.
I was very close to opening this week's TOTFC with a terrible "Baby Got Back" parody: "...you other foodies can't deny, and when a waiter walks up with itty-bitty plate and a swiss steak in your face..." I just couldn't go on after that. Apologies to Sir Mix-A-Lot notwithstanding, beef rump is an excellent cut worthy of songs on its own merits.
There are a few cuts that come from the round primal — the very back of the beast — that could be considered rump-like, but this week we're focusing on the bottom round, or "gooseneck" to those in the know. This cut is located on the outer section of the upper leg on the cow. We're looking at the bottom portion rather than the top largely because the bottom has a lot of connective tissue that the top doesn't, and that's a good thing. The meat in this part of the animal is rather tough and fibrous, but the intense beefy flavor overshadows this minor flaw. That flavor can stand up to powerful marinades and rubs, and the extra connective tissue helps keep the meat tender when used in conjunction with long, slow cooking methods like roasting and braising.
Most butchers carve the bottom round into three separate cuts: the eye of round, the flat, and the heel. The eye of round might look a lot like the tenderloin on its own, but don't be fooled: the meat is much, much tougher, and sometimes grocery stores will cut it to look like a filet mignon. If you see something labled, "faux filet mignon" or something close to that, run away. The much-loved rump roast comes from the flat, and the heel bears the dubious honor being the toughest of all the round cuts. But don't think for a second that tough pieces of meat go without love. The heel can be used to to make chip steak - and that's a big deal around Philadelphia because chip steak is the heart of a good cheesesteak sandwich. Steaks from these cuts are called round steaks, and they defy traditional cooking techniques such as grilling or sautéing. Thin slices and tenderization are almost required, and can be used to great success in recipes that utilize these methods, such as chicken-fried steak or swiss steak.
Beef Round, Bottom (Gooseneck)
This is the whole piece of bottom round. Usually you won't see this sitting in your grocery store's meat section. The sections that are cut from this big ole' hunk of meat are much more common.
Beef Round, Bottom (Gooseneck), Heel Out
Almost the same as the above piece of meat, but without that extra tough heel meat.
Beef Round, Bottom/Outside (Flat)
The Flat is produced by separating the boneless item from the top round, knuckle, heel, and eye of round between the natural seams. All bones, cartilage, ligaments, and silver skin should be removed by the butcher.
Beef Round, Eye of Round
This boneless item consists only of the semitendinosus muscle.
Beef Round, Bottom Round, Heel
This is the ultra tough heel that I had mentioned earlier. It's cut exclusively from the bottom round.
Beef Round, Bottom Round Steak
The steaks cut from the bottom round come from the gooseneck with the heel removed. The bottom round can also be cut lengthwise into sections for cutting portion-sized steaks.
What to look for when buying
Look for a short, thick piece with some fat left on it. The longer, leaner options are less desirable as they will be tougher while lacking flavor. The meat itself should have a bright, cherry-red color with fat speckled throughout the muscle. Check that the muscle is firm to the touch, and that the container doesn't contain excess liquid. Plan on four to eight ounces per person.
You can keep a whole bottom round in the refrigerator for up to three days, four days if you're marinating. Steaks can last for three days max, but if they're thinly cut, two days would be pushing it. Beef can be frozen in its original packaging for up to two weeks. If you're going for longer storage, you'll want to prevent freezer burn by re-wrapping the flank steak in freezer paper, plastic freezer bags or heavy-duty aluminum foil. Try to remove as much air from the packaging as possible before sealing.
Ah, the rump roast. A well-known dish, probably because braises are perfect for this tough piece of meat. (Recipe from Jack Ubaldi's Meat Book: A Butcher's Guide to Buying, Cutting, and Cooking Meat by Jack Ubaldi, out of print.)
- 1 piece of rump, 3 to 4 pounds
- salt, freshly ground pepper
- 2 knuckle-bones, or 2 pig trotters
- 2 celery stalks
- 4 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
- 1 medium onion, peeled and cut into halve with a single clove pushed into each half
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 potatoes, peeled
Season the meat with salt and pepper. Put the bones or trotters in a large pot with enough cold water to generously cover the bones/trotters. Bring the water to a boil, add the meat and lower the heat. Add the celery, carrots, onion and bay leaf. Cook partially covered for 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours. Half an hour before the meat is done, add the potatoes. Serves four.
Chuck Wagon Pepper Steak
This recipe comes from my grandmother, and my whole family has fond memories of its fantastic flavor.
- 1 piece of round steak, 3 to 4 pounds, cut two inches thick
- 2 teaspoons unseasoned meat tenderizer
- 2 tablespoons dehydrated minced onion
- 2 tablespoons dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf, pulverized
- 1 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons of coarse, freshly ground black pepper
Sprinkle one side of the meat with half of the tenderizer and pierce it deeply with a fork. Let it stand for 30 minutes, then turn and sprinkle the other side with the remaining tenderizer, again piercing the meat with a fork. Let stand for another 30 minutes.
Mix minced onion, thyme, bay leaf, vinegar, vegetable oil and lemon juice to create a marinade. Pour the marinade over the meat in a plastic ziploc bag for at least two hours at room temperature, or overnight in the refrigerator.
Before cooking, remove the meat from the marinade and sprinkle the meat with the pepper, pressing it in with your hand.
Grill over hot coals for 15 to 20 minutes, then turn. Check after five or ten minutes, the meat should be pinkish on the inside. Rest for ten minutes.
Thinly slice the meat diagonally, saving the remaining juices. Serve the meat slices with some of the juice for dipping. Serves eight to ten people.
- Rump roast with pan gravy from Simply Recipes
- Rump Steaks Braised with Mushrooms and Onions and Porter Sauce by Robert Irvine
- Beef Sates with Peanut Sauce from Gourmet
- Sauerbraten courtesy Alton Brown
- Country Fried Steak with Biscuits and Gravy via Paula Deen
Special thanks to Bob del Grosso, Chef and Charcutiere of Hendricks Farms and Dairy in Telford, Pennsylvania, for consulting on this post.