Bottom Round at a Glance
Primal: beef bottom round is part of the “round” primal cut
Meat Buyer’s Guide variations: 170, 170A, 171, 171A, 171B, 171C
Weight Ranges: 3 lb -31 up, see the Fresh Beef IMPS page for specifics
Best Cooking Methods: braising, slow cooking, stewing, pot roasting
Common Cuts: Gooseneck, Faux Filet Mignon, Chip Steak, Eye of Round
Ryan Adams has done an excellent series on different cuts of beef and has given permission to re-post his content here, with minor modifications for the Professional Chef audience.
I was very close to opening this post 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.
Cuts of Beef Series: Rump Roast or Bottom Round
Picture by adamjackson1984
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 Bottom Round Variations
Below are some of the variations of bottom round listed in the IMPS/NAMP guides.
Beef Round, Bottom (Gooseneck) IMPS/NAMP 170
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 IMPS/NAMP 170A
Almost the same as the above piece of meat, but without that extra tough heel meat.
Beef Round, Bottom/Outside (Flat) IMPS/NAMP 171B
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 IMPS/NAMP 171C
This boneless item consists only of the semitendinosus muscle.
Beef Round, Bottom Round, Heel IMPS/NAMP 171F
This is the ultra tough heel that I had mentioned earlier. It’s cut exclusively from the bottom round.
Beef Round, Bottom Round Steak IMPS/NAMP 1170A
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 cryovac doesn’t contain excess liquid.