It’s been a long time since I’ve made a roast. I mean a real roast, in the oven. I did do a 30 Minute Instant Pot Roast, which was fun, but that was way back in January. So when I saw roast on sale this last week I decided it was about time to try another. Now Prime Rib isn’t in my budget, and truthfully, neither is a Standing Rib Roast but here’s my go-to method to take a cheap, grocery store roast and make it taste better, kind of a Poor Man’s Mock Prime Rib.
I know one thing that can’t be duplicated is the absolute succulent fork-tender texture of a prime rib or standing rib roast, or that very beefy beefy flavor and sometimes, yes, you do get what you pay for. Still, though, that you can get a delicious, flavorful dinner from a simple, sales priced grocery store roast, a Poor Man’s Mock Prime Rib…if you’re careful and follow some rules and give it some help!
About Poor Man’s Mock Prime Rib:
I grew up with the occasional Sunday roast, a Rump roast that my Mom cooked as carefully as she was able given what she had. They were tough, for sure and maybe a little pink in the middle. Mom saved (notice I said “saved” not served) her roast with lots of gravy and mashed potatoes, and really that’s all I cared about, although I had to have the obligatory slice of roast.
Speaking of potatoes, to go with my roast, I made Ruth’s Chris Potatoes au Gratin Copycat potatoes. And I made a wine sauce, based on a sauce that Ron of Lost in a Pot used for his Roast Lamb. Can you hear those angels singing? You will once you try it! That wonderful winey sauce helped elevate my cheaper cut of beef. Do visit Ron’s site for more detail on the Wine sauce and the original recipe. Then there’s the horseradish sauce, too, coz you gotta have horseradish! The other item on the plate is my Restaurant Style Brussels with Lemon Caper Butter Sauce & Parmesan
recipe coming soon.
When the beef is the star of the show, having a lot of beautiful sides is the way to go. It helps to stretch that pricier beef (and even a cheap roast is not inexpensive) and helps fill everyone up. Unless you’re serving my son. In that case everyone gets a slice or two of beef and he just eats the rest, lol! Seriously though, plan on serving two or three thin slices of beef per person, maybe more if they’re big eaters, so about 4 to 8 ounces per person. You can factor age in, too, and if your children are more normal than mine, they’ll probably eat less than adults.
The Beef for Poor Man’s Mock Prime Rib:
But now that the roster for the meal is set, let’s talk about the beef in this recipe for Poor Man’s Mock Prime Rib. I used a cheaper cut and Cook’s Illustrated recommends Top Sirloin, also called top butt, top sirloin butt, center-cut roast, or spoon roast. Sirloin Tip or eye of round, or top round will work, too. I’ve heard it said to avoid the “rump” or any bottom round roast, which is best for braising, although I used the Rump, here.
It goes without saying that this method works beautifully for any expensive roast you might have, too. Just make sure your roast is tied, have the butcher do it for you if it isn’t already, so the roast cooks evenly. If you have to do it yourself, here’s a little lesson.
Especially, though, when using a cheaper roast, don’t overcook it. The more well done the roast is, the tougher it will be. I wouldn’t even go to medium, personally, and for sure medium rare to rare is going to be better. Cut it as thinly as possible, across the grain. Even though I’m calling this Poor Man’s Mock Prime Rib, you’ll have a hard time getting through this if you cut a slab like you might get at a restaurant. This is going to be more like the beef you get at a buffet, thinly sliced to order by the white-hatted servers.
Preparing Poor Man’s Mock Prime Rib:
Anywhere from 18 to 24 hours before you’re ready to cook your Poor Man’s Mock Prime Rib, you’re going to rub it with a crazy amount of salt! Table salt is ok, but kosher salt is better for long jobs like this. Table salt has iodine which can cause some discoloring. Then wrap it up tight and let it sit in the fridge.
When you’re ready to cook pull it out, remove the wrapping, pat your roast dry and let it rest for 30 to 45 minutes at room temperature before you brown your roast, and that’s the perfect time to make your rub.
Black Pepper Rub:
If you wish, all you really have to do is add pepper. Rub the roast with a teaspoon oil, then use about a 2 teaspoons to a tablespoon or two of cracked black pepper, the lesser amount for a smaller roast and larger amount for a larger roast, just pressed into the roast before you brown it. I prefer to saute the roast as is and then pack on a flavorful mix of spices after I brown it and before I roast it.
You can go really old school simple and sprinkle on a blend of spices after the roast is browned, using the smaller amount for a 3 to 4-pound roast and the larger amount for a 4 to 5-pound roast:
- 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Prime Rib Rub:
I like a bold, robust spice and herb blend, just like what’s used on a prime rib, again adjusting for the size of the roast. I really pack this on after the roast is browned. Just mix together ingredients. This already has a little oil in it, so it sticks better, but some might fall off; just stick it back on top. Do the best you can:
- 1 to 2 tablespoons coarsely cracked black or mixed pepper
- 3-5 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 to 2 tablespoons dried thyme
- 1 to 2 tablespoons dried rosemary, minced
- 2 to 3 tablespoons oil
Browning the Roast:
To brown the roast, you’ll heat up oil in a skillet and slowly brown the roast, getting a good color on all sides, about three or four minutes per side, or about 15 to 20 minutes, total. Be patient!
And save the drippings if you plan on making any type or sauce or gravy because you really don’t have any drippings when the roast cooks in the oven. The oven method is so gentle that every bit of juice stays in the roast.
Making Poor Man’s Mock Prime Rib:
This might originally be a Cook’s Illustrated Method. I really can’t remember. Over the years, I’ve tried different methods, searing, not searing, reverse searing, cooking high, and then turning the oven off or down, or just cooking low, and this particular method is a game-changer. Every time I’ve used it, I get a roast consistently and beautifully cooked all the way through.
This is pretty foolproof, but give it a try first on family rather than on company because there are some variables, especially in how your oven heats, how accurate the oven’s thermostat is and how your oven holds heat. And of course, the size of the roast makes a difference, too. They all affect the timing of the roast.
If you don’t have one, get yourself a thermometer with a cord. The probe tip goes dead center in the roast, and cord leads right up to the monitor you’ll set on the counter next to the oven. The oven door just closes right over the cord. Thermometers are reasonable, under 20 bucks, and if you have/get one with a remote, that’s ideal; you won’t have to be tied to the kitchen. I really like a thermometer that has two temperatures, the first, the temperature of the probe, and the second, the temperature of the oven.
If you don’t have a probe thermometer with a cord, you risk losing heat in the oven when you open the door to check the temperature. Take the roast out, close that oven door, check the temp, then return it to the oven, again, closing that oven door immediately. You also might not realize that the oven has lost heat too fast and that the roast has “stalled out” during the second stage of cooking, which might mean when you think your roast is done, you’ll find it not cooked right.
No problem, just put it back in and turn the oven back up, but it’s going to take more time than you thought it would, and you want to be cognizant about how long your roast is going to be in the “danger” zone of 40 to 140 degrees. There’s little danger from a roast as most nasties live on the outside of beef and it’s been seared, but your safest bet is to have that corded, probe thermometer. (Food safety is part of the reason why smaller roasts are recommended for this recipe.)
In the initial cooking time, you’ll roast from anywhere to an hour and a quarter to two and a quarter hours, depending on the size of the roast and how well you want it done. During this stage, you’re shooting for five degrees less than you want your roast cooked at. The roast will cook slowly at first, but towards the end of this stage of the cooking time, the temperature will spike quickly. Be prepared once it gets to within 10 degrees of your desired temperature. Then turn the oven off without opening the door.
The second stage of cooking happens as the roast sits in the closed oven, slowly rising in temperature, cooking in the residual heat for about 30 to 50 minutes until your roast is at the temperature you’d like. It’s best not to open the door during this time, but you will need to check the temperature to know if it’s done. Again, this is where the probe thermometer with a cord is very helpful.
As a quick reference, here are the standard temperature/doneness levels for roasts, noting that you’ll want to shoot for the center of each range as there is some overlap:
120°F to 130°F, (49°C to 52°C) = Rare
130°F to 140°F (55°C to 60°C) = Medium Rare
140°F to 150°F (63°C to 66°C) = Medium
During that second stage of cooking, if your oven doesn’t hold heat well, the cooking can stall out. It seems gas and older ovens are more prone to this. If the temperature of the roast stops rising, heat the oven back up to 225°F for 5 minutes, then shut it off, and watch the temperature of the roast. Some say to leave your oven on at 170 degrees just to be on the safe side. I haven’t tried that – I might need to make more roasts to check it out.
My 3 pound 10-ounce roast stalled out at 35 minutes in my gas oven. A quick check of the thermometer’s remote (I was lounging in the living room with my laptop – that’s why the remote is fun) showed the oven temperature was 131 degrees and my roast was at 125 degrees. I got up, turned the oven back on to 225, waited five minutes and turned the oven off. The roast immediately started rising in temperature) and my roast was perfectly done for me at 138 degrees, exactly 18 minutes after I turned the oven back on.
When finished, don’t forget to let the roast rest for15 to 20 minutes, covered with foil. That’s a great time to finish up your other dishes, make a sauce if you want, etc. For me, that was when I put my Ruth’s Chris Potatoes au Gratin in the oven to finish off, reheated the Brussels Sprouts I made earlier (they cook at a high temperature for a long time so I did them ahead) and reheated the wine sauce I’d tossed together from the drippings left from browning the roast. When the roast was done, after resting, there were hardly any juices coming out (and that’s what you want) as it was cut, but the little I had, I tossed into the sauce.
Saving Money on Poor Man’s Mock Prime Rib:
There’s no sense, really, in ever paying full price for a roast. Watch the specials and pick them up at a low. You’ll generally find great sales on the lesser cuts of meat during the fall when meat production is at a high and around, and shortly after, the winter holidays. Big, gorgeous, pricy roasts rule for Christmas and New Years and something has to be done to move the cheaper cuts. And if you’re really interested in saving money on groceries, get yourself a freezer so you can be eating sales priced food anytime you want,
Since the roast I bought (a great deal) was a bit larger than I needed, I carefully sliced some of the beef off the sides and made two smaller dinners with it. That helped me stay in budget because I was able to “cost average” the price of the beef over three meals (one was Vietnamese Beef & Potatoes, and the other an old school Mongolian Beef and since I’ve had some leftover beef, I’ll be able to work out another meal. That meal is finished now (after this post was published) and its these amazing Leftover Steak & Mushroom Pies.
If you have any leftover Poor Man’s Mock Prime Rib I’d suggest slicing very thinly (I love my kitchen slicer) and using it for Chicago Italian Beef Sandwiches, French Dip Sandwiches, Philly Cheesesteak Sliders or Paneras Steak Sandwiches Copycat. For more ideas, see my post for Inspiration & Recipes for Leftover Beef and Leftover Steak. If you find your leftovers are just too tough, or maybe you’ve overcooked your beef and aren’t happy with it, toss that beef in a slow cooker or your instant pot with some beef broth and/or flavorings of your choice and cook it until it’s soft and succulent and easily shreddable and use as you wish for sandwiches, tacos, burritos, etc.
Poor Man's Mock Prime Rib
Be sure to read through the information above in the post for the types of roast and more information.
- 1 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 pound roast
- 3 to 4 teaspoons kosher salt or 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons table salt (smaller amount for smaller roast)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil for browning
- black pepper or rub of choice, see information under preparing Poor Man’s Mock Prime Rib
Sprinkle all sides of roast evenly with salt. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate 18 to 24 hours.
When ready to cook, remove roast from oven and let rest at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on size, adjust oven rack to middle position, prepare a pan with a rack over it and heat oven to 225°F.
If using a rub, prepare it and have it ready for after the roast is browned. If just using cracked black pepper, rub roast with a teaspoon of oil and press the black pepper into roast. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sear roast until browned on all sides, about three to four minutes per side. Remove roast to a rack set over a pan or lined sheet tray. If making a gravy or sauce, reserve any drippings in the skillet. If using a rub, rub and pack it onto the roast now.
Roast until thermometer inserted into the center of roast registers 115°F for medium-rare, about 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 hours, or 125°F for medium, about 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 hours, depending on the size of the roast. Turn oven off; leave roast in the oven, without opening door, until a thermometer inserted into the center of roast registers the desired temperature, 30 to 50 minutes longer. (See temperature chart, above.)
Transfer roast to carving board and let rest 15 to 20 minutes. Slice meat crosswise as thinly as possible and serve.
- If roast stalls out during cooking or hasn’t reached the desired temperature in the 30 to 50 minutes, heat oven back up to 225 degrees F. for five minutes.
- For a 4 1/2- to 6-pound roast, cut in half crosswise before cooking to create 2 smaller roasts.
Red Wine Sauce:
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 cup Red wine, preferably what you’ll drink with dinner.
- 1 cup beef stock
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon Soy sauce, such as Kikkoman
- reserved drippings from browning roast
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch, mixed with a little red wine or water
- 1 tablespoon cold butter
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a cold pan or skillet, add sugar in a thin layer. Slowly heat over medium-high heat until sugar melts, watching carefully so that it doesn’t burn. Have the wine and stock at the ready and add it immediately once the sugar has melted or if the sugar is in danger of burning. Add in the thyme, Soy sauce, and reserved drippings. Stir up any hardened sugar from the bottom of the pan until it dissolves, bring to a simmer and reduce by half, about 12 minutes. Sauce may be held at this point until ready to serve.
When ready to serve, mix the cornstarch with a little water. Bring the sauce to a boil and whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Whisk until the sauce thickens to desired consistency. Remove from heat and allow to cool for several minutes, then add cold butter, gently stirring to mix in. Season to taste with salt and pepper. When your beef is sliced, add any drippings from the resting and/or slicing to the sauce.
Roast adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, Sauce adapted from Lost in a Pot. Visit Lost in a Pot for original, not adapted recipe and more hints and helps with the wine sauce.
Here are the four meals made with the roast. All the links are above the recipe under the section for Saving Money on Poor Man’s Mock Prime Rib.
If you’re looking for Holiday dishes or just something fun to make all in one place, stop by and see what everyone has bought to the party!