With similar names, you may have wondered if Eye of the Round and Top Round are actually the same cut of beef. Although both of these lean, economical roasts come from the same general area of the steer’s body, they are ideal for different recipes and are best cooked using varying methods.
So, Top Round versus Eye of the Round? In this article, we’ll get into the nitty-gritty of each of these protein-packed, bargain roasts and how you can get the most out of them.
About Eye of the Round
Eye of the Round, or just Eye Round, is a lean cut with a lovely, mild beef flavor. It is normally around 4-8 pounds and is cut from the center of the round primal, which is found on the steer’s hind leg and haunch. As with most meat from hard-working, heavily muscled areas of the animal, eye round’s leanness means it requires marinating and slow cooking at low temperatures to take it from tough to tender.
An Eye Round roast is a smooth, ovoid piece of meat with evenly light red coloring and a little exterior fat. It looks a good deal like a tenderloin but has very low marbling. You may see Eye Round roast either cut flat on the ends or left intact with tapering ends.
Like most leaner cuts of beef, Eye Round tends towards a lower price range, only around $6-$10 per pound. When you get your Eye Round into the kitchen, you’ll need to marinate it. This cut also benefits from a rub to provide a nice crust as it cooks, adding a boost to its mild flavor. Because of the tightly knit muscle fibers, Eye Round will always be firm, but with the right cooking, it can be a delectably tender roast. It is also wonderful sliced thinly and served cold for sandwiches.
About Top Round
Top Round, also called Inside Round, is a major subprimal from the round primal. Taken from the inside of the steer’s hind leg, it has a decent amount of marbling for a lean cut.
You may often see it labeled as “London Broil,” but that’s just one way to cook top round steaks. It is a little smaller than Eye Round, coming in around 3-5 pounds. Top Round is still flavorful but milder than Eye of the Round. This cut’s low level of fat means it needs to be marinated and cooked low-and-slow for best results. This method allows the meat to stay medium rare and as tender as possible.
Top Round is similar to a rump roast and is a great cut for a moderate budget. At only about $5-$8 per pound, it isn’t a particularly pricey cut of beef, making it a real bargain when you know how to cook it properly. It benefits most from cooking in liquid, with methods like boiling or braising.
Top Round vs Eye Round
Tenderness: Top Round wins the tenderness battle. Its origin inside the steer’s leg means it is a slightly less exercised muscle and has a little more marbling than Eye Round.
Price: Top Round wins again! It is smaller and runs a couple of dollars less per pound than Eye Round.
Flavor: This one is a tie. Eye of the Round and Top Round both pack some good beefy flavor for a lean, budget-friendly cut.
Prep Time: Both of these cuts turn out best when marinated and cooked low and slow, so with a little planning, they provide a lot of downtime for the busy home cook. Since they do so well in a slow-cooker, Top Round and Eye of Round both make an excellent hands-off weeknight dinner.
Which Is Better for Roast Beef?
Although preparing Eye of the Round as roast beef is probably the best and most popular way to cook it, Top Round wins this one. There’s a good reason that Top Round is one of the cuts most commonly used for deli roast beef. Despite its leanness, as long as it’s cooked at a low temperature and sliced thinly, it will turn out nice and tender.
Which Is Better for Beef Jerky?
Although Eye of Round works fine for beef jerky, it will turn out a slightly less flavorful result. Top Round is the better choice for making your own beef jerky. If the big jerky manufacturers use it, why shouldn’t home cooks? Top Round works great for jerky precisely because of its leanness. The long muscle fibers help it to hold together even in the super-thin slices needed for jerky, and the lack of fat prevents your final product from turning out greasy.
Which Is Better for Stews?
Top Round will serve you better for stews, but Eye of Round makes a fine substitute. The slightly greater amount of connective tissue in Top Round breaks down as the meat is cooked, adding more flavor and texture to your dish.