In my restaurant, all of my favorite beef casserole stews are made with beef knuckle, also known as French roll roast. My customers love the lean quality of the beef and the moderately rich beefy taste it has.
Cooking beef knuckle is not as daunting as most people think. While this cut is large, lean, and fairly tough, a better understanding of the qualities of this beef ultimately makes it easy to cook into a delicious meal.
In this article, I will outline the various beef dishes you can make from this cut as well as how to braise this meat. Let's get started.
Beef knuckle is a sub primal cut of beef from the round primal cut of the steer. The round is composed of the hip and rump of the animal just above the leg.
Depending on carcase weight, beef knuckle can weigh anywhere from 9 to 15 pounds. Clearly, this is a large piece, therefore a versatile cut of meat. You can get enough meat to make different recipes.
Expect this meat to be fairly tough, sinewy, and chewy. After all, the round is cut from the hip of the animal.
This area bears a huge portion of the animal's weight which means the muscle is well exercised.
It has a large amount of connective tissue and four main muscles all connected through connective fibers and ligaments.
Little fat deposits or marbling will be found here. This makes it unsuitable for fast cooking methods such as grilling and roasting which will dry the meat quickly making it unpalatable.
There are four main muscles in the sirloin tip, round tip or beef knuckle:
Beef knuckle, round tip, or tip center, as some call it, goes by many different names in various parts of the country and the world. So it can be confusing.
In some instances, the names refer to the specific cuts of the beef knuckle but there is no standard naming for the cuts across the board. In this article, we will stick to everyday terms.
Some of the labels you can expect to see are:
To get the best out tip center or beef round, you will need to remove all the connective fibrous tissue within the meat and then cut the remaining lean meat into chunks of your liking.
While you can make the steaks without removing the connective tissue, you will run into a great deal of difficulty in making the beef soft and tender to chew.
It will take some practice and may be confusing at first but even without much experience the best tool at your disposal is a very sharp, stiff boning knife. The Victorinox 6 is an excellent option.
In my experience, leaving the gristle in the meat interferes with the eventual taste and mouthfeel of the meat.
Beef knuckle or French roll roast can be separated into three large cuts.
Start by removing the knuckle cap, which is a chunk of fat and gristle from the tip side of the cut.
Using the boning knife, remove all the loose membranes and cartilage around the beef until all you have left is solid red meat.
The sharper the knife, the easier this process will be.
Once you have removed all the membranes from the exterior, start cutting along the seams which are easy to spot.
The seams are all connective tissue and membranes which are silver and white.
Cut along the white tissue as you trim off this tissue leaving only red meat. The component muscles will separate beautifully into the wedge, femur, and bullet muscles.
This muscle - rectus femoris - attaches directly to the femur. so it has some connective tissue where it was attached to the bone as well as some gristle and fat which all needs to be trimmed off.
Trim all the white and silver tissue until you are left with red meat. The rectus femoris muscle is lean beef, excellent for ground meat.
You can also cut the lean beef into cubes which would make great meat for stews or any recipe that requires long, slow cooking.
This is a large, dense piece of meat with a thin layer of connective tissue on the outside. All this silvery-white tissue needs to be trimmed off. This chunk leaves you with quite a number of options.
You can chop it into cubes for casseroles, stews, and beef bourguignon. You can also make thin slices of beef for sandwich steaks or cut thin strips of meat for stir-frying and beef stew which is my specialty.
Some people grill beef round after slicing it thinly but I would not recommend it. Apart from the knuckle cap which cannot be used to grill, this meat has such little fat that it is often a miss and not a hit to grill it.
This is the best muscle in beef round and the meat is also more tender than the previous two. The muscle has some connective tissue all around it, so trim that off.
There is a layer of gristle running through the muscle as well, so cut through the middle of the steak along the gristle to separate the two halves.
Trim off the gristle you will find in the middle.
The thicker slice or the tip side can be cut into approximately five larger cold cuts that can be slow-roasted nicely, while the thinner slice can be chopped into thin strips that would be ideal for a casserole or a stir-fry.
Beef knuckle or sirloin tip roast as some may call it is good for:
You will rarely buy beef ball tip roast with bones in it but if you get your beef knuckle from a butcher shop you may have some beef knuckle bones which would be excellent for making broth.
After trimming the beef ball tip roast, you will be left with a lot of trimmings. Use these trimmings, knuckle cap, and bones to make plenty of stock or broth.
There are a number of options open to you here but to get the best out of your sirloin tip roast, you need to remember that this meat is generally tough and sinewy.
This means that your best approach is to go for slow cooking methods heavy on moisture.
The bullet muscle which is the most tender part of the main muscles can be used to make minute steaks. They will cook fast on high heat but it takes some practice to ensure that you don't overcook them.
Braising in a slow cooker is the best way to cook sirloin tip.
Use a Jaccard 48-Blade Meat Tenderizer to tenderize the beef and cut it into cubes.
Turn on the stove and set the flame to high. In a dutch oven, heat up some olive oil and brown the cubes.
Remove the meat and sautee the sliced onions till brown, then add black pepper.
Add the carrots, bell peppers, and celery and stir. Let these caramelize as well.
Keep stirring and when the vegetables begin to stick to the bottom, add the red wine and stir to free the vegetables.
Let the wine simmer and mix with the vegetables for two minutes.
Add the meat cubes and cover the pot. Reduce the flame and bring it to a simmer.
After approximately twenty minutes, add 4 cups of beef stock or plain water to the pan and cover.
Let the meat cook for 2 hours on low heat before stirring. 3 hours is ideal for this recipe.
It goes great with mashed potatoes, rice, or pasta.