Shoulder Roast vs Chuck Roast – Why They are Different

If you’re looking for a good beef roast in the store, you may have noticed both shoulder and chuck roasts. Actually, both cuts come from the shoulder section of the cow. What are the differences? Which one is best suited to my current purpose?

What Kind of Meat is Shoulder Roast?

Shoulder roast, sometimes called a silver tip roast, is the more tender of the two cuts. It’s also leaner meat. Because it lends itself well to slicing and cutting, some steaks can be cut from the shoulder roast, including flat iron or top blade state, and the petite tender steak, or bistro steak. This steak cut has a similar texture to a filet mignon but is a bit chewier. It is a very tasty cut as well. However, if you’ve got a pot roast in mind, the shoulder roast just does not have enough fat to keep it from drying out during the long cooking time.

Shoulder roasts are usually sold in a much smaller cut than chuck. They usually weigh between one and three pounds and will be about four inches thick. Check the eyes for a bright red color, signifying freshness. Check for sufficient fat marbling as well.

What kind of meat is chuck roast?

Chuck roast is a flavorful, usually large, cut from between the neck and the shoulder of the cow. A chuck roast usually weighs between five to ten pounds, and can be as much as eight inches thick. It’s often called the poor man’s brisket.

Chuck is tastier than shoulder roast due to its higher fat content, but it’s a little tougher than shoulder roast. For that reason, it’s often seen ground into hamburger. In addition, chuck muscle fibers tend to cross each other in various places. This makes chuck roast harder to slice, especially if you want thin slices. Chuck is more suited to shredded or pulled meat for barbecued beef. It also cuts into cubes easily for stew meat.

If you see beef roasts called English Roast, Boston Cut, Boston Butt or Cross Cut, these were all cut from the chuck section of the steer. One tip is to ask the butcher how old a particular roast is. The older the meat, the better it will taste, and it will probably be less expensive as well.

How do I cook shoulder roast?

A whole shoulder roast should be cooked slowly at a low temperature. The lower fat content means that the meat may dry out if it is cooked too quickly at a higher temperature. When cooking the whole roast, start turning it after 45 minutes, turning it every 15 minutes. The steak cuts can be cooked more quickly on high heat as long as they are watched. They can dry out and toughen when overcooked. One benefit of shoulder roast steaks is that they don’t need to be marinated before cooking. They can go from the freezer right onto the grill.

Shoulder roast also can be cooked in a slow cooker. It takes ten to twelve hours on low heat or seven to eight on high heat. If cooking on the higher setting, it should be checked periodically to make sure it doesn’t dry out. Browning the roast in a skillet, then moving it to the oven for a couple of hours is a great way to cook it.

How do I cook chuck roast?

Because chuck roast is tougher meat than shoulder roast, it takes longer to cook. Many people will marinate chuck roasts for at least a day to help tenderize them. Chuck is often chosen for pot roasts and stews. It does well in a slow cooker or on the grill and smoked. Braising and roasting in the oven also are good ways to use chuck roast. You can put the wrap the meat in foil in a roasting pan or just put it right onto your oven rack. If you plan an oven recipe, allow around 20 minutes per pound of meat. Keep turning it so that it cooks evenly and baste it to keep it from drying out. It should be rested for 15 minutes before cutting. The longer the time the meat cooks at low heat, the more the tough, connective fibers break down and the more the fat renders.

Before cooking, you should remove excess fat with a knife. If you plan to use the meat in a stew, remove the bones as well. Besides marinading chuck, some people prefer to rub it with favorite spices or just kosher salt. If using a dry rub, just place it in your roasting pan and put it in the refrigerator uncovered.

Which cut is good for grilling?

Actually, either cut can be grilled. There are plenty of recipes for various marinades and rubs to use for grilling. It’s just a matter of cooking time and how much you have. Since chuck roast needs a slower, longer cooking time, it’s just made for the smoker.

Shoulder roast should cook over medium-low heat on the gas grill or four to six inches from medium-low coals on a charcoal grill. It takes 50 to 75 minutes to cook. Be sure to baste it with marinade during the last 15 minutes of cooking time.

Chuck should be marinated for at least six hours before grilling. Adding a little meat tenderizer to the marinade will aid in cooking. Charcoal grills work best, especially for flavor, but gas grills can be used as well. You should plan to grill the meat for 15 to 20 minutes per pound. For medium-rare, the roast should be cooked to an internal temperature of 130 to 135 degrees. For medium, increase this to 140 degrees.

Which one should You Choose?

As has been mentioned, it depends on what you plan to do with your roast. If you’re planning a Sunday pot roast or stew in a large slow cooker, then chuck roast is the one to go with. Likewise, if you want to end up with shredded barbecued beef, chuck shreds very well. Shoulder roast cooks more quickly, especially the steak cuts, and this meat is especially good for slicing, making some really nice sandwich filling.

Basically, the shoulder roast is more tender and takes less cooking time. However, while the chuck roast takes longer to cook, it also has more flavor and is less likely to overcook and dry out. How much time you have and what you plan for your meat will dictate your choice.

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