The Round Primal

The round primal (also known as the rump) comprises the back leg and pelvic region of the steer, and contains massive muscle groups that are responsible for stabilizing and moving the animal throughout its life. Consequently, the muscles are messy, large, and not always so tender. But, every cut has its place, and we’ll take a look at the four large muscle groups and their applications: the top round, bottom round, knuckle, and eye round.

A life spent straining

On the spectrum of tender, lazy muscles to tough, hard-working ones, the two primal sections that contain legs (round and chuck) get the short end of the stick. Their constant exercise leaves them lean, making their culinary applications a tad tricky: because of the lack of fat, recipes usually call for moisturizing preparations like braising, or low, slow roasts. Big, tough muscle groups do have an advantage, though: cost-friendly meat that can be cut up for stews or other bite-sized applications, and the perfect hunks of beef for large roasts and pot roasts.

Along with big muscles come big (like, big) bones. The aitch bone and femur, as well as the joints, provide outstanding marrow opportunities, whether for flavoring a broth or preparing marrow as a dish.

Read our foolproof bone broth recipe or shop bones.

This heavily marbled Wagyu rump roast displays the significantly larger muscle size in the round.

Knuckle (Sirloin Tip)

As we often touch upon, the imaginary lines by the which butchers categorize the four quarters of the steer often chop right through muscle groups, leaving a bit of the muscle in each primal. The sirloin tip, or knuckle, is a prime example in the round. As its name suggests, the sirloin tip is the end of a muscle that primarily exists within the loin (sirloin subprimal), but its end sticks into the round. The round section of this muscle produces tender-ish steaks or great cubed meat for stews, stir-fries and kebab. You’ll notice, as with most cuts from the round, a consistent pinkish-red color, owing to the leanness of the hard-working muscle.

Huge pelvic and leg bones lend themselves to delicious, hearty broths. Read our recipe.

The Big Three Muscles of the Round

The remainder of the round is divided into three large muscle groups: top round, bottom round, and eye round. Primarily utilized as roasts, they can also be found in steak form at the butcher shop as “eye of round steak,” or, in the case of the top round, the “London broil steak.” Because of the lack of fat, you’ll want to marinate this steaks and, if cooking on a hot surface, err on the side of undercooking; there’s no going back once a steak this lean is overcooked.

For all the troublesome leanness, however, rump roasts make for the perfect pot roast, one of our favorite recipes. With the heaping “healthy” fat content of a Wagyu rump roast, especially, a slow-braised pot roast can soak up the flavors of vegetables, wine, and aromatics and provide a treat for (literally) the whole neighborhood.

Braising methods like pot roast keep lean, large muscles from the round moist. Read our recipe.