Beef topside is a cut of beef taken from the round of the cow. Generally this is one of the leanest, or most fat-free, cuts of beef available, but it is often bought surrounded by a layer of fat. The cut can be used in many different dishes, such as beef bourguignon, and it can also be roasted whole or stir-fried. As a result of the low fat content of the cut, it is best cooked slowly in order to prevent the meat from drying out. Top round is another common name for this cut.
The round is located above the back legs of the cow, literally on the top portion of the animal. It is located just above the shank, which is the section of meat close to the back legs of the animal. Beef topside is taken from the round, and has no bones in it. The topside cut is the closest one to the back end of the animal, with the sirloin and tenderloin cuts directly next to it.
Meat that comes from beef is all muscle fiber; the amount the muscle is used during the cow’s life affects the qualities of the meat it produces. Less-used muscles are generally higher in fat content, which makes them moister when cooked. Beef topside is amongst the leanest cuts of meat, because it comes from a frequently used and powerful muscle. This means that it is a particularly healthy cut of beef, but one that is also prone to drying out during cooking.
In order to keep the meat moist, it is best cooked slowly in a covered dish. Generally, the meat will be roasted in the oven, with a small amount of stock in the bottom of the dish. Covering the cooking dish prevents the moisture which evaporates during cooking from escaping, and therefore makes the resulting meat juicier. Searing the meat in a frying pan prior to cooking can also help to keep moisture inside the meat. Beef topside is often coated in a layer of fat to help it baste in its own juices during cooking.
Many different dishes can be made using beef topside. Among the most well-known of these is beef bourguignon, a French dish in which the topside meat is sliced into cubes and cooked in red wine and stock. The cut can also be roasted whole and then sliced into individual steaks. Beef topside is also suitable for cutting up into pieces to be used for a stir-fry.