11/04/2011 02:33 pm ET Updated Aug 31, 2012

How To Trim And Tie A Roast

It's important to trim excess fat from a roast and tie it before cooking to ensure the best results, says chef Mark Elia of The Culinary Institute of America. He begins by trimming the excess fat from a beef strip loin. Although roasts need fat for flavor, it's not good to have too much. Chef Elia suggests leaving 1/4 to 1/8 of an inch. Using a filet knife, he cuts across the back, removing layers of fat at a time. Once he's done with the fat, he removes the collagen band on the side of the roast and also any bone connective tissue, which will become extremely hard if it's cooked. Before you tie the roast, run your fingers over the surface of the meat to feel for any remaining tough tissue or bone fragments.

To tie, use standard butcher's twine (this can be purchased from your grocery store or a butcher shop). Chef Elia suggest starting in the middle of the roast, so that it keeps an even shape. For the tie, he forms an 'A' with his fingers and the string, then crosses the feed side around the bottom and through, then pulls down. He then makes another 'A,' brings the string around again and just touches the knots together. To finish the tie, go behind the knot and pull to tighten. Repeat at uniform intervals along the entire piece of meat and you'll be ready to cook.

For 60 years, The Culinary Institute of America has been setting the standard for excellence in professional culinary education. In this video series, experienced chefs and educators show you how to tackle essential cooking techniques.

Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Chef Mark Elia from the Culinary Institute of America, and I'm going to show you this kitchen basic: how to properly tie and trim a roast.

The cut of meat we've chosen today is known as a zero-by-one beef strip loin. To properly trim this, we'll first need to remove all the excess fat that's on top. We don't want to take it all off; we want to leave about a quarter of an inch to an eighth of an inch of fat for cooking purposes. We'll start with your ordinary kitchen eight-inch fillet knife. We'll just lay it down and slightly cut across the back, layers at a time. We don't want to take too much off at once, because sometimes it's quite hard to see how thick it is. I'm just going to trim this off. Sometimes the fat is very loose, sometimes it's quite tight, but either way we have to get the excess fat off.

We need to notice that along the front of this piece of meat is what we refer to as a collagen band. This collagen band can be as much as a quarter of an inch thick, and extremely hard to remove at the table. Come around to the top of the eye muscle, and just make a very small line right across to give us a gauge as to where we're going to remove this collagen band. Now, this band does go all the way down the back of this muscle, but the hardest part, the thickest part of it, is right up here at the front. We'll take our knife and go underneath the collagen band. We'll lift our collagen band over our knife, and cut through.

Once the collagen band is removed, if there's any bone connective tissue - which is very common - just shave it off. Just shave it off; you don't want to take too much. We'll now turn it over and work on the bottom side, which has a lot of bone connective tissue. We'll just get underneath that connective tissue, slide our knife out, and shave off any of that unwanted tissue. If it's left on, bone connective tissue gets very hard during the cooking process. That's that little piece of meat that gets very hard, and you bite down on it and say it's a big piece of gristle. That's bone connective tissue. We don't want to dig into the meat, though - just take it off the top.

As a last step in trimming, just take your fingers and run them all over the surface of the meat, just to make sure you don't feel any bone connective tissue that you may have missed, or any possible bone fragments.

The next step is to tie it for a roast. We'll use a standard 16-ply butcher's twine that can be purchased in grocery stores or from your local butcher. It's a cotton twine that is food-safe; you can cook with this, with no problem. We'll start with our feed side in the left hand and our waste to the right. We'll go underneath the roast, right in the middle - always start to tie your roast right in the middle, so when you're done it has a nice even shape all the way through. To tie a simple butcher's knot, we'll take our waste side and form an 'A' with our index finger and our middle finger. We'll cross the feed side, bring it around the bottom, bring it through, and pull down. We'll hold tension on it, bring it back up again, make another 'A', bring it around again, pull down and just touch together. We don't want to pull it too tight here because that'll lock the knot and we'll have to start all over. This time we'll take our fingers and go behind the knot, and pull - to tighten everything up and give it a nice shape. Again, we'll slide under the roast, come up over the top, make an 'A' with our fingers and our string, then we'll cross the feed side, wrap the string around and pull down. We'll come up with the second 'A', cross again, and pull down lightly - we don't want to lock the knot at this point, we still have to cinch it in tight. Then we pull tight, and at this point we'll take our string and wrap it around two fingers, reach down and pull that loose piece of string through, and lock it down. You'll notice all the knots are nice and lined up along the bottom, away from your guests while you're cutting.

And there you have the proper way to trim and tie a roast.