The Inside Round
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The Inside Round, NAMP 168-169E, also known as the Top Round, Controgirello (Italian), Cara Superior (Spanish), Tendre de Tranche (French), and Topside (British) is cut from the inside and rear, mostly, (depending on whether the Inside Round is from a Chicago Round or a Diamond Cut Round), of the hind leg. The Inside Round is a large, 10 to 18 pounds (4.5 to 8.2 kg) with the “Round Cap” off, football shaped Sub-Primal Cut and the most tender portion of the Round Primal Cut.


The Beef Inside Round is available all year long.


The Inside Round is most commonly called the Top Round because when butchers work on separating out the Round, the Inside Round is typically on top and facing up, but at Smart Kitchen we prefer the lesser used term “Inside Round.”  We feel that the name Inside Round makes it easier to visualize that this Round meat comes from the inside of the upper rear leg which does less work (mostly holding the leg in place) than the outside of the rear leg or the Bottom Round.

Because of the limited work load, there are, scientifically, a number of more tender muscles in and around the Top Round, which is one of the reasons it has 7 NAMP classifications (168-169E).  The reason that the Inside Round has a chewy tough reputation is that the main muscles of the Inside Round are only rated as being of “Intermediate Tenderness” (barely) and they contain Connective Tissue (the bad Elastin) and Gristle. These two main muscles, the Adductor muscle (NAMP 169 E) and the Semimembranosus muscle, are the least tender of the medium/intermediate tender muscles. The Adductor is #22 of 22 of The Most Tender Beef Cuts and the Semimembranosus Muscle is rated #21 out of 22. Because these two hardworking muscles make up most of the Inside Round, you are working with, slightly tender, fairly-chewy meat with decent flavor. The meat is dense and lean with an even grain and a fairly course texture.

The most tender muscles of the Inside Round are the small supporting ones. The SartoriusGracilis and Pectineus muscles, that have all have been, individually, favorably compared (in Muscle Profiling Research conducted by the Universities of Nebraska and Florida on the Beef Research web site) to the Longissimus Dorsi muscle of the center back which gives us the tender Sirloin Strip and Rib Eye meat. See Smart Kitchen’s The Most Tender Beef Cuts for more.

At retail, Inside Round can be found as a very large, whole, Inside Round, cut into halves or trimmed up with various parts removed such as “Cap Off,” NAMP 169, or “Soft Side Off,” NAMP 169 D.  The problem for us in the kitchen is that with an Inside Round, all these different muscles come bundled together in a 10 to 18 pound (4.5 kg to 8.2 kg) tied, netted or bagged package (to maintain an even shape).

As more is trimmed from the Inside Round, like the “Round Cap,” which is essentially the tender Gracilis Muscle, or the “Soft Side,” which is essentially the tender Sartorius Pectineus muscles, you are left with the more problematic Adductor and Semimembranosus muscles for your cooking.

The best defense against the marginally tougher Adductor muscle in an Inside Round is to buy the “First Cut,” literally the first cut past the Sirloin (working from nose to tail), where the Adductor muscle is the smallest. You can sometimes find this cut labeled as a Butterball Steak or even marketed at a stretch as a London Broil.

The second line of defense is to learn to identify the Adductor muscle and then buy Top Round cuts from higher up on the leg, where the Adductor muscle is smallest relative to the size of the slightly more tender Semimembranosus muscle. The Adductor gets larger relative to the Semimembranosus as you get further down the leg. (Thanks to Clint at The Bull Market for confirming this fact. (The link goes to their web site.)

The production of beef is carried about by three primary types of operations: Cow & Calf Operations, Weaner Calf & Yearling Operations, and Dry-Lot Feeding Operations (also known as “Backrounders”) which are the most expensive operations in the Beef Industry. To learn more about Beef Producers just follow the link to Smart Kitchen’s Page on Beef Producers. The Beef Producers are represented by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

American cattle production has remained almost stagnant between 1985 and 2009, growing just 6.4%, while the amount of beef imported has nearly tripled in that time, according to an analysis of USDA figures conducted by R-CALF USA, another the trade group that represents cattle producers.

Once raised, Beef is typically sold to Meat Packers who slaughter, inspect, and butcher the animals to provide Primal Cuts to butchers and portion cuts to consumers.

The Meat Packing Industry is in a period of consolidation. In 1999, the 10 largest beef-packing firms accounted for more than 90 percent of all Steer and Heifer slaughter in the U.S. In 2011, according to the Western Organization of Resources Councils three major companies controlled Beef market. Visit Smart Kitchen’s Meat Packers Resource Page to learn more.


When shopping for Beef Inside Round, look for Beef Inside Round that has a clear, red exterior color known as the “Bloom,” that come from exposure to oxygen and not the more normal purplish-red color of vacuum packed beef. Your purchase should be cold, firm to the touch and, if packaged, free of any punctures or rips. Notice the “sell-by” date on the label and make sure you are buying product that is well within its dates of safe use as specified by the sticker. 


Raw Beef Inside Round should last for up to 4 days in the refrigerator. Add an extra day of cold storage time if The Beef Inside Round is Marinated or oiled. Raw Beef Inside Round will keep for 2-3 months in the freezer without any appreciable deterioration in quality.

Cooked Beef Inside Round should be refrigerated for up to 1-3 days.

Culinary Uses

The Beef Inside Round is a tough Portion Cut of Beef. On Smart Kitchen’s Home Plate it should be Cooked, it is Tough, it can be Thin or Thick depending on how it is cut, it is Dry, and Lean. Using the Home Plate we would call it Cooked, Tough, Thin or Thick, Dry, and Lean or noted in the home plate shorthand The Beef Inside Round would be (C, T1T3-T4, D, L).

The lean Top Round takes well to Marinades and Sauces and shrinks moderately during cooking.

Top Round is well suited for Stews and Braises and can be Pot-Roasted, rotisserie-roasted, or slow-cooked in a slow oven (commercial) or a Crockpot (consumer).

Thin strips of Top Round are used for Japanese Sukiyaki, the one-pot meal often cooked with flair at the table. Top round is also often used by restaurants and delis to make Roast Beef for Sandwiches. Because of its dense texture and relative leanness, Top Round can be dry and mealy if overcooked.

Top Round does well with flavors like Barbecue SauceBourbonWhiskyGarlicGingerHorseradishMustardRed Wine VinegarSoy Sauce and Steak Sauce.

One preparation for Top Round that we like is Slow Roasted Top Round.

Cuts, typically Steaks, labeled as just Top Round, or Top Round Steak, should denote center cuts (from the middle of the leg) of the Inside Round with relatively more of the intermediately tender Adductor muscle as opposed to the tender Semimembranosus Muscle. Other steaks cut from the Top Round include Breakfast SteakMinute SteakButterball Steak, and Round Tip Steak. You will occasionally also find London Broil and Top Round Roasts cut from the Top Round.

Minute Steaks are typically not butchered from the best cuts but can be found made from the SirloinSirloin Tip, the Top Round or even the Eye of Round.  Minute Steaks can be scored, Swissed or Cubed to make them more tender and cook faster. In some cases, Cube Steaks are also called Minute Steaks.

Because they are so small and thin, Minute Steaks can be cooked with Dry Heat Methods such as GrillingBroilingSautéing, or Pan Frying. They should be cut against the Meat Grain to maximize their tenderness.

Portion Size

Allow 6 to 9 ounces (170 g to 255 g) per person of Beef Inside Round as a Serving Size.

Gluten Free


Low Fat


Low Calorie