My mother's 9-child family owned a grocery store during the Depression. Unlike the rest of the staggering community in Baltimore, they always had plenty of food, and they could take their pick of the cuts of meat.
My mother's primary choice was beef chuck or shoulder blade. My own nuclear family was quite poor, and chuck happens to be among the cheapest cuts of beef. Isn't that a happy coincidence? I grew up believing that roast beef simply was roast chuck, period. It was hard for me to get used to other cuts of beef, which were always tougher. Likewise, when people eat roast beef at my home, they generally concur that it's the, or close to the, best roast beef they've ever had. This roast literally melts in your mouth. It amuses me to provide butter knives (rather than steak knives) or only forks to my guests--it's that tender. Here's how it's done, precooking preparation time approximately 1 minute, not counting shopping:
Buy a piece of beef clearly labeled as chuck, shoulder, or blade roast, preferably without strings tied around it.
Place the meat in your enamel roaster. Wash your hands.
Liberally apply black pepper powder and salt or Vegesal to the top.
Cover the roaster with its own cover, or tightly with aluminum foil.
Blast for 15 minutes at 500F.
Lower heat to 350, add one cup of water to the bottom of the roaster, and roast for 1.5 hours for a very small roast, 2 hours for a larger roast.
Optional: In the last hour of cooking, add large, raw chunks of your favorite root vegetables, such as:
If you are a gravy person, make Cornstarch or Flour gravy (see Roast Chicken entry).
Observe the conspicuous lack of garlic and onions. If you simply cannot conceive of cooking without these offensively odoriferous bulbs, by all means add them. But do yourself and all the people you'll breathe on for the next three days a favor, and try it once without.
Note about cuts: London Broil is often quite cheap as well. But avoid London Broil like the plague, if you are not an experienced beef cook! I have never succeeded in making London Broil tender enough to eat, except by boiling it for hours in stew. I hear tell of people who beat the roast with a mallet, or marinate the heck out of it while raw. That's a LOT of trouble! I don't even cut up raw meat, let alone let it sit in a bowl of vinegar in the fridge or bang on it with a hammer splashing blood around the kitchen! Ick! It's trouble I am not willing to go to, especially when there is a most miraculously delicious cut that I can buy instead.
Note about vegetables: Observe that the vegetables that I have listed for the last three recipes have some recurring members. I love these vegetables. Carrots and celery especially are highly aromatic and they infuse meats and gravies with their flavors. But, importantly for people who would like to eat well without shopping every day, all of them store well in the refrigerator, sometimes for months, always ready for when you have a notion to pick up a roast. In terms of basic kitchen necessities, for me they are the perishable analogs to flour and sugar. Buy sizeable quantitites of them for your convenience. It is convenience as much as anything that will revive the precious science of daily cooking.
Be happy! Eat well!