is supported by our Pitmaster Club. Also, when you buy with links on our site we may earn a finder’s fee. Click to see how we test and review products.

Authentic Pit Roast Beef Done Right In Your Own Backyard

Share on:
Roast beef sandwich

There’s no reason to settle for sub-par roast beef ever again thanks to this recipe!

You can make roast beef from many cuts on the steer, but here’s how to make a fine roast beef by taking a lesson from the Pit Beef cooks in Baltimore.

Pit beef is served in many restaurants, bars, and pubs in the Charm City area, and surprisingly, it is rarely found outside Maryland. It is essentially a juicy roast beef sandwich cooked on a grill. All manner of grills are used, charcoal, wood, and gas.

The meat is a large hunk of beef, often from the rump, often top round, sometimes bottom round, and sometimes sirloin. It is rubbed with a savory spice and herb mix, usually cooked until it is dark and crispy on the outside and rare inside, sliced thin across the grain so there is a narrow crusty ring of flavor from the exterior in every bite. Then it is heaped on a roll or rye bread. You can usually order your preferred doneness since the edges and tapered sections are cooked more and are less red. Cooks will often throw slices back on the fire if you don’t want yours rare.

Because the roasts typically used are from the rump and are very lean, they can be tough. Baltimore restaurants machine slice the meat very thin to make it easier to chew, but you can make it tender by cooking it lower and slower than the high speed operations. Low and slow melts the connective tissues that surround the meat fibers (see my article on meat science). Still, if you use one of the cheaper roasts from the rump, it is absolutely essential that you cut across the grain and shave the slices paper thin.

pit beef roast

In order to get that authentic flavor, you should cook over charcoal, but pit beef can be done just fine on a gas grill. I recommend you throw in some smoke. This is usually a big hunk of meat so you need to get as much flavor as possible on the exterior because the interior doesn’t have much flavor other than simple beef. Rub and smoke just can’t penetrate very far.

Some places proffer a wide range of condiments, but the standard is a horsey sauce, sometimes called tiger sauce, which is a blend of horseradish and mayo, and then thin sliced raw onions top it all. Baltimore Tiger Sauce is very different than the stuff sold in a bottle called Tiger Sauce. As an upgrade, use my Secretariat Horseradish Sauce.

Some places serve their pit beef on caraway studded rye bread, but if the beef is juicy and topped with tiger sauce, rye bread is a recipe for a sloppy mess in your lap. I’ll have mine on a kaiser roll or hoagie bun.

Baltimore Pit Beef Recipe

Home made pit roast beef
Tried this recipe?Tell others what you thought of it and give it a star rating below.
4.28 from 184 votes
You no longer have to travel to Baltimore to experience authentic pit beef thanks to this recipe.
Serve with: National Bohemian or other local Baltimore beer.

Main Course
difficulty scale


Servings: 10 heaping sandwiches


Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Dry Brine (optional): 1 day
Total Time: 4 hours 10 minutes


Tiger Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons jarred horseradish in vinegar
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

The Sandwich

About the horseradish. I recommend grated horseradish in white vinegar, from a jar or home made, but you can use the creamy version if you wish.
About the salt. Remember, kosher salt is half the concentration of table salt so if you use table salt, use half as much. Click here to read more about salt and how it works.
Metric conversion:

These recipes were created in US Customary measurements and the conversion to metric is being done by calculations. They should be accurate, but it is possible there could be an error. If you find one, please let us know in the comments at the bottom of the page


  • Prep. Mix the mayo and horseradish and let it sit for at least 30 minutes during the cook.
  • Trim excess fat and any silver skin from the roast. The fat does not penetrate the meat. Meat is 75% water and fat and water don't mix. And the fat blocks the rub and smoke from the meat. If your roast is funny shaped, tie it with butcher string to make it closer to uniform in thickness so it cooks uniformly. Now take a look at the meat and figure out which way the grain is running because when it is done, you will want to slice it across the grain to reduce the chewiness. It is easier to find the grain when the meat is raw.
  • Dry brine the meat a day in advance if possible, 1/2 teaspoon of Morton Coarse Kosher Salt per pound of meat.
  • Crust. Anytime before cooking, in a baking pan, wet the entire surface and coat it with the Cow Crust.
  • Fire up. Set up your grill for 2-zone indirect heat and get the indirect side to about 225°F (107°C) with the lid down. On a smoker, set it up to cook at 225°F (107°C). I know this is a lot cooler than most restaurants cook at, but stick with me. This will make meat more tender than most restaurants. If you wish, throw some wood into your grill for smoke flavor. I recommend it.
  • Cook. Place the meat in indirect heat, close the lid and check the color on the bottom after about 30 to 60 minutes. If it is different than the color on top, roll it over. The cooking time will depend on the temp and the thickness of the meat. Shoot for about 115°F (46°C) in the deepest part.
  • Then move it over direct infrared heat to crisp up the crust, and roll it around every 5 minutes or so when the exterior gets deep mahogany. Don't burn it. Watch the temp in the center and remove the roast when it hits 125 to 130°F (52 to 54°C) for medium rare. This reverse sear method will give you much more even color inside the meat, and a crisper crust that if you sear first.
  • Slice. Slice the meat thin across the grain for max tenderness. If you slice and the grain is running parallel to the slice, rotate the hunk and slice it across the grain. This is crucial! It may be hard to slice warm meat with a machine if you have one, so I slice mine by hand. Just shave it off. Don't try to make large complete slices. The thinner the better. After you slice it, you can throw a few slices back on the grill or in a pan for those who like it chewier and more well done.
  • Serve. Mound it high on the roll, drizzle on some horsey sauce, and scatter a few thinly sliced onion rings on.

Related articles

Published On: 11/6/2012 Last Modified: 6/24/2024

Share on:
  • Meathead, Founder And BBQ Hall of Famer - Founder and publisher of, Meathead is known as the site's Hedonism Evangelist and BBQ Whisperer. He is also the author of the New York Times Best Seller "Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling", and is a BBQ Hall Of Fame inductee.


High quality websites are expensive to run. If you help us, we’ll pay you back bigtime with an ad-free experience and a lot of freebies!

Millions come to every month for high quality tested recipes, tips on technique, science, mythbusting, product reviews, and inspiration. But it is expensive to run a website with more than 2,000 pages and we don’t have a big corporate partner to subsidize us.

Our most important source of sustenance is people who join our Pitmaster Club. But please don’t think of it as a donation. Members get MANY great benefits. We block all third-party ads, we give members free ebooks, magazines, interviews, webinars, more recipes, a monthly sweepstakes with prizes worth up to $2,000, discounts on products, and best of all a community of like-minded cooks free of flame wars. Click below to see all the benefits, take a free 30 day trial, and help keep this site alive.

Post comments and questions below


1) Please try the search box at the top of every page before you ask for help.

2) Try to post your question to the appropriate page.

3) Tell us everything we need to know to help such as the type of cooker and thermometer. Dial thermometers are often off by as much as 50°F so if you are not using a good digital thermometer we probably can’t help you with time and temp questions. Please read this article about thermometers.

4) If you are a member of the Pitmaster Club, your comments login is probably different.

5) Posts with links in them may not appear immediately.



Click to comment or ask a question...


These are not paid ads, they are a curated selection of products we love.

All of the products below have been tested and are highly recommended. Click here to read more about our review process.

Use Our Links To Help Keep Us Alive

Many merchants pay us a small referral fee when you click our “buy now” links. This has zero impact on the price you pay but helps support the site.