Learning how to roll German Beef Rouladen can be very easy. To get a tight roll it can take a bit of practice. Follow our step by step instructions on how to roll beef rouladen.
Our family has been making Rouladen for as long as we can remember. Rob, my other half grew up in a house where much of the cooking was done in a traditional German style by his mum. Rouladen became a staple at celebration dinners and family gatherings. When our kids have grown and left the nest it will be one of the recipes we send them off with and will make when they come back and visit.
They are a main course dish of rolled meat commonly served in various parts of Europe, particularly Germany and France. The meat is usually a very thinly cut beef that has been rolled around a filling, seared, and simmered for a long time in a gravy. In French it is referred to as a Roulade which is also the German name for a singular roll. We call them Rouladen, like the German plural, as we never make just one. You may see it referred to as Rinderroulade(n) in German as that simply means beef rolls. In English they are sometimes called braised beef rolls. Italians have a version called braciole that often contains breadcrumbs and cheese.
To make a roll it takes a thin cut of meat. At some butchers you can actually pick up a rouladen cut, especially a European meat shop. Beef is the usual meat used for rouladen, with allergies, adding a spin to the dish, and preferences the cook may change the meat. Anything from bison, pork, chicken to fish (for those that can have it) is used in some places, though beef is what our traditional rouladen has always been made of.
In North America the cut for a Rouladen is made from top round/top side/inside round, flank steak or flattened round steak and either very thinly cut or pounded about ½ an inch thick. If beef is not a meat eaten in your house you can use a thinly cut pork, lamb, chicken, or bison round.
This can be an extremely controversial and polarising topic. I once saw on a social media group a very venomous and heated debate over what the filling should be. What I learned is every family has a different traditional recipe that has been handed down.
In our house we have always made the braised beef rolls with a long strip of thick cut bacon and a wedge of dill pickle. However Oma now makes hers with a sausage link instead of a pickle at the heart of the roll. Some families chop their bacon and pickle, add onion and carrots to the chopped mix and layer it along either the one end where the pickle goes for us or as a layer along the whole beef round. Some add paprika to the filling and others crumble sausage and replace the bacon with it entirely.
We make it as we have always made it as that is beloved at our dinner table. That doesn’t mean we are right and others are wrong. It means to try a few different fillings and see which one is easiest and most loved by your family.
Different regions would have absolutely used different fillings, even different meats than beef or whatever cut is available. The inside bits would change with what is in season and what is on hand and the family’s tastes. We have tried onions many times for example but our kids aren’t keen on them. Rouladen can be a journey of taste and discovery.
The technique is usually the same but the fillings, ingredients, and side dishes vary depending on the recipe and where it is from. They are all rolled and cooked, usually slow cooked. This technique is the same but the ingredients will vary greatly and the way the filling is prepared is also not constant.
It is partially cooked not fully cooked. It should still be fully pliable and not crispy. Rob cooks ours until the fats starts to become translucent. We do this to cook some of the fat off the bacon so it isn't chewy and to give our meat and gravy extra flavour. It is the fat that remains in the pan we use to sear the rolls and to soften the aromatic vegetables for the gravy.
There are many ways to prep the rolls and keep them closed using small skewers, special rouladen bands/rings or clamps. The latter two are harder to find in North America. The most common for what you may have on hand already are two ways to hold the rolls together using butcher’s twine or toothpicks. To use butcher’s twine, two to three small bits are wrapped and tied around the meat roll. For tooth picks, 2-3 are put through the roll in a perpendicular fashion to hold the roll and stop it unravelling. Either way, whatever you use to keep the rolls closed like toothpicks or cord, should be removed before serving as they pose a choking hazard.
It depends on where you are from but there is usually a starch like potatoes or Spaetzle, and a vegetable like red cabbage. The potatoes may be fried, roasted, boiled or mashed and the spaetzle is usually a plain one as this part of the meal is used to soak up all the leftover gravy and not waste the flavour. Spaetzle is a German/Austrian/Swiss noodle made with eggs, wheat flour and sometimes milk. Bread dumplings are another common starch dish with gravy heavy meats. In Germany they are referred to as semmelknödel and made with stale bread and steamed or boiled yeast dumplings called dampfnudeln.
We serve a lot of steamed vegetables but if we were to go to Oma’s house it would be sauerkraut, RotKohl (red cabbage), or whatever is on hand and in season like asparagus, such as the white variety in early spring.
To see how we cook our family’s German Rouladen recipe check out our recipe with full instructions on how to make the gravy.
Our Ingredient List for Making the German Beef Rolls
- Rouladen beef
- German Mustard or Mustard-like Sauce
- Garlic Dill Pickles
- Gluten Free Flour or Plain Rice Flour
For full amounts and ingredient specifics see our German Beef Rouladen Recipe.
Step by Step Instructions on How to Roll German Beef Rouladen
On a plastic cutting board or a plate lay out slices of the rouladen meat so they are parallel to you. The thin side facing you. If they are not super thin pound to ⅛ of an inch thick with a meat mallet. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.
With a butter knife spread mustard or mustard substitute all over one side of the beef in a thin layer.
Lay 1 piece of partially cooked bacon on the mustard side of the beef, in the same direction as the beef.
Put the quartered pickle on the bacon at the end closest to you next to the edge.
Roll the beef and bacon around the pickle. Starting with the end closest to you and roll tightly away from you. The pickle should be in the middle of the roll. It should form a tightly rolled meat “cigar” shape.
Secure the roll on the open end with either kitchen twine or 2 toothpicks pushed all the way through, one at each end. Be sure to remove these before serving so no one chokes on them. You can use other items like small skewers, bands, or clamps that are specific to meat rolls.
When all the rolls are formed, pour the flour on a deep and wide plate. Dredge the rouladen one by one in the flour lightly coating them. The area around the toothpicks or twine may need to be patted on.
Once all the rolls are floured, heat the original deep stock pot over medium medium-high heat. Add some of the bacon fat, about ⅓-½ of the total fat.
Place a couple of rolls in the pan and cook on all sides to sear and brown. Each side should take 2-3 mins. When done, put the seared rolls on a plate and set aside. Add bacon fat as needed and repeat with all the rolls.
From here the rolls will go back in the pan after the simmering gravy has been made. This is so the meat slowly finishes cooking over the next 90 minutes.
For a Full Gluten Free German Braised Beef Rolls Recipe
To Follow a full recipe check out our Beef Rouladen Recipe. It has a full ingredient list and cooking method on our recipe for German Beef Rouladen for our full family recipe. This recipe is one that my partner has agreed to share. We wrote on how he makes this traditional german dinner he grew up on.