If you think I’m being witty with the headline, don’t. I have a beef. My beef beef is with rib of beef or prime rib. That doesn’t change any of the issues at hand. A great cut of beef needs to be treated with due deference and respect. Making a great meal from a great piece of Irish beef is not difficult.
Though it may be more difficult that you may think. Here are a few of the problems that can cause your Sunday roast to be inferior and why I often have my beef with (other people’s) rib beef.
Top Quality Meat
First you need to get your hands on a piece of great beef. The piece I am using here is Angus. It was grown on a farm in North Tipperary by a farmer and breeder known personally to the butcher. After slaughter, it was dry aged in a temperature and humidity controlled environment for about 40 days. I watched it being prepared. It is quality. You can see that the meat is not too red. Bright red is not a good sign in dry hung beef.
Side Note on Dry Ageing: Dry ageing is when the beef is hung in a low temperature and moisture controlled environment with the air freely in contact with the carcass. Wet ageing is when the beef is shrink wrapped in plastic. This is done to prevent moisture loss during the ageing process. Remember, meat is sold by weight. so many customers won’t or can’t pay the price commanded by well hung, dry aged beef.
I have read a lot of bull about seasoning beef. Great beef does not need to have lots of spices or mustards added before roasting. If your beef does need this to get an adequate flavour, change your butcher.
Roast rib of beef needs two seasonings, salt and black pepper. However, it needs plenty of both.
A Layer of Fat
If I hear another butcher say to a customer; “Here your go, a nice piece of lean beef”, I will either drag him across the counter and push a pound of lard down his throat or break down in tears. Granted, there are some cuts of beef that don’t have or need a good layer of fat. Rib beef needs fat. Fat is good for you. Fat = Flavour.
Some of you (on idiotic diets that tell you you must eat only lean beef and a mix of mung beans and rabbit food), will recoil at the thought of a bit of fat. Stop reading now as I will continue to offend you further on. When roasting, always have the fat side uppermost. I see many roasting with the fat to one side. It may make for a good photo but it is not the way to go. This is just plain dumb.
The meat should be near or at room temperature before putting it in the oven. If one cooks straight from the fridge, it is more difficult to get the core up to temperature without overcooking the outside and perhaps charring the ribs, leading to a bitter taste in the gravy (You need to make a gravy too). To avoid this bitter taste, take the joint out of the fridge an hour before putting it in the oven.
If you want to have your beef cooked to perfection every time, get a digital temperature probe. They are not expensive. Don’t waste your money on an app based model that you can control from your phone. The North Korean regime is hell-bent on using the Inter-web to control your remote vacuum cleaner as well as to hack into your beef.
I read lots of differing advice about how to cook a rib of beef. It varies from the vaguest; “Put it in a medium hot oven for an hour and add 20 minutes for every pound of weight.” to the most specific; “Roast at 220ºC for 15 minutes before reducing the temperature to 190ºC for a further hour and a half”. The temperature probe relieves you of all that calculating and guesswork. Insert the probe into the centre of the joint. Cook on a high oven heat (220ºC to 230ºC) for twenty minutes before returning the temperature to a more comfortable 190ºC. As you can see from the picture, I have the alarm temperature set at 48ºC. This applies regardless of the size of joint you are cooking.
When it reaches 48ºC, remove it from the oven. It is not cooked. Place it on a chopping board and wrap it in aluminium foil. Leave it alone for a further half an hour. It will continue to cook and will be a perfect medium rare. I get angry when I see folk not rest their beef. The juices escape and the meat ends up tough.
The tools for the job
There is an old proverb “There’s many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip”. Don’t slip up on this stage of proceedings. You will need a good quality, sharp, carving knife for the job of slicing the meat. I mentioned the North Koreans further up the page. They should be the only ones trying to hack your beef. You should be carving it gracefully.
Please don’t use a chef’s knife for this carving. You need a long, thin, sharp, blade for hot roast beef. The chef’s knife is great when cutting cold roast beef. Save it for then.
How to carve
This section might just divide you into two camps. Thick or thin? For me, there is only one way to go. Thin. A nice thin slice of medium rare roast beef is a delight. Big, thick, chunky yeoman-like lumps of beef do no justice to the preparation and are a waste of the roasting. If you want a big thick steak (thick like yourself), have a steak. Cook it on a pan and enjoy it.
Great roast beef deserves to be treated with reverence. Slice it thinly. The first thing to do is to lie it on it’s side.
Cut downwards and around the bone to remove the uppermost of the ribs. Then carve in thin slices across the horizontal. Use long strokes to get nice even slices. I tried the thin carving knife (used for Spanish hams and such like) a bit difficult. The traditional carver did a decent job. Remove the bones further down the joint as you reach them.
You should use the beef resting time make a lovely gravy and some Yorkshire puddings. I used almond milk (unsweetened) to make my puddings. They worked out really well. Serve with the gravy and vegetables of your choice.
To fill or not to fill?
I am not all about elegance and decorum. There is one little treat that I like to have with my roast beef. Fill the Yorkshire pudding with gravy. It is outrageously decadent and totally delicious.
Follow my guidance above and you will have perfect roast beef every time. Don’t and you are on your own. Just don’t come complaining to me if you have a beef…..