Welcome to my kitchen

A while ago, I realized I was serious enough about bread baking to stop diddling around with the 3-packs of yeast from the grocery store, or even the small jars for a small fortune. So I pulled up my big girl pants, and ordered "A Pound Of Yeast". It's in my freezer, and I use it regularly, and I guess that makes me "A Baker". Even though I always said "I can't bake". So, join me on my journey, and let's see what that pound of yeast makes, and where we go next....

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The world's easiest oven-roast beef

A while back, after ruining one too many expensive pieces of beef trying to dry-roast it in the oven, I set out to do some research on the "Interwebs" to see if I could find a consensus about the best technique.

Oh.  Such conflicting theories. 

Start it low, then blast it on the highest heat you can get.

No.  NOT *that* way !  Start it in a jet engine-hot oven, then turn it way down and let it coast.

WHAT ?!?!  Heresy !  NOT *THAT* WAY !  Sear the roast first, then put it in a hot oven, then turn it down.

NO, dude !  Put the roast in a canvas bag, bury it under a full moon, chant over it for 3 nights, then dig it up and roast for a while.  Or a little longer.

OK.  I made that last one up.  But only by a little.

Now.  Just to be clear, I can cook a mean pot roast.  I've got the moist-heat/flavorful broth/long slow braise thing down just fine.

But the dry-roasted, well-seasoned, crusty, but still rare roast of my dreams eluded me.

Methods?  I tried all yer steenkin' methods.  I got, in various iterations, beef jerky, shoe leather, warm, bloody, mooing beef that, while The Girls appreciated it, their Mommydog, not so much.  What I was aiming for was nothing short of (drum roll please)...."The Perfect Prime Rib" (or sirloin, or tenderloin, or whatever...).  What I got, over and over again, was disappointment.

You know the feeling.  The "meet nice" first-date euphoria that fades into the realization that the guy lives with his grandmother and collects belly-button lint.  The "I love this new car smell" goes south rapidly into "crimeny....I'm spending $150 a week on gas".  The "day-um but these shoes make my legs look good" morphs into "I'll do anything to get these "*&$~+&#^" shoes off my feet....NOW".

Well.  I'm here to give you the pot of gold at the end of the miserable oven-roast beef rainbow.  This is, simply, the best, easiest, most reproducible, least stressful, least effort, best, and did I mention BEST method to oven roast a piece of beef.

And the real genius is.....doesn't matter WHICH cut of beef you use.  I've done this with a top sirloin.  I've done this with a tenderloin roast.  I've done this with an eye of round roast, which is notoriously a hideously tough cut of beef I normally cut into thin slices and braise for grillades or Swiss steak.  And this time, which we'll see, I did it with a 2 bone rib roast.

The method just works.  Works well, and turns out reliably well-cooked and well flavored meat.  What more do you want?

It's a hybrid of a method published by "America's Test Kitchen", the folks who bring you "Cook's Illustrated" and "Cook's Country" magazines, and the PBS shows "America's Test Kitchen" and "Cook's Country from America's Test Kitchen", and a couple of other methods I found (I-don't-remember-where).

First you need a piece of beef (no, really???).  As I said above, literally any cut of beef that can be considered a "roast" will work.  The day before you want to cook the meat, take it out of the packaging, trim any excess surface fat, and pat it dry with paper towels.  LIBERALLY, and I mean liberally, sprinkle kosher salt over all the surfaces of the roast, and massage it in well.  For about a 3&1/2 to 4&1/2 pound roast, you want to use about 3 teaspoons kosher salt.  After you've salted the meat, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, put the wrapped roast on a plate (to contain any potential leaks), and stash in the fridge for 18 to 24 hours.

About an hour before you want to start cooking the meat, pull the roast from the 'fridge, remove the plastic, and again pat it dry with paper towels.  Let the meat sit, lightly covered, for at least an hour to come up to room temperature (no, the food police won't find you, and no, you won't die from some food-borne illness.  All you're doing is taking the chill off the meat, and letting it get a good head start for the oven.)  Preheat your oven to 225°F.  Yes, that's correct.  225 degrees.  Way low.  Trust me on this one....

After an hour or so at room temp, again pat the roast dry with paper towels, sprinkle with some freshly cracked black pepper, and rub about two teaspoons of neutral vegetable oil (canola, corn, peanut, etc.) over all sides.  Bring a cast iron, or other very heavy, NOT non-stick skillet to very hot over high heat.  Put the roast in the skillet,  and sear on all sides.  It'll probably take you about 3 minutes per side, depending upon your range and your skillet.

You want a nice, deep brown crust on all the sides.  If it's a thick roast like this one, stand it up on each edge to get those nice and crusty, too.

Put a wire rack on a baking sheet, put the meat on the rack, and take a remote-probe thermometer and stick the probe into the thickest part of the roast. 

NOTE that the remote probe thermometer is not absolutely essential to this.  The one shown was actually a stunt double, since the data display on the unit croaked during this prep.  I still managed to turn out a good roast, but it was a little more of a PITA than normal.  While not essential, the remote probe thermometer, which you can set to alarm at a specific temperature, does make this process easier.

Roast at 225° until the probe thermometer shows the following temperatures for the degree of doneness you want (or note for an instant read thermometer to register the following when placed in the thickest part of the roast):
  • 115° for medium-rare (about 1&1/4 to 1&3/4 hours)
  • 125° for medium (about 1&3/4 to 2&1/4 hours)
If you're NOT using a probe thermometer, you may want to start checking the internal temp with an instant read on the low side of the time range.  Try to do this as quickly as you can, since every time you open the oven door, you lose heat from your already low oven.

You may need to adjust this based on your taste in doneness, the size of your roast, and your oven.  For me, for a 2&1/2 pound, two-rib roast, took about an hour to get to 115°.  That's why the remote-probe thermometer is such a prize for this.....

THEN.....then....turn the oven off.  That's right.  Turn the oven off, walk away.  Don't open the door.  Leave the meat in the turned-off oven until the temperature rises to the following:
  • 125° for rare (about 20 minutes)
  • 130° for medium-rare (about 30-40 minutes)
  • 140° for medium (about 45-50 minutes)
Pull the meat from the oven, put on a plate, and tent with foil.

Let it rest for 15 minutes under the foil.  Meanwhile, you can make your sides.  I did a Parmesan-potato cake, steamed baby turnips and a sour cream/horseradish sauce.  The turnips are self-explanatory.  The sauce was just some sour cream, mixed with drained, bottled horseradish.

The potato cake was also dead-bang simple.  Take some potatoes, I used russets, 'though Yukon Golds would work as well, and slice as thin as you can get on one of these:

That's a cheap-@ss mandolin, and it's indispensable in my kitchen.  You could also do it by hand, if your knife skillz are way madder than mine.  I didn't even bother to peel the potatoes, I like the peel just fine.  You want slices about 3/8-inch thick.  Toss the sliced potatoes with some melted butter, salt, pepper and minced garlic.  Melt some additional butter in a non-stick skillet.  Layer on about half of the potatoes, then sprinkle on some shredded/grated Parmesan (or Romano, or Gruyere, or....?).  Then top with the other half of the sliced potatoes.

Let the bottom brown up a bit, then slap a cover on the pan, and lower the heat so the top layer of potatoes cook.  Now comes the scary part (noooooooo, not really !)

Take a large dinner plate, and put it, upside down, over the pan.  You can also use a cutting board, and I've seen cooks use, but never tried, a large pan lid as well.

As my Idol La Julia Child used to always say "with the courage of your convictions" (such a great line, Mrs. Child), in one smooth motion, take the handle of the pan in one hand, place your other hand over the top of the plate, and flip the whole gamish over.  NOW is not the time for wimps !

Courage.  It will work.

Now, slide the un-browned side of the cake back into the pan, and let the bottom brown up.  Total time for the cake will take about 15-20 minutes.  Hmmmmm, that's about how long it took to rest the roast !  Co-inky-dink...?  Don't think so !

Now it's time to slice and serve the lovely roast.  Use a very sharp, very thin knife.  If you have an electric knife, pull it out.  If not, your usual carving knife will work just groovy.

Hellooooooo, gorgeous !

That'd be the turnips on the bottom.

Add a spritz of this...

....to the potatoes if you've got it, then plate it on up, and swoon.

Just a lovely, meat-and-potatoes meal.  For a special occasion, or not.  Or for just because.

Good as this method is for the "high-end" cuts (like my rib roast or a tenderloin), you will be BLOWN away by how well it works on the cheaper cuts like the sirloin and the eye of round.  I'll never dry-roast beef using any other method.

Give it a go.  You'll be a convert.


  1. I have also done considerable research and tried many ways. Thank you. I will buy a deep probe thermometer and follow you instructions.

  2. This was the most enjoyable recipe/commentary I've ever read! Can't wait to try the roast!