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Archive for August, 2011

Prime Rib

Perfect for some, but too rare for me. Nothing a little extra cooking time wouldn't solve.

I have a daughter who, given a choice, would only eat prison food. It’s buttered bread and water three meals a day, hold
the crust. So, imagine my surprise when she requested prime rib.  She doesn’t even weigh as much as a prime rib.

“Dad, will you make prime rib?”

“Are you serious? Yes, of course I can.”

“Awesome. Oh, and Dad?”

“Yes?”

“What’s prime rib?”

Ok, so maybe she wasn’t entirely sure what she was talking about. But she has a track record of eating beef. She likes a good porterhouse, which I’m reasonably sure they don’t serve in prison. And she liked my beef ribs.

So this weekend, it was prime rib, even though it was at least five times more food than we could eat.

The prime rib earns a butt award for its “how easy it is to make” to “impressiveness” ratio. Like a pork butt, prep is ridiculously simple, cooking is even simpler, yet it comes off the grill looking amazing and ready to feed a whole lot of people.

A rib roast comes with the bones still attached, which make it look impressive, or boneless.  If you get it boneless, make sure to get it tied.

The Prep

  •  Heat and stabilize the grill at 325 degrees.
  •  Use a knife to poke 5 to 10  shallow holes in the meat (~ 1/2 deep)
  •  Stuff a mixture of minced garlic and fresh rosemary in the holes
  • Apply a light rub of equal parts garlic powder, salt, pepper and paprika, plus as much additional chopped rosemary as you prefer to taste..

Cooking

The rule is roughly 15 to 20 minutes per pound.  If you like a very rare prime rib, cook to an even internal temperature of 125, and then let it rest for 5 minutes.

However, I find this too rare personally.  So, if you’re like me and prefer pink to red, cook to an even internal temperature of 135 or even 140.   Again, let it rest for at least 5 minutes.

That’s it. Ridiculously easy.

My daughter ate an thick slice by herself, with a side of buttered bread.

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Should you let your meat rest?

I’ve always secretly hoped that the practice of “letting your meat rest” was some unsubstantiated claptrap that I could happily ignore. My motto has always been “Let’s eat, NOW!”

Letting your meat rest is the practice of taking your steak, your brisket, your ribs, or whatever it is that you grilled or barbecued, and letting it sit there on the counter while you and your hungry guests stand around looking at it, angrily. Possibly while holding knives. 

That’s just not a situation I look forward to.

After getting a question from a reader, though, I decided I’d finally look into this business, and see if there’s anything to it.

There are two popular claims about why you want to rest your meat.

The first is that your meats, especially beef, will be juicier if you let it rest for a while.

The second is that your food will keep cooking after you take it off the grill, also known as “carryover cooking.” So you want to take your meat off early to avoid over-cooking it. There are many who will tell you, for instance, that if you  want to serve your duck at 165 degrees, you may want to take it off the grill at an internal temperature of, say 155 degrees. You let it rest, and supposedly, it will rise up to 165.

I always found both of these claims to be hard to believe.  I’ve never heard someone say “ouch that’s hot” wait five minutes, then say “ouch, that’s hotter!”   How could the meat still be doing anything other than cooling down once you take it out of the oven?

And as for the juiciness, seems to me the juice is either in there, or it isn’t, right? How does letting it rest magically make juice appear, especially when one considers evaporation?

But the culinary science nerds all say both are real, and here’s why.  When you cook a piece of meat, especially a dense piece of meat like beef, the liquid inside gets hotter, faster, than the fleshy stuff.  It’s like when your vegetable soup gets hot as hell, but the carrots still aren’t done.  And worse, the fleshy bits contract when heated, and push the hot juices outward. 

This is why, theoretically, when you cut into a piece of meat right when it comes off the grill, you end up with something of a blood bath, literally.  The “juice explosion” means more juice on your plate than in the meat, right?

 So resting your meat solves two problems at once.  Letting it rest, so it’s said, gives that liquid a chance to get sucked back into the flesh where it belongs.  And as it does, because the juice is hotter than the meat, it continues to cook the interior.  Sounds reasonable, but I’m a skeptic.

You don’t need Dexter to figure this one out. An unrested steak (left) versus a steak that rested 5 minutes (right).

So, I decided to find out for myself.

I cooked two T-bone steaks side by side at 375 degrees.  When I pulled them off the grill, the interior temperature of both was very close to 125 degrees.   I cut into one right away, and I let the other rest for 5 minutes.

Here are the results:

On the question of the “juice explosion.”   No doubt about it.  See the picture.  There was a very visible difference after the first cut.  The meat that rested did leak some, but nowhere near the fresh-off-the-grill steak.

On the question of juiciness:  Three tasters sampled both steaks blindfolded.  All three of us easily and quickly identified the steak that rested.  It wasn’t just juicier, it was a lot juicier.   

I’m 100% sold on letting your meat rest.  It makes a very positive, highly perceptible difference.

On the question of “carryover cooking.”  I watched the timer and my thermometer very closely from the moment the resting steak came off the grill.  It is true that the internal temperature rose from 125 degrees to 128 degrees in the first 60 seconds off the grill.  But the temperature plunged right back down to 125 after that, and dropped below 120 degrees by the time 5 minutes of rest was through. 

So, I’m not persuaded that carryover cooking is meaningful based on this experience.  It doesn’t seem like 60 seconds of additional heat penetration counts as “cooking.”  Yes, the temperature went up for a minute, but there’s no chance that this had any material impact on a thick, T-bone steak.

Apparently, lighter types of meat, like fish, chicken and duck, experience even less carryover cooking changes than beef.

Bottom line:

Let your meat rest because it tastes better that way.  But based on this experience, I don’t think you can count on carryover cooking to lift your internal temperatures to where you want them.

So, to my reader who asked …. If you want a duck to reach 165 degrees, then I recommend you cook it to 165 degrees.

SEE THE UPDATE

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