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Sous-Vide Standing Rib Roast (“Prime Rib”)

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

Posted by johngl

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I had a large uncooked hunk of the bone-in rib roast left over from Max’s “Thank You!” dinner.  For a week, it was just sitting in the fridge I reserve for dry-aging meat. It was, uh, well…dry-aging. So, yesterday, after I finished writing the post, I got the brilliant idea of applying the sous-vide technique to the roast instead of the individual steaks. Out of the frying pan and into the…hmmm…water (so to speak).

This was a good-sized piece of meat and bone, probably 7-1/2 pounds, far and away the largest single piece of meat I’ve ever tried to sous-vide.

First, take a look at the properly dry-aged piece of meat:

The meat’s a rich red color, the surface was completely dry, and, most importantly, there was not a speck of mold anywhere on this thing. It smelled slightly sweet and not-at-all funky. If you keep your dry-aging fridge at around 34-36°F, everything will work just fine. I learned this dry-aging technique from a butcher who worked the trade for more than five decades. He also happened to be my father. Don’t make it any harder than it needs to be.

There were some thicker chunks of fat on the top and few ultra-dried bits of meat that I trimmed off, but otherwise, I positioned this bad boy in a big skillet, just to give it a little bit of a sear.

For flavoring during the sous-vide process, I opted for an emulsion of grapeseed oil, brandy, prepared mustard (whole seeds), salt, pepper, and a small hit of piquin powder. Whisking this all together, I brushed it onto all surfaces of the meat after the searing and before I stuffed it into the FoodSaver bag.

I nearly misunderestimated — isn’t it nice to now have an educated president? — the size of the bag and the meat that was to be put inside it.  This proved to be the tricky part since the cow flesh was now relatively hot (from the sear) and coated with a slippery emulsion.

Sweetie! I need some help!

Thankfully, my most glorious spousal unit came to my rescue! Rather than risk the consequences of using two hands for a four-handed operation, sometimes it is just necessary to set aside one’s masculine pride and ask for help…from a woman no less.  How humiliating.  It’s better than a $50 hunk of meat on the floor I suppose.

She held the FoodSaver bag securely whilst I…as I…hmmm, there appears to be no delicate way to say this: slid it in (“it” being the meat). I worked on that sentence for a good ten seconds…

Now that the meat was fully encased in it’s plastic cocoon, it was time to get it into the water bath:

I set the controller at 135° …

Don’t say it! I too can read. I know it says 136. Let’s just say sometimes the heating element on my cheapo electric roasting pan overshoots the temp settings. I could tune the PID I suppose, but for these slight variances, I am not going to bother.

About five hours later, it dawned on me that I should fire this off at home rather than at the champagne party (which is where this roast was going to wind up).

I cranked the oven to 475° and let it preheat. In the meantime, I pulled the roast from its lounging state in the hot tub, carefully cut open the bag, drained off the juices, slid the roast into a roasting pan, then popped it into the oven.

Fifteen minutes later, it looked like this:

Now I had another problem.  How was I going to keep this warm whilst transferring it to the party? Hmmm.

Back into the FoodSaver bag it went (Thankfully, I didn’t need help this time because the roast contracted a bit). My glory, however, was short-lived. I needed to dump the 135° water into the transport cooler. What the heck, I might as well allow it to sous vide a little longer, right?

Sweetie! Could you get the door, please?

I’d set the cooler outside on the back porch so I wouldn’t get hot water all over the kitchen floor. I also didn’t want the cat to make a mad dash out the door (cats pick some of the weirdest times to make a break for it!). There I stood, with steaming water in the roasting pan, waiting for most glorious to open the freaking door.

Two rescues in one day…I will never live this down.

Hot water safely in the cooler (with about a pint of spillage), I dropped the re-sealed bag of meat in the water, put the lid on the cooler, then put that cooler inside another (obviously larger) cooler.

Yay! Safe for transport!

Once at the party…

where it was painfully obvious that a lot of drinking was about to commence, I broke open the coolers and started slicing up the meat.

The idea here was to make a sort of French Dip kind of thing: a thin slice of meat on a dinner roll dipped in a thinnish sauce made from reduced duck stock, beef stock, and a shiraz reduction.

They went pretty fast, so I can only assume people thought the little sammies were tasty.

Now that my kitchen duties were over, I could (finally) get down to some serious champagne consumption.

Above, winemaker Billo Naravane (Rasa Vineyards) pours a glass of some wonderful 1978 Dom Pérignon, perhaps one of the best vintages of the evening. Anyone who says that champagne has to be consumed young hasn’t ever tried this “old” stuff. The colors are darker and the flavors are more of a creamy and nutty variety and very complex. Amazingly, there was a lot of fizzy left in this old bottle, too.

If you ever find yourself with a hunk of uncooked ribeye in your dry-aging fridge — and you’re supposed to make an appearance at an annual Champagne drink-a-thon in less than 7 hours — now you’ll know what to do.

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9 Responses to “Sous-Vide Standing Rib Roast (“Prime Rib”)”

  1. Gerald says:

    Hey John Quick question, do you have a guide on how your dry aging your meat? I have been using a min fridge with a computer fan over some water with some luck, any thoughts?

    • johngl says:

      I to use a small fridge (set to 34 degrees) for dry aging. No fan, no water. I lightly salt the meat when it goes in and rotate/flip it at least once per day. Anything from a 3 day (individual steaks) to 3 week dry age (whole prime rib) works great. Longer aging requires removing the dried crust prior to cooking. I have never had a problem with mold. The meat actually comes out smelling sweet rather than funky.

      • Gerald says:

        Okay, thanks for that info. I have a reg mini fridge it does not display the temp so I use an external temp gauge to get the 34. The reason for the fan and water is to bring the humidity up to 70-75% it was my understanding this was the correct way to do it. its obvious that you have had amazing results with out that so I wonder what your humidity is in your box, or if there is any real reason to care about humidity in the first place?

        On a side note I have a USDA prime standing rip roast chuck to loin (15.5 lbs) sitting in my fridge right now :)

        • johngl says:

          Nice hunk of meat!

          My father was a butcher for well over 50 years. He never cared about humidity in the dry-aging process. Keeping the fridge at the right temp was his main concern.

          I started salting the meat lightly when I saw the dry-aging unit at David Burke’s Primehouse in Chicago. The walls are lined with blocks of Himalayan salt which helps keep down bacteria and seasons the meat. The meat just sits there in the open air (some folks seem to want to wrap a piece of meat in cheesecloth)

          The fan you use certainly doesn’t hurt anything and probably helps with the air circulation. The humidity thing just seems counter-intuitive though I have read about people using it. The idea of dry-aging is to suck the moisture out and develop that pellicle that keeps the meat from losing too much moisture.

          I’ll stick to what works best for me and I have never had problems with mold or foul-smelling product.

          Thanks for visiting and let me know how that prime cut turns out for you!

  2. Dave says:

    I don’t know what the education level of the president has to do with meat, but I am happy that he visited 57 states!

  3. jay travis says:

    i love this artcle. I too am planning a special dinner which i will be catering and wanted to do the rib sous vide with the same equipment you are using, but im apprehensive about that fateful moment when i slice it and realize i totally effed up! I am new to this style of cooking tho i have read about it extensively, and think i may have the confidence to do it for a crowd after a test run… Do you have any helpful tips to share? i was particularly interested in whether or not you had a problem with teh bath temp dropping when you put the meat in?

    • johngl says:

      With a piece of meat the size of this roast there is the serious potential of drastically increasing cooking time by dropping in a very cold piece of meat. I allow most meats to come up to at least 60 degrees (F) prior to dropping them in the bath (or cooking them on a grill for that matter).

      The nice thing about the sous vide style is that even if you drop in an ice cold piece of meat, it will never go over the desired temp. The only thing you need to be concerned with is the amount of time it takes to heat it to this temp all the way through. Since you are thawing as well as cooking, several hours additional bath time would be expected.

      This technique is especially wonderful when catering an event. It is really easy to keep the meat at the desired serving temp without overcooking it.

  4. I love the color of the meat! It really looks very delicious! Perfect!

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