December 23, 2012 | Technique
As I type this post, it’s still dark outside, the wind has picked up and the snow is just beginning to fall. I’m not a huge fan of winter, but it’s hard to escape it living in Colorado. And with Christmas just around the corner, there is something lovely about a white Christmas. For your holiday dinners, I know many of you will be hoping to put a perfectly roasted cut of beef on the table for your friends and families at Christmas. And I know from my many cooking students and clients, that can be stressful. Worrying about how long it’s going to take. Checking it and possibly being tempted to cut into it – don’t! – to see if it’s cooked to your liking.
In reality, cooking a perfect roast (whether that’s a huge bone in standing rib roast or a boneless beef tenderloin) is simple if you follow a few basic steps:
1. Season the roast – it’s a large cut of meat, so you want to season it liberally on the outside as that’s the only seasoning you’ll have. You can marinate it in red wine with some garlic and ginger if you like ahead of time (24 hours), but that’s not necessary. For seasoning, opt for simple salt and pepper or make my Porcini Mushroom Rub.
2. Elevate the roast to cook it – I like to place a cookie cooling rack on top of a sheet pan that I’ve lined with foil (to make clean up easier). This way the roast gets direct heat on all sides, include the bottom. If your piece of meat has a thick end and a thin end, like a beef tenderloin, tuck the thin end under so that the roast is more uniform in size and will cook evenly.
3. You want to get a nice sear on the outside, and although my mom used to do that by browning roasts on all sides in a pot on the stove first, that’s messy and tedious. I simply start my roast at a high temperature (like 450 degrees) for the first 20 minutes and that gives the outside a really nice sear. Letting your meat come to room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking helps too.
4. After 20 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue cooking until a meat thermometer inserted into the middle reads 125 degrees. I usually check the temp right after the high temp searing to see how it’s going and then I can judge how long it’s going to take. From there, I check the temp every 10 minutes or so, as I don’t want it to overcook. I can’t tell you exactly how long it’s going to take, but in my oven, a full beef tenderloin usually takes 45 minutes to an hour. A bone in roast will take considerably longer, possibly two hours. But every oven is different, and since it will stay warm for a long time, I suggest erring on the side of having it ready early.
5. Remove the roast when the internal temp reaches 125 degrees (for perfectly medium rare roast beef) and wrap tightly in foil. DO NOT cut into the meat or all of the juices will just run out and you’ll have a dry slab of very expensive beef. A full roast wrapped like this will stay warm over an hour, so you don’t need to stress – it will be sitting there ready to cut when you pull the rest of your dishes out to serve your meal.
6. Finally, slice against the grain of the meat for the most tender cut. For a standing rib roast you cut between the bones into large prime rib cuts. A tenderloin can be sliced into any thickness for larger or smaller cuts.
May the joy of the Christmas season be with all of your and your families.