Rib Roast Realities

rib roast

Beef rib roasts are expensive; about $2 more per pound during the Holidays than adjoining strip-loin roasts.  The demand, and accompanying high cost, of Choice or higher rib roasts is largely due to its ease of successful preparation.  Comparative tenderness in retail rib roasts is due to the cut’s origin in a non-locomotion carcass region; from young cattle.  A high Quality grade rib roast’s combination of tenderness and an adequate degree of marbling makes it excellent for high-heat – low internal finished temperature cookery.  About the only way to mess up a good rib roast is to over-cook it, thereby purging too much meat moisture and flavor.

The dry-aging of beef is said to impart an excellent nut-like flavor and increase tenderness.  However, wet-aging aids equally in beef cut tenderization.  Downsides to dry-aging are: increase product shrinkage from moisture loss, freshening trim loss from where dehydrated or contaminated surfaces are removed, the formation of amines as meat proteins breakdown and the fat oxidation.  Amine formation and fat oxidation can cause the formation of some potentially harmful substances.  But, ingestion of such substances is not considered a cause for concern in people following a well balanced diet.  Luckily, few people can afford to, or want to, eat dry-aged meat and/or dry-cured further processed meat products on a regular basis.

There’s no scientific evidence that bone-in roasts are more flavorful, but  the meat between the ribs (intercostal muscles) is very tasty.  Rib bones conduct heat well, and bones are on the heat receiving outer surface of a roast; so the collagen in intercostal muscles cooks tender by the time a rib roast reaches 135F internal.  The best thing a rack of ribs does is hold meat up out of cooking generated broth so water soluble meat nutrients (proteins. vitamins and minerals) don’t excessively wash-out, yielding water-cooked product characteristics.   Likewise, a cooking rack in the bottom of a roasting pan is a good idea even for bone-in rib roasts.

There’s no good argument for cooking a rib roast fat side down because normal high-dry cooking rapidly seals exposed lean.  Searing the raw roast, prior to oven cooking at around 325F, does not increase finished product moisture retention.  Top of roast reverse searing, to produce Maillard Reaction browning, is easily accomplished by switching over to the oven broiler toward the end a roast cook.

Seaming out heavy intermuscular (seam fat), seasoning the exposed interior of the roast then tying it closed with cotton butcher’s twine is not a good practice:   Meat will be dark and highly seasoned only where spices etc. were applied and if spices contain anaerobic bacteria (some of which produce toxins) the internal temperatures in the cooking roast will be favorable for bacterial growth, during much of the cook time, but never get hot enough to totally stop the multiplication of such microorganisms.  Or, internal temperatures might not get high enough to deactivate toxins formed during vegetative anaerobic bacteria growth.   A better idea for enhancing meat inside a roast is to inject a salt, sodium phosphate and perhaps alcohol containing brine (all 3 are either purified or antibacterial).  Moderate levels of salt and sodium phosphate are both known to increase finished product moisture retention.  Non-soluble spices/herbs can be rubbed on the roast exterior; out where they will see plenty of high heat.

Letting a roast sit out at room temperature, before a cook starts, does nothing other than provide a chance to surface bacteria to begin to grow.

A 7 bone rib roast will not cook quite as uniformly as a square looking one, but long roasts will provide slight differences in degrees of doneness for guest to choose from.  End cuts are for the no pink people.

If smoke-cooking a roast, be aware that anaerobic conditions can be created in dense smoke.  I recommend getting some smoke on the roast then finishing in a well controlled, high heat oven environment.  There is no need for low-slow rib roast cooking, particularly  since you will be finishing at a low internal temperature without using cure (possible food safety issue).

Use a calibrated thermometer to determine the desired degree of doneness in the “cold spot” of a roast.  If you would like to learn more about cooked meat color variations click here.

Resting a roast after reaching the internal target temperate is a proven best practice.  A 10 to 15 minutes rest period prior to slicing will greatly reduce hot product purge.

Beef rib roasts are an easy to prepare delicious cut; there is  no need to make things harder or more expensive than they have to be.  However, if you want to save money and are up for a bit more challenging cook, go with a strip loin roast.  If not doing a whole strip-loin buy the anterior end, up by the wholesale rib.  To learn more about cooking a strip-loin roast click here.

Quality in + best practice preparation = an enjoyable eating experience.