Ann Serannes’ Rib Roast of Beef Recipe reminded me of how often I used it and failed to produce perfect rib roast over the past 43 years - until recently, that is.
The quest started July 5th, 1964 when my bride and I returned from our honeymoon and purchased our first three ribs at Bohack’s Supermarket on 11th and Prospect Avenues in Brooklyn. It was .69 a pound then, a princely sum for two kids, and represented a culinary challenge that would continue unmet twice a year until now. We also bought a pound of ground black pepper to season it, hoping it would last awhile. It ran out in ‘98.
In those days the pre - Seranne approach was basically 20 minutes per pound at 350d. Not bad, not great, sort of tender and, if pink at the center, always gray at the edges. So we tried other methods resulting in the development of multi-color time/weight graphs and even considered a recipe for cooking the roast at 450d in a 20lb. rock salt casing.
We started using Anne’s method in 1968, based on a Craig Claiborne article in the New York Times, meeting sometimes with wondrous results but, reflective of comments in the website, often not. The meat was tender, but because we lacked the proper instruments, was always in danger of overcooking in the starting stage - obviously because you can’t cook different weights of meat at 500+ degrees for different lengths of time, in different ovens and expect consistent results. We all know cooking times relative to weight are non-linear and results can vary by meat shape, density, moisture, fat content, fat cover and initial temperature, etc.
Basically, the following recipe is a derivative of Ann Seranne’s and Heston Blumenthal’s approach, which calls for 18 hours at 120d, as presented in Dan Souza’s article in Cook’s Illustrated (November, 2011). The difference is that this recipe's time requirement is shorter than Blumenthal’s, eliminates Ann’s guesstimates based on heat and weight, will consistently yield the precise doneness you want, provides slack time during cooking, will provide edge to edge pinkness, produce as tender a roast as any you ever ate anywhere and is absolutely foolproof. And, though time consuming, is also easy,
The recipe is based on the principle, tested frequently by my wife and me at Country Spirit Restaurant in Henniker, NH, that “slow and low is the way to go”. It approaches the roast from the perspective of time and internal temperature rather than heat and weight, optimizing conditions under which the meat will tenderize itself. It also lays out the actual time you can expect to spend on each phase of the process in addition to providing considerable leisure before you actually carve the meat. The recipe also applies perfectly to other beef cuts like eye round.
The numbers referenced are based on cooking a small, Choice grade rib roast, 2 ribs, 5.6 lbs, to 136d* with an accurate meat probe in an oven that can heat at a low temperature and lots of time - 9 ½ hours in this case.
* "d" indicates degrees.