Editor’s note: Cook Like a Chef is a feature designed to help you master cooking techniques that will give your homemade meals professional style and carefully crafted flavor. Each month, a chef instructor from Cascade Culinary Institute at Central Oregon Community College walks us through a skill or recipe.
For an impressive Christmas or New Year’s dinner, consider a tender, juicy prime rib roast.
When you cook it like a chef, you’ll have a restaurant-quality meal your lucky dinner guests will love.
Thor Erickson, a chef instructor at Central Oregon Community College’s Cascade Culinary Institute, takes us through the simple steps to prime rib perfection.
You’ll want to cook a prime rib roast carefully, because it’s expensive.
We discovered that prime rib roasts range from $6.99 or $7.99 per pound on special at Safeway this month for choice grade (normally $10.99 per pound) to $18 per pound (choice grade) at Primal Cuts Meat Market.
Figure about a pound of bone-in roast per person, and dinner for six or more is getting up there in price.
“This roast is a splurge. It’s an investment, and you want a big return on an investment like that. You’ll think, ‘Wow, I spent that much on the roast; it has to be great!’ and then, ‘I have to have a great bottle of wine to match it,’” Erickson said with a laugh.
Erickson’s simple cooking technique, executed with care, will do justice to this dish, along with sides like au gratin potatoes, creamed spinach, Yorkshire pudding (a large popover) and some homemade horseradish sauce (see recipe, D2).
Erickson said a reliable instant-read meat thermometer is your most important tool for success. After that, it’s a great hunk of meat. Since this is a special meal, go for the best quality beef you can find, like a dry-aged, grass-fed cut that’s prime grade (the best) or choice (second best).
Unlike the standard roasting technique many cooks use for prime rib — high heat first to sear the beef, and then lower heat to finish the cooking — Erickson recommends a “reverse sear.” To do that, you start the meat on low heat and finish with a hot oven to sear the meat right before serving.
He said this low-and-slow technique has many advantages.
“This is the way to get the most bang for your buck. You’ll get a lot less shrinkage. The fat won’t all melt away, and it’s more versatile — if some of your guests like medium rare, and others are medium to more well done, you can cut it in half at the end and put the other piece back in the oven. Everybody’s happy.”
The “reverse sear” technique results in a beautiful medium rare throughout the roast, and when you hit it with that 500- or 550-degree oven at the end, it caramelizes the outside. “It’s absolutely beautiful,” he added.
When you buy a prime rib roast, you can get it with bones or without.
“Often, they’re packaged with the bones. You just open it up and you’ll find two pieces — the rack of ribs and the roast. I recommend seasoning the meat with salt and pepper and cooking the roast on top of that natural rack of bones; then you have ribs to eat, too,” Erickson said.
Remember: You can always ask the butcher to cut the roast off the bones if it hasn’t already been done.
For a nice crust, allow the meat to air-dry, uncovered on a rack in the refrigerator overnight before roasting. Seasoning the roast generously with salt and pepper up to a day in advance will help the seasoning penetrate the meat more deeply, Erickson said.
Preheat the oven to the lowest setting possible, which will be 150 to 200 degrees.
Place the roast, fat side up, on a V-rack set in a large roasting pan, and cook until the center of the roast registers 120 degrees for medium rare, or 135 degrees for medium. In a 150-degree oven, this will take about 51⁄2 to 61⁄2 hours. In a 200-degree oven, it will take 31⁄2 to 4 hours.
Watch that thermometer! Don’t overcook your roast.
“Make sure you have a good meat thermometer. Some people have those probes that have an alarm that beeps in the house, or it’ll send you a text. They have their own app, and it’s amazing. You can see that the roast is at 113 degrees. OK, by the time I drive home, I’ll be able to get it out. That’s the precision you want,” Erickson said.
When the roast has reached your desired temperature for doneness, let it rest on a platter on the counter, tented loosely with aluminum foil for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to the highest possible temperature (500 to 550 degrees).
Ten minutes before you want to serve dinner, place the roast back in the oven, without the foil, and sear it until it’s browned and crisp on the exterior, about six to 10 minutes. Now it’s ready to be carved and served.
It’s hard to beat this holiday dinner. It’s simple, elegant, delicious and festive.
“It’s really worth it,” Erickson said.
— Reporter: ahighberger@ mac.com