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Blowtorch Prime Rib

2010/01/07

Well hello everyone! I am back from a brief hiatus due to the holidays and apparently have a little catching up to do. For Christmas dinner I went English style with a gorgeous prime rib roast, Yorkshire pudding (that could have been better), homemade gravy, mashed potatoes, etc.

Knowing well in advance that I would be preparing prime rib for the holidays, I asked my butcher to do some extra-long aging on a 4-rib roast. When all was said and done, the 12 pound roast had been aged for a little more than 11 weeks in total, the last three of which were dry. It was a gorgeous piece of meat, one that I was really looking forward to as it’s not often that I do a prime rib roast. Actually, I can’t remember the last time I did one as quite the crowd is required.

11-week aged prime rib roast

11-week aged prime rib roast

11-week aged prime rib roast

11-week aged prime rib roast

While there are a variety of techniques out there for doing prime rib – sear and then roast in a low oven or high heat to start/drop the temperature to finish (or vice versa), there was no question as to what technique I was going to use. Ever since I got Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home (remember the amazing Buttermilk Fried Chicken?) I wanted to prepare the Blowtorch Prime Rib. While Keller’s recipe called for a 2-bone roast, I needed to feed a few more people and therefore got the massive slab of meat you see above.

The concept makes complete sense when you consider the alternatives. If you sear and then finish in the oven or start high and finish low (or vice versa), you tend to get a grey, overcooked “ring” of meat at the edge while the centre is a perfect, rosy medium-rare. By cooking start to finish at a lower temperature (275F), you minimize the thickness of this grey ring and end up with a beautiful pink colour pretty much edge-to-edge. The drawback of the low temperature though is that the fat doesn’t quite render as well and the nice “crust” formed (and resultant tastiness) from high-heat cooking is missing. This is where the blowtorch comes in. By hitting the surface of the meat with the blowtorch (a proper propane blowtorch from the hardware store, not one of those tiny, low-powered “creme brulee” torches from Williams-Sonoma or other fancy cooking shops), the fat starts to render and brown. The boost in the rendering process continues sufficiently in oven over the cooking period and results in a nicely crusted and well-cooked piece of meat in the end.

Torching the prime rib

Torching the prime rib

It took a good five minutes or so to torch the whole roast and get it to the point that I thought the initial rendering was sufficient. The roast went into a pan on a rack underneath which was mirepoix and beef stock to act as the base for my gravy.

Prime rib just out of the oven

Prime rib just out of the oven

The total roasting time was approximately two hours; I pulled it from the oven when the temperature probe hit 128F. I allowed it to rest, tented with foil for a half hour before carving. I had the foresight to carve the bones off the roast before torching and roasting so it was easy to throw the bones back in the oven to cook just a little longer while I was dealing with Yorkies, gravy, etc.

Cross-section of prime rib

Cross-section of prime rib

And there it is! Gorgeous medium-rare pretty much edge-to-edge. I carved off two-inch thick “steaks” from the roast, flipped it cut side down and then sliced it crosswise into more manageable pieces for serving. The technique was excellent and I’ll definitely do this again. But don’t discount the quality of the beef. It was absolutely stupendous! The depth of flavour was fantastic and it was so tender it melted in your mouth.

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