Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Allez les Rosbifs!

Following England's defeat of the French on Saturday night, it seemed only appropriate that we cook a huge hulk of British Rosbif for lunch on Sunday. It was lovely to get out of London for the weekend and my parents took us to a fantastic butcher in the Staffordshire village of Alrewas to source the meat. As urbanites, we Londoners forget how local you can really get when you move outside the M25. The pork at the butchers was all sourced from Packington Moor farm, a few miles down the road in Lichfield and it was clearly in demand as a queue snaked out of the door on Saturday morning.

But for us it had to be beef and we left with a nice rib on the bone. It was a pretty weighty piece, although admittedly it was probably only they size of Sebastien Chabal's thumb.

One of the things that made most sense to me when I read Heston Blumenthal's Family Food was his thinking on optimum cooking temperatures for meat. To quote the book:-

- From 40 degrees, meat proteins begin to contract until by the time they have reached 60 degrees, they begin to force moisture out and by the time they reach 70 degrees most of the precious meat juices are gone, leaving a grey, dry piece of meat.

- At 100 degrees, the water contained in meat (up to 75%) evaporates. This must be avoided as the meat becomes totally inedible.

Now this makes absolutely logical sense to me, and I think there is nothing better than a piece of beef cooked evenly pink throughout, without a thick brown/grey ring around the edge.

I was torn between cooking the beef the conventional way and getting a cracking gravy or choosing the low temperature method to keep the juice in the meat itself. In the end, science won out and armed with a new thermometer I started the joint off at 75 degrees at 9.30 on Sunday morning aiming for a 1.30 lunch. Unfortunately this was pure guess work and I had no idea how long it would take the internal temperature to reach 60 degrees (medium rare). In the end, it took about 4 hours with much nervous prodding of the probe and changing of the oven temperature. Still, the result was the desired one with perfectly pink slices from edge to edge.

I think I will continue to cook beef in this way and maybe even try the 50 degrees for 24 hours approach if I ever have a good enough oven. The major issue is the lack of pan juices so it is vital that you have a gravy already made from a good reduced beef stock.

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