Published November 1, 2011. From Cook's Illustrated.
Top chefs say that 18 hours in a 120-degree oven is the route to prime rib perfection. So what’s a home cook to do?
Restaurant prime rib recipes are virtually impossible to prepare at home. For one thing, even if a cook is willing to keep the meat in a low oven all night and most of a day, no home oven can reliably go below 200 degrees.
We wanted to use our skillet and oven to produce prime rib with a crisp, salty crust that encased a large eye of juicy, rose-hued meat interspersed with soft pockets of richly flavored fat.
We had one major decision made—the meat selection—before we even got started. In the test kitchen, our preferences for the exact grade and cut of beef are definitive: a prime first-cut roast for its supreme marbling and large rib-eye muscle.
To brown the roast in a skillet, it needed to be manageable and bone-dry. For the former, we cut the bones off the roast before searing and then tied them back on before roasting so the meat wouldn’t lose the insulation they provide. This method had two side benefits: The exposed meat on the bone side could now be thoroughly seasoned, and carving the finished roast required nothing more than snipping the twine before slicing—no predinner butchery required.
But drying the meat would take more than a few paper towels. Only air-drying it allowed its moisture to evaporate and made the skin extra-crisp. We prepped, scored, and seasoned the roast and let it rest in the refrigerator for 24 (and up to 96) hours before searing it. Not only did the exterior brown better (and faster), but the meat below the surface was beefier and much more tender, thanks to the salt we’d seasoned it with.
Restaurant chefs use their industrial ovens to cook their prime rib at a temperature low enough to keep it around 120 degrees, at which point the meat’s enzymes begin to tenderize it. But the lowest temperature our home oven would go to was 200 degrees, which would keep the meat above the ideal temperature. We needed to trick our oven, and we realized we could actually lower its temperature by simply turning it off. We ran a series of tests until we found the optimum degree of doneness the meat should be at when we shut off the oven. In the shut-off oven, the beef stayed in the 120-degree sweet spot far longer, giving the meat more time to tenderize.
Only one imperfection remained: The crust lost some of its crispness as it rested under a tent of foil after cooking. To quickly restore its crispness, we heated the beef under the broiler and used a ball of aluminum foil to lift the fatty portion closer to the heating unit.list of recipes