The pastry for this classic holiday dish can be decorated in different ways.
Members of the Cook’s Illustrated team slice and sample rosy medium-rare beef Wellingtons to pick a favorite.
When you’re making an elaborate dish such as beef Wellington, the stakes are high: Anything less than juicy, rosy meat and a crisp, golden crust signals a disappointing waste of time and money. The conundrum is that well-browned pastry requires high heat, whereas medium-rare meat is generally produced via a low-and-slow approach.
The solution was to cook the Wellington in a 450-degree oven just until the pastry was well browned, at which point the meat was a mere 85 degrees. As the roast rested, the temperature at its center climbed 45 degrees, reaching a perfect 130-degree medium-rare in about 45 minutes.
The fix relies on the phenomenon known as “carryover cooking,” wherein meat continues to cook even after it is removed from a heat source. This happens for two reasons: First, the exterior of a large roast gets hot much more quickly than the interior. Second, because heat always moves from a hotter to a cooler area, as long as there is a difference in temperature between the two regions, heat will keep moving from the surface to the center. In our Wellington, the pastry also insulates the meat, so heat on its surface tends to travel toward the center rather than dissipate into the air during the carryover period.