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3 posts tagged beef

Beef ribs, about to come off the barbecue Guacamole deviled eggs Barbecue beans Light brioche burger buns The plate Grilled marinated pineapple with airy pound cake

Pics from the barbecue that Danielle and I put on yesterday. There’s more on flickr.

We made:

This was a lot of work — we both pretty much cooked all day from 9am until our guests arrived at 7pm. The ribs took four hours on the barbecue at a steady 110 deg C, which is my first experience of running a charcoal grill for that long. I basically did as I was told and it worked very well indeed. My confidence is growing. My next step might be a pork shoulder (eight hour or so cook time…)

Not everything was perfect. There was a partial consensus around the table that the beef rub is too peppery, so I’ll tone that down next time. I also hit a stall with the meat — I couldn’t get the internal temperature up above 74 deg C, when ideally I would have been aiming for 82 deg C. So some of the collagen wasn’t entirely rendered out. The beans were a little bit tough, despite a near-two-hour cooking time that should have been ample for tinned beans. And the barbecue didn’t have enough heat left after we’d finished the main course to put good sear marks on the pineapple. The deviled eggs, however, genuinely were perfect (and oh-so-pretty).

Still, these are nitpicks compared to what could have gone wrong. Overall, I feel like yesterday was one of the most technically challenging meals we’ve attempted, and I’m overjoyed with how it came out.

Barbecued rib of beef

Last month, after lots of pondering and discussion, I finally bought my first decent barbecue: a 57 cm Weber Kettle.

Now, it’s not to say I haven’t barbecued before. I’ve had a couple of semi-disposable (i.e. they last year if you’re lucky) cheap ones from garden centres over the years. I’d fill them with briquettes, struggle to light them, cook some sausages and burgers until they were black on the outside and — when I was lucky — cooked in the inside, and wolf that down while patting myself on the back. There wasn’t very little forethought or effort. I had no idea when food was cooked or when I should be closing the lid.

In recent years, though, my attitude towards cooking has changed a lot; I’m far more thoughtful, far more well-read, and far more methodical in what I do. And hopefully I’m also far more skilled. Every year, I attempt new foods, new cuisines, new techniques, and new equipment; this year, I’ve tackled cast-iron frying pans and barbecuing.

I’ve done a fair bit with it in the last few weeks (whenever the British weather has co-operated with me, anyway); the obvious burgers and chops, beer can chicken (which doesn’t work, incidentally — wish I’d known that before I tried it), spiral cut hot dogs, corn on the cob, vegetable skewers, and so on. As such, I’ve also been working with a few techniques and pieces of equipment that are staples of American grilling but that I had never heard of before now.

  • Using indirect cooking to “barbecue” meat, rather than “grill” it, to use the American terminology. Larger joints like whole chickens will burn on the outside before they are cooked through, because of how fiercely hot the area over the coals are. The solution? Only fill half of the barbecue with coals and leave the other half empty (or, preferably, with a drip pan to catch any mess). Put the meat on the cool half and shut the barbecue’s lid, turning it into a charcoal-fired oven.
  • Using a chimney starter for fuss-free lighting. These things are fantastic. Pour charcoal in the top, put a sheet or two of crumpled newspaper in the bottom, light the paper. The hot air from the paper burning is drawn over the charcoal by the shape of the starter, practically guaranteeing the charcoal will catch without any expensive lighting chemicals. It hasn’t failed me yet.
  • Smoking chips — lumps or chips of flavoursome wood, such as hickory or mesquite, that you soak in water then throw in amongst the charcoal. They give off a strongly scented smoke that (as long as you keep the barbecue lid shut) will penetrate and flavour the outer layer of the meat. The soaking in water helps stop them from burning up too quickly.
  • Digital thermometer — absolutely vital in judging meat doneness, I’ve found. Danielle bought me a Thermapen for our anniversary, which has been a tremendously useful tool; it’s robust, easy to use, and most importantly arrives at a reading really, really quickly when you stab it into the meat, meaning you spend less time with your hand over the hot coals and less time!
  • The Minion method — invented by Jim Minion for use when smoking foods, which demands low temperatures (100-115 deg C) for long times (6-12 hours). It consists of filling the smoker or barbecue with unlit charcoal, then adding a small amount of lit charcoal. As time goes on, the burning charcoal lights the charcoal next to it, which lights the next part, and so on — a bit like dominoes. Hence a steady, consistent heat is generated. The original Minion method is designed for smokers, but there’s a modified Minion method that apparently works well with kettle barbecues.

Barbecue rib of beef

So, after weeks of burgers and suchlike I decided it was time to get a bit more ambitious and cook a big lump of cow. I started with a 1.2 kg beef rib joint — Americans, that’s a “standing rib roast” to you guys.

I coated the meat all over with a generous amount of a barbecue rub:

  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp semi-sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp ancho chilli powder
  • 1 tsp chipotle chilli powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 2 tsp salt

(On the day, I used 1.5 tsps of each chilli powder and 2 tsp of black pepper and it was a little too hot. I’ve reduced the amounts in the above mix. It may need further reduction, depending on your taste.)

I left the meat in the rub for a few hours, then took it out and let it warm up for an hour or so at room temperature.

I lit a chimney starter that was about half-full of coals. Once they were hot, I set the barbecue up for indirect cooking: the charcoal is stacked to either side of the grill, using the helpful little divider clip thingies Weber provide. There’s an aluminium drip tray in the middle, between the two stacks of coals, to catch any run-off from the food. Then the beef goes over the tray, like so:

I closed the lid and used the top and bottom vents on the barbecue to attempt to maintain a steady 100 deg C (200 deg F) for approximately 1.5 hours. This part was a struggle! Controlling barbecue temperature is an improvisational process that depends on the charcoal, the weather, and whims of the Firepit Gods. Even with the vents almost closed, I was still burning too hot:

I had to lift the meat out, remove the grilling rack, and carefully extract about half of the charcoal with tongs. I left them to burn in an aluminium tray. Then, later, I found the barbecue was getting too cool, as the small amount of charcoal I left behind was burning out; so I re-added the surplus. It wasn’t perfect but I muddled through. Next time I attempt this sort of longer cooking time I need to light less charcoal to start with, I need to lay the charcoal out in a Minion method pattern, and I need to use briquettes rather than lumpwood for a more predictable heat.

I went back and forth to the meat every twenty minutes or so during the cooking process, checking the temperature and occasionally adding smoking chips. After an hour I started checking the internal temperature of the meat. I was aiming for rare in the very core, which is achieved at 52 deg C; when the thermometer read 49.5 deg C I took the beef off the grill. This allowed for the core temperature to increase while the meat was resting.

Now, this next bit is another area where my technique could use a little work. Ideally, the meat would now be briefly seared to further colour the surface and generate some extra flavour from the Maillard reaction. However, the remaining charcoal wasn’t anywhere near hot enough — even right over the top of it — to get a decent sear on the beef. I considered pan-frying the joint briefly but thought I’d lose too much of the rub. In the end, I flashed it in a hot (220 deg C) oven for ten minutes before removing it to rest. It looked pretty similar coming out of the oven to how it did going in, though, so I’m not sure I really achieved what I was aiming to do.

Finally, before serving I let the meat rest for fifteen minutes under aluminium foil with some teatowels piled on top of it. And then, the moment of truth: carving in, how well cooked would it be?

Success! Nicely rare inside, nicely seasoned and flavoured by the rub on the outside. Tasted fantastic, easily the best thing I’ve made on the barbecue so far.

I served it with some of my homemade BBQ sauce (recipe to follow) and mashed potatoes flavoured with plenty of cream, mature cheddar, and slow-fried caramelised onions. In hindsight, I wish I’d made potato skins or twice-baked potatoes as I think the texture would have been more interesting; I’ll do those next time.

Beef and chorizo stew with suet dumplings

Stew is something I’ve been cooking for years, and something I can knock together with approximately zero mental effort. But it’s also a recipe which is endlessly flexible and adaptable to your whims — and whichever wilting items of vegetation lurking in the bottom of your fridge are in the most urgent need of being eaten. Which is why, this time, I decided to search for a recipe which did things as differently as possible to my usual methods.

I came upon this recipe from Delia Smith which was unusual (to me at least) for a few reasons:

slow-cooked for five hours (I generally cook at medium heat two or so hours).
a gravy made from cider (I use stock, maybe with some wine).
the meat wasn’t fried first (I always fry mine to provoke the Malliard reaction and all its tasty, tasty byproducts).
beef suet dumplings (a bit of extra work, but a tradition that harks back to an earlier era of British cooking).
Obviously, being me, I didn’t cook Delia’s recipe as-is. I made some changes of my own, and I ended up with this recipe. It still turned out delicious, though. I think it’s hard to go very wrong with stew.

Beef and chorizo stew

(serves four)

100 g (4 oz) chorizo 
600 g (1.5 lb) of stewing beef — shin or a similar cut 
2 medium sized or 1 large carrot (about 220 g / 7 oz in weight) 
Half a swede or rutabaga (same weight as carrots) 
3-4 parsnips (same weight as carrots) 
4-5 small onions or large shallots (same weight as carrots) 
25 g (1 oz) plain flour, seasoned with plenty of salt and pepper 
568 ml (1 UK pint / 20 fl oz) of premium dry cider (I used Stella) 
2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme 
1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce 
2 tsp Dijon mustard 
1 Tbsp tomato purée 
1 beef stock cube

Preheat the oven to 140 deg C (275 deg F).

First, the mise en place. Cut the beef into two-inch chunks. Cut the swede into half-inch chunks — it’s much harder than the other vegetables, so needs to be smaller to make sure it cooks through. Cut the carrots and parsnip into two-inch chunks. Skin the onions or shallots, but leave all except one whole. Dice the last onion and dice the chorizo too.

Put a little oil in the casserole pan you’ll be using for the stew and warm it a little. Add the diced chorizo and keep it on a low heat until it gives up its oil and aroma. Add the diced onion and fry slowly until softened. Turn the heat off and add the cider to deglaze and cool the pan. (Note that Delia’s recipe calls for quite a bit less cider; I prefer my stew to have a bit of sauce with it.)

Put 25 g of seasoned flour in a bowl. One piece at a time, dip the beef chunks in the flour. Make sure each one is well coated then put it in the pan. Once they are all done, toss the vegetables in any remaining flour, and put all that in the pan too. Sprinkle any remaining flour in on top.

Put the heat back on under the pan and start bringing it to a simmer.

While that’s happening, add the rest of the flavourings: the mustard, Worcestershire sauce, tomato purée, thyme, and the stock cube. Add salt and pepper too. Stir to combine. Once it’s simmering, put a lid on the pan (with a piece of foil if it’s not a tight fit) and put in the oven for four and half hours.

Go out, because it’s going to start smelling really good a long time before it’s ready to eat.

After four or so hours, check on the stew. The vegetables should be tender but hopefully not falling apart, and the beef should be cooked. You can serve it up like this, but there’s an optional step you can add if you’re feeling indulgent and/or nostalgic.

Caramelised onion dumplings

Suet is an incredibly old-fashioned British food, consisting of the hardest, most saturated fat a cow has — taken from around the loins and kidneys. It’s used as a shortening to make pastries and doughs, as well as being an important ingredient in the traditional version of mincemeat and Christmas pudding. Obviously, it’s incredibly unhealthy, so has rather fallen out of favour as dietry science came to understand the dangers of saturated fats. As such it’s not something I’d eat very often.

Americans — you can probably stop reading now. It’s almost impossible to find suet outside the UK, and there’s no substitution that is close in flavour or richness. Note that these dumplings don’t bear very much resemblance to the sort of ones you’d make for chicken and dumplings.

1/2 a small onion 
100 g (4 oz) self-raising flour 
50 g (2 oz) shredded beef suet — I used Atora brand 
1 tsp mustard powder 
1 Tbsp fresh chive

Ahead of time, finely dice the onion and fry in flavourless oil (groundnut or vegetable) over a very low heat for half an hour or so until caramelised and brown. Leave this to cool.

Once the stew is cooked, sift the mustard powder and flour into a work bowl. Add the suet and stir that through, followed by the onions and chives. Sprinkle over about five Tbsp of cold water and bring the mixture together with a knife or — if you have one — the dough paddle of a freestanding mixer. The mixer is a lot less work! Add more water if you need it to make a firm but soft dough.

Separate the dough into eight portions and roll them by hand into spheres. Get the stew out of the oven, pop the dumplings in the top so they are half-submerged in the gravy, and put it back in the oven for 20-30 minutes.

Now, this is where my advice parts ways from Delia’s. She suggests leaving the lid off the casserole at this point, and increasing the temperature. I tried this and found that too much of the sauce boiled away and the tops of the dumplings became quite dark, almost burnt, where there were tiny pieces of onion on the surface. You can see this in the photo at the top of the post. Next time I will keep the lid on the pan, which is the usual way to cook dumplings, to give a softer, part-steamed texture.

Finally, serve with some good bread and a glass of full-bodied red wine.

Beef and chorizo stew with suet dumplings

Stew is something I’ve been cooking for years, and something I can knock together with approximately zero mental effort. But it’s also a recipe which is endlessly flexible and adaptable to your whims — and whichever wilting items of vegetation lurking in the bottom of your fridge are in the most urgent need of being eaten. Which is why, this time, I decided to search for a recipe which did things as differently as possible to my usual methods.

I came upon this recipe from Delia Smith which was unusual (to me at least) for a few reasons:

  1. slow-cooked for five hours (I generally cook at medium heat two or so hours).
  2. a gravy made from cider (I use stock, maybe with some wine).
  3. the meat wasn’t fried first (I always fry mine to provoke the Malliard reaction and all its tasty, tasty byproducts).
  4. beef suet dumplings (a bit of extra work, but a tradition that harks back to an earlier era of British cooking).

Obviously, being me, I didn’t cook Delia’s recipe as-is. I made some changes of my own, and I ended up with this recipe. It still turned out delicious, though. I think it’s hard to go very wrong with stew.

Beef and chorizo stew

(serves four)

100 g (4 oz) chorizo
600 g (1.5 lb) of stewing beef — shin or a similar cut
2 medium sized or 1 large carrot (about 220 g / 7 oz in weight)
Half a swede or rutabaga (same weight as carrots)
3-4 parsnips (same weight as carrots)
4-5 small onions or large shallots (same weight as carrots)
25 g (1 oz) plain flour, seasoned with plenty of salt and pepper
568 ml (1 UK pint / 20 fl oz) of premium dry cider (I used Stella)
2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp tomato purée
1 beef stock cube

Preheat the oven to 140 deg C (275 deg F).

First, the mise en place. Cut the beef into two-inch chunks. Cut the swede into half-inch chunks — it’s much harder than the other vegetables, so needs to be smaller to make sure it cooks through. Cut the carrots and parsnip into two-inch chunks. Skin the onions or shallots, but leave all except one whole. Dice the last onion and dice the chorizo too.

Put a little oil in the casserole pan you’ll be using for the stew and warm it a little. Add the diced chorizo and keep it on a low heat until it gives up its oil and aroma. Add the diced onion and fry slowly until softened. Turn the heat off and add the cider to deglaze and cool the pan. (Note that Delia’s recipe calls for quite a bit less cider; I prefer my stew to have a bit of sauce with it.)

Put 25 g of seasoned flour in a bowl. One piece at a time, dip the beef chunks in the flour. Make sure each one is well coated then put it in the pan. Once they are all done, toss the vegetables in any remaining flour, and put all that in the pan too. Sprinkle any remaining flour in on top.

Put the heat back on under the pan and start bringing it to a simmer.

While that’s happening, add the rest of the flavourings: the mustard, Worcestershire sauce, tomato purée, thyme, and the stock cube. Add salt and pepper too. Stir to combine. Once it’s simmering, put a lid on the pan (with a piece of foil if it’s not a tight fit) and put in the oven for four and half hours.

Go out, because it’s going to start smelling really good a long time before it’s ready to eat.

After four or so hours, check on the stew. The vegetables should be tender but hopefully not falling apart, and the beef should be cooked. You can serve it up like this, but there’s an optional step you can add if you’re feeling indulgent and/or nostalgic.

Caramelised onion dumplings

Suet is an incredibly old-fashioned British food, consisting of the hardest, most saturated fat a cow has — taken from around the loins and kidneys. It’s used as a shortening to make pastries and doughs, as well as being an important ingredient in the traditional version of mincemeat and Christmas pudding. Obviously, it’s incredibly unhealthy, so has rather fallen out of favour as dietry science came to understand the dangers of saturated fats. As such it’s not something I’d eat very often.

Americans — you can probably stop reading now. It’s almost impossible to find suet outside the UK, and there’s no substitution that is close in flavour or richness. Note that these dumplings don’t bear very much resemblance to the sort of ones you’d make for chicken and dumplings.

1/2 a small onion
100 g (4 oz) self-raising flour
50 g (2 oz) shredded beef suet — I used Atora brand
1 tsp mustard powder
1 Tbsp fresh chive

Ahead of time, finely dice the onion and fry in flavourless oil (groundnut or vegetable) over a very low heat for half an hour or so until caramelised and brown. Leave this to cool.

Once the stew is cooked, sift the mustard powder and flour into a work bowl. Add the suet and stir that through, followed by the onions and chives. Sprinkle over about five Tbsp of cold water and bring the mixture together with a knife or — if you have one — the dough paddle of a freestanding mixer. The mixer is a lot less work! Add more water if you need it to make a firm but soft dough.

Separate the dough into eight portions and roll them by hand into spheres. Get the stew out of the oven, pop the dumplings in the top so they are half-submerged in the gravy, and put it back in the oven for 20-30 minutes.

Now, this is where my advice parts ways from Delia’s. She suggests leaving the lid off the casserole at this point, and increasing the temperature. I tried this and found that too much of the sauce boiled away and the tops of the dumplings became quite dark, almost burnt, where there were tiny pieces of onion on the surface. You can see this in the photo at the top of the post. Next time I will keep the lid on the pan, which is the usual way to cook dumplings, to give a softer, part-steamed texture.

Finally, serve with some good bread and a glass of full-bodied red wine.