Fork Tender Beef – Cooking!

Old Gads takes yet another stunning departure from politics – with the mid-terms two weeks away!

I’m going to say, right up front, that a barbeque purist would likely assault me physically for this. This is not barbeque. It isn’t going to win you any awards – and you may well be banned from the barbeque community for even proposing such blasphemy as this.

But it does work. It works every time. It’s bulletproof.

The goal hear is to take a cheap cut of meat – say round roast – and cook it to a perfect medium rare and make it fork tender. In other words – the best of all worlds – cheap, tasty, tender. I’ve tried this on several cuts – tri-tip roast, round roast, chuck roast, even cheap steaks. Lean cuts seem to work better and this method will not tenderize gristle (think chuck). Best results have been with round roast, worst with chuck (because this doesn’t make gristle chewable). But I would still call chuck a success – you aren’t going to make that gristle chewable unless you boil or pressure cook it to death – which is great, but certainly isn’t medium-rare.

About the only cut I haven’t tried (yet) is brisket – but my neighbor has – and it works but takes a little longer.

The process is this:

Rub the outside of the meat with the rub of your choice. I use a rub sold by a popular local BBQ restaurant (Branks – Auburn Washington). This rub is mild – subtle even – very nice.

Smoke the meat. Do what you like here – however many hours you think you want. Keep the temp low – do not cook it – just smoke it. My pellet smoker will not go below 150 degrees and if you leave it on at that temp long enough it will cook beyond medium-rare. I’ll go three hours at 150 at a time. If I want more smoke, I pull it off and put it in the fridge overnight and do another 3 hours the next day.

Vacuum seal the smoked meat. The next step is sous vide – so you don’t necessarily need to vacuum seal – and you don’t need a vacuum seal machine for this. You can put the meat in a zip-lock bag and remove all the air by dropping the bag into the sous vide water bath as you seal (don’t get water in the bag obviously). If you do vacuum seal, at this point you can put the meat in the freezer if you want to cook it later – I’ve had cuts in the freezer for months and they still turn out great.

Next, we go into the sous vide for 24 hours. For a very tough cut like brisket, you will probably need to go 48 hours – maybe even more. Forty-eight hours in the sous vide will not hurt round roast at all – results are still great. The sous vide will tend to force the smoke and rub flavor through the entire thickness of the meat – so don’t overdo the spices because this will not just be an outside crust when we are all done – it will be throughout the cut. Set the temp on the sous vide for 135 for medium-rare, 140 to 145 for medium, 150 for well-done. Do not try to go below about 132 – rare won’t work. And to be honest, I find the texture and moisture content better at about 135 (and I like rare beef).

After 24 (or more) hours in the sous vide, pull the meat out and remove the vacuum bag. There will be quite a bit of liquid in the bag, pour it away. You want the meat to dry a little at this point.

This next step is very important – if you ignore it you will overcook the cut. Place the meat on a plate and let it rest for at least one hour – two hours is much better. You need to let it cool – from the sous vide the meat is already cooked to the condition you want – you do not want it to cook any more so you must let it cool at this stage. If it’s overcooked after the next step, you didn’t let it cool enough – or you cooked it while smoking it.

Last step is to sear it. I do this over charcoal, a very hot charcoal fire. You can also use a cast iron fry pan with a little butter or oil. Temp needs to be high – very high – because we just want to brown the outside without cooking. And about that liquid from the bag – this is why we pour it out. We want the cut dry because we want to brown it, not boil it. Just a few minutes at most per side on high heat and pull it off. I’ll go three minutes on a thick roast, one minute (per side) on steaks – no more. You can also use a propane touch for this – just don’t dwell long with it – singe in brown and move on.

Now let is rest an hour or so and slice it up. The smoke and spice flavor will permeate the cut and it will be very tender – fantastic stuff. I took two round roasts to hunting camp last week an everyone there wanted to know how I did this – particularly after I told them it was round roast – so here it is.



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