How to cook the perfect roast beef

SARAH MCINERNEY
Last updated 05:00 10/06/2011
Roast beef
JAN BILTON
WINTER FEAST: Roast beef goes down nicely with a glass of red.

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The colder months are the perfect time of year for a hearty roast.

It's a comfort food that warms up the kitchen as well as the belly, creating the sights and smells many associate with hearth, home and the traditional Sunday lunch.

Melbourne chef Adrian Richardson says beef is a meat often overlooked for roasts. But it is one that can work at a variety of price points and for many different occasions. Not to mention the fact that it goes down nicely with a glass of red, and, as inspired by the British, Yorkshire puddings.  

Richardson is something of an expert when it comes to meat. His specialises in it at his restaurant La Luna Bistro and has written two cookbooks on the topic. His pick of the cuts is the baron of beef, the standing rib roast. It has a medieval feast look about it that makes quite a statement when carved at the table.

"The standing rib roast is the ultimate piece because you are going to roast it on the bone and there's nothing better," he says.

"If there's four or five bones, it's a bit like four or five rib eye steaks. I find the meat when it is cooked on the bone is usually a bit sweeter."

He provided these tips, as well as a recipe, for cooking the perfect rib roast.

The tools

Richardson's top two tips for roasting meat to perfection are to buy good quality meat from a reputable butcher and invest in a digital meat thermometer. It will give a more accurate result than calculating a cooking time based on weight.

"Once you know the temperature on the inside then you know the measure of doneness," he says.

"I like to tell people for $35 all those variables that can affect the meat are solved. It just changes the way you cook."

Ask the butcher to remove the feather and chine bones so the meat is easier to carve.

A baking dish with a metal rack is also important as it allows the air to circulate. An alternative is to place onions and carrots under the roast on a tray.

Searing and cooking

Before cooking, let the meat come to room temperature, this will help it to cook more evenly. Season it with salt and pepper just before searing. Richardson says don't be afraid of the salt, this will only add to the flavour of the meat.

The rib roast recipe calls for an oven sear.  This starts off at a high temperature (pre-heating the oven is important) then drops to moderate after 20 minutes. If the meat is seared properly is should be crispy on the outside. 

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Ultimately the internal core temperature should dictate how long the beef cooks for. Richardson says this ranges from 32 degrees for rare meat to 62 degrees for well done. However he did pass on these "approximate" cooking times to use as a guide.

Rare: 10 to 12 minutes per 500g
Medium: 12 to 15 minutes per 500g
Well done: 18 to 20 minutes per 500g

Note: These are for high heat roasting when the meat is on a bone and include the sear time.

Resting

Richardson's golden rule is to rest the meat for half the cooking time.

"It gives you time to finish the vegetables, fix your hair, have a glass of wine and set the table," he says.

"The longer you rest it the more succulent, juicy and tender it will be."

It also gives you time to make a gravy or finish off the jus.

Initially the temperature of the meat will continue to rise once you take it out of the oven. This will slowly drop while it is resting, but the meat but should retain a fair bit of warmth. If you'd like to serve it hotter, Richardson says to pop it back into the oven for four or five minutes.  And always serve the roast on warm plates.

As for what you serve it with, he prefers simple accompaniments.

"Dauphinoise or scalloped potatoes, minted peas and baked pumpkin," he says

"You finish it off with a crème caramel and the next couple of days you fast and eat lentils."

The recipe
Standing rib roast, from Richardson's cookbook, MEAT
2 sprigs rosemary
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1 x 3kg standing rib roast (about 5 ribs)
Preheat oven to 220°C

Strip the leaves from the rosemary and toss them with the salt and pepper.

Rub this mixture all over the beef, working it into both the fat and the meat. Sit the beef on a rack inside a large roasting tin. Roast for 20 minutes, then lower the heat to 180°C and roast for a further 40 minutes. The beef will be cooked medium-rare when the internal core temperature reaches 45°C.
Remove the beef from the oven and transfer it to a warm plate. Leave it to rest for 30 minutes and take to the table to carve. Serves 6-8

Road testing the baron of beef

The standing rib roast is an impressive piece of meat high on the wow factor both in taste and presentation.  I cooked mine for a family gathering with the assistance of my younger brother Adam and there wasn't a scrap of meat (or veg for that matter) left on the plates.

Richardson's recipe was easy to follow and the meat thermometer took away a lot of the guess work. Although it wasn't as easy as it sounds to get it to the right temperature - despite checking  regularly once we hit the end of the anticipated cooking time we ended up taking ours out at 48 degrees. Thankfully after resting, it was still nice and pink on the inside but slightly less so than I wanted.

I'd use Richardson's cooking time/weight chart as a guide only (he stressed temperature is the best measure) as we'd have ended up with quite rare meat if we followed it to the letter. Generic guides can't factor in all variables and this piece of meat was quite thick, which would have impacted the cooking time. I still think Richardson's pointers are useful though, as they give you a sense for when you should start checking the temperature and when you should put the vegetables in to start cooking.

Overall this cut of meat received rave reviews from my family, who found it to be tender, juicy and flavoursome.  We'd watched an episode of The Tudors the night before so there were a few King Henry VIII jokes made by those chomping on the bones. It's easy to imagine him ripping off one of the ribs with his hands and gnawing on it.  Who could blame him, by all accounts the caramelised meat around the bone was delicious.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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