Majestic standing rib roast, juicy tenderloin or flavorful strip loin — increasingly folks are turning to beef for their Christmas dinner centerpiece.
Butchers say beef has surpassed ham as the meat of choice for Christmas dinner.
And unlike a ham, which can be purchased for under $20 to feed a crowd, any large cut of beef is a true holiday splurge — an investment of $50 to $150, depending on the cut and size. That’s why home cooks often approach it with a bit of trepidation.
“Don’t get intimidated, embrace it,” said chef Michael Ollier, corporate chef for the Certified Angus Beef Brand in Wooster.
He said there’s nothing to fear when it comes to preparing great beef for the Christmas meal, although he knows that many home cooks avoid the best cuts out of concern they will prepare it wrong and waste a large amount of money in the process.
A large cut of beef is one of the easiest meals to serve because it needs very little preparation before going in the oven. For most cuts, a brushing with olive oil and a generous sprinkling of coarse salt and cracked pepper are all it takes to turn out a flavorful, juicy roast, Ollier said.
A good rich crust and a soft and juicy interior combine to create a great flavor in any beef roast. So sear at a high temperature first, either in the oven or, for a tenderloin, in a skillet before placing it in the oven. “Crust is key,” Ollier said.
When selecting a beef cut, figure about half a pound per person, raw weight, he advises.
Here are Ollier’s tips to perfectly prepare three popular Christmas beef roasts:
Standing Rib Roast
At the butcher shop: This is the roast that gives us prime rib and ribeye steaks, and while everyone likes that beautiful presentation at the table with the rib bones standing up, it’s a lot easier to carve with the bones removed.
Don’t be afraid to have the bones removed and the roast tied up. Or have the bones sliced off, but then reattached with twine, so that they are there for the presentation, but fall away for the carving. Your butcher should be willing to prepare it either way.
This roast will cost about $12 per pound, less on sale.
To get it ready: Give it a brushing with olive oil and then a liberal coating with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Don’t worry about trimming off all of the fat. It’s that fat and internal marbling that will melt during cooking and baste the roast, helping to produce its robust beef flavor.
To roast: Place on a rack in a roasting pan, and roast at 450 to 500 degrees for the first 15 to 30 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 250 to 300 degrees and roast until the internal temperature reaches about 140 degrees for medium-rare. Total cooking time will be about 12 to 15 minutes per pound after searing time, depending on desired doneness.
Always use a thermometer to check the temperature. Remove from oven, tent with foil and let roast rest for about 10 minutes before carving. It will continue to cook while resting, bringing the roast to 145 degrees for the perfect medium-rare.
Strip Loin Roast
At the butcher shop: This is the roast that gives us New York strip steaks. Most folks are unfamiliar with it as a roast, but the full strip loin is every bit as easy to roast as a rib roast or tenderloin. A strip loin will be much leaner than a rib roast, so select one with good marbling.
A strip loin costs about $10 to $15 per pound, depending on the store.
To get it ready: You can trim off all but ⅛ inch of the top fat, or leave a little more on during roasting and remove after. You can roast it whole, or cut it down the middle into two narrower roasts that resemble tenderloins. This will give you more areas for crusting, which will mean more flavor. It’s also a way to serve smaller steaks when lots of other food is offered.
Brush the roast with olive oil, and season it liberally with coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
To roast: Place on a rack in a roasting pan, and roast at 450 to 500 degrees for the first 15 to 30 minutes. Then reduce heat to 250 to 300 degrees and roast for about 12 to 15 minutes per pound until the internal temperature reaches 140 to 145 degrees for medium-rare. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
At the butcher shop: This is the cut that gives us filet mignon and chateaubriand and is typically the most expensive in the butcher case.
Many whole tenderloins will come vacuum-sealed in plastic.
Ollier recommends that you have your butcher trim the side and head muscles from the tenderloin and peel off its silver skin, even if it costs a little more. If you aren’t experienced at this work or don’t have the proper knives to perform the task, you risk losing expensive meat if your trimming isn’t the best, and tenderloin is too expensive to waste.
Save the trimmings for other uses.
You can leave a little fat on the outside for flavor, but make sure all of the silver skin is removed.
This roast will cost about $15 to $20 per pound. Most tenderloins run about 6 pounds.
To get it ready: Tie the roast up with butcher’s twine. This will keep it round and uniform for slicing once cooked. Brush the outside with olive oil, and season liberally with coarse salt and freshly ground cracked black pepper. Avoid using garlic with tenderloin. It’s strong flavor will mask the subtle flavor of this mild beef.
To roast: Because of its mild flavor, the tenderloin needs a good sear to help bring out its flavor. You can do this in a skillet on top of the stove, or in the oven.
If searing stovetop in a skillet, make sure the tenderloin gets browned well on all sides to give it a nice crust. Then place it on a rack in an open roasting pan and roast at 200 to 300 degrees for about 15 minutes per pound, or until it reaches a temperature of 140 degrees at the center on a meat thermometer.
If you don’t want to sear on the stovetop, put the roast in a 500-degree oven for about 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 200 to 300 degrees and continue to roast for about 12 to 15 minutes per pound or until the meat reaches 140 degrees. Let it rest, covered with foil, before slicing.
Because the strip loin is the least common of the three roasts, here is Ollier’s recipe for preparing it with garlic and rosemary. The horseradish cream sauce could be used with any of the beef roasts.
GARLIC AND ROSEMARY
1 (4 lb.) strip roast
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. kosher salt
6 cloves garlic, split in half lengthwise
8 fresh rosemary sprigs, cut about 1½ inches in length
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Additional kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Mix minced garlic, dried rosemary and 1 teaspoon salt in small mixing bowl. Cut approximately 20 slits evenly spaced around roast, about 1 inch deep, using a paring knife. Rub mixture evenly all over roast and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Remove roast from refrigerator and wipe clean with a paper towel. Rub roast with olive oil and season all sides with additional salt and pepper to taste. Place fat side up, in roasting pan fitted with rack.
Place roast in oven for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce temperature to 300 degrees. Insert halved garlic cloves and rosemary sprigs evenly into pre-made slits. Place roast back in oven and continue cooking about 45 to 60 minutes depending on desired doneness.
Remove roast from oven, place on cutting board and loosely tent with foil. Allow to rest 15 minutes before slicing roast across the grain.
Makes 8 servings.
— Chef Michael Ollier, Certified Angus Beef
HORSERADISH CREAM SAUCE
1 cup sour cream
⅓ cup prepared horseradish (not horseradish sauce)
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. finely minced shallots
1 tbsp. finely minced fresh chives
1 tsp. lemon juice
Heavy cream as needed
Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium mixing bowl whisk together all sauce ingredients. Taste; season with salt and pepper. Thin with a little heavy cream if needed. Chill until ready to serve.
Makes about 1½ cups.
— Certified Angus Beef