Saturday, May 13, 2017

Sous Vide Beef Prime Rib

Hello everyone! I know I've been silent for... well... a long while, if I'm honest! A combination of three young kids, a bad back, and a potent flu season, had me completely out of commission. There is some good news, though: even with the lack of online cooking presence, I have still been working at developing new recipes, and discovering new techniques. I hope this newest post makes up for my absence.

I think (well, I hope!) many of us can relate to the chaos that goes on before a big holiday dinner. A two page grocery list, frantic polishing of silverware, much time slaving over the stove, followed by that last-minute panicked trip back to the market for the ingredient that was NOT marked on the gigantic list. This year's winner was kosher salt; how could I forget SALT?! The frenzy of preparation, combined with herding children, and - eventually - even spending time enjoying your friends & family, can feel like a Sisyphean task. It's always worth it once everyone is gathered around a beautifully laden table, but what a feeling of relief once it's actually done! It's over! We made it! ...Pass the wine!

This year we had a large Passover dinner, and it felt like it would be more of the same kind of frenetic buildup. Add in a bad back, a broken crock-pot, and about four hours before dinnertime - no water (this ended up being a plumbing issue that resulted in a lot of confused repair people, an excavator, and lots of big holes in my yard). Sure. No biggie. Aaaaaggggghhhhhhh!

Did you hear that "Aargh"? My freaked out yell scared birds six blocks away. Still, even with all of the craziness, the one thing that was easy-peasy: Cooking the main dish. No mess. No watching. I could focus (translation: "panic") over other elements, but no concern over the star of the meal. We cooked the most flavorful, tender, and gigantic, rib roast in our fantastic new sous vide machine. It was a life saver, and is literally the easiest method of cooking that I've ever tried.

Sous vide literally translates to "cooking under vacuum". It's so simple, but the results are stunning. You vacuum seal your food, place in a container of water, then use a heated water circulator (sous vide machine) to gently & consistently heat the food at a constant temperature. In our case, the end product was a delicious, unbelievably tender, and evenly cooked rib roast, cooked to the exact temperature I wanted all the way through. This technique is easier than using a crock-pot, and has completely changed my everyday dinners and party preparations.

You. Need. This. Machine. This, along with a proper set of sharp knives, and a Kitchen Aid mixer, should be the essential tools in your kitchen. We've used it to make lots of different proteins, and it is stunning. Sous vide salmon is buttery and delicious, sous vide chicken is soft and juicy, and sous vide steaks are always cooked to a perfect temperature and then you just lightly sear to serve.

It's amazing.

Sous Vide Beef Prime Rib
three rib cut serves 6-8
cooking time 18-24 hours*

1 three rib roast, ask your butcher to trim the fat cap & separate the bones from the roast
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 springs fresh rosemary
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
3 tablespoons Montreal steak seasoning 
(you can get this at any grocery, or, for 2/3 cup of this mix, combine 3 tablespoons kosher salt and 1 tablespoon each cracked black pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, dried coriander and dried dill)

Wash and dry your fresh herbs. Peel and crush the garlic.

Next, take the meat and pat dry. Then, on a meat safe cutting board, rub the seasoning mix on the roast & bones until evenly covered.

Measure your roast by it's longest dimension and double that size to cut your vacuum seal bag. Using a vacuum sealer (we use a Food Saver), seal one end of the cut plastic. You want a long 'tail' on the bag because the larger the protein, the more juices will climb up when you seal it. It's difficult to seal the bag if it's wet at the top.

Next, place your roast in the bag along with the fresh herbs and crushed garlic (put those on the bone side).

Seal the open end of the vacuum bag, making very sure that it is a completely sealed seam.

Fill your container half-way full with water and set your sous vide machine to 134F (you can use 130F-135F, depending on your preference).

Submerge the bagged roast into the sous vide machine (make sure it's completely covered!) and leave to cook for 18-24 hours.*


* I realize a lot of people might be skeptical about keeping their main course in a warm bath for so long, but another great thing about the sous vide is that if you are cooking anything above 130 degrees, it will self-sterilize in the bag. You can keep a roast beef in the water bath for 3 days and bacteria will never grow. The reason for this has to do with time at a specific temperature.

Here is an example, using chicken (I chose chicken because it is typically thought of as a one-temperature protein):

The FDA tells you that cooking to 160 degrees is needed to kill chicken bacteria and make it safe. What they don't make clear is that they mean making the temperature 160 degrees for 2 seconds will kill the bacteria.

But, if you use a lower heat for longer, it does the same thing. These are all equivalent:

160 degrees for 6 seconds
150 degrees for 1.2 minutes
140 degrees for 12 minutes
130 degrees for 120 minutes

So as long as you keep your protein in the water bath so that the whole thing reaches any of those temperatures / times, you have nothing to worry about, bacteria-wise.

This information isn't that useful if you're using an oven, because you can't transfer heat slowly enough to make an even cook at the temperatures above. You just try to peak at the safe cooking temperature.

But, with the sous vide, you can set your chicken to 140 degrees, leave it for 2 or 3 hours (or more, if you're busy), and it's as safe to eat as oven cooked to 160, just waaaaay more tender and juicy!*


After cooking for 18-24 hours, you're ready to eat!

Retrieve your roast from the sous machine and carefully open the vacuum. Save the jus - it's been flavored by the herbs & garlic and is totally delicious spooned over the meat!

On a sturdy cutting board, slice the meat and serve! No need to rest - the juices are already evenly distributed. Slice and go, that's honestly all there is to it!


  1. Did you sear/finish the meat after?

    1. For smaller cuts of meat, like a steak, we sear it to give the right 'look' and a bit of texture, but because of the salt in the rub & length of cook time on this roast, the color change you see happens by itself. No searing needed!

    2. OK thanks! What exact temperature and time did you do? Would you say it came out medium-rare?

    3. I set my temperature to a 134F and cooked the roast to a perfect medium rare after 20 hours. Happy cooking!