Saturday, October 25, 2014

Poor Mans Prime Rib (Shoulder Roast)

I have Sous-Vided almost every cut of beef with exception of the chuck shoulder roast. Why would I choose such a tough piece of meat to cook? I like to experiment so why not I say. This dish or experiment is not unlike my other dishes which are spontaneous. I just happen to be at QFC and they had some beautiful shoulders are sale. I normally go with the more tender cuts like Rib-eyes, Porterhouse and or New Yorks but when I saw this cut I became curious. 

The shoulder roast is one of the most flavorful and economical cuts and if cooked accordingly is flavorful and tender. This 1.68 lb chuck roast cost me $8.38. Note: some assert that the Chuck Roast is more flavorful. Of course the downside to this cut of meat is it's tough connective tissue and the dreaded gristle. The traditional way to cook this roast is a long braise but that was before Sous-Vide. Cooking Sous-Vide can take an inexpensive piece of meat and make it taste like prime. Well that's my goal anyway. 

The Sous-Vide method of cooking can yield some incredible results which can only be described as sublime. It's almost impossible to achieve results like this by traditional cooking techniques. Braising is a traditional way to cook tough meats but in most cases if you are not careful the meat will dry out. I know what you are thinking how can meat sitting in liquid dry-out. Take my word the meat can and will dry out if braised to long and especially if not carefully supervised. There's a fine line between producing tender chunks of meat that melts in your mouth and meat that is too dry. 

Using Sous-Vide as the cooking method can mitigate these cooking faux pas. Don't get me wrong if you choose the wrong temp and time you can ruin a piece meat with Sous-Vide but its unlikely because your time time frame has a lot of wiggle room. 

Things to consider. The higher the water temp the more moisture will be squeezed out of the muscle fibers. You have to find that right temp and time that creates that perfect piece of meat. For me a great prime Rib-eye is cooked at 128.1 F for about 4 hours depending on the quality but a tougher piece of meat like a Flat Iron steak or Tri-Tip needs to be cooked at 133 degrees in my opinion for at least 6 hours. I like my Short Ribs cooked at 149 degrees for 48 hours. So in a nutshell to maximize moisture cook long and low. But wait lets say you prefer a textually drier piece of meat. What do you do?  The technique here would be to raise the temp up a bit but reduce the time. Oy-Vey this can get confusing and complicated fast. Well for me its easy because I like to experiment. Everyone has a taste and texture preference. So like I said before 128.1 F for Rib-eyes for 4-6 hours but 133 F Flat Irons for 6 hours. Consider this; a flat Iron cooked for 12 hours at 133 degrees will render a piece of meat that is moist but is soft and slippery. Many people love this but not me. My textural preference is different.  

So what to do for the Shoulder Roast? I am going to try 133 F for about 48 hours. This meat reminds me of a cross between a Short Rib and a Flat Iron. If I don't achieve the results I was hoping for I will do it again but of course with different temps and time. I kept this recipe extremely simple because it was truly just an experiment only to determine the optimum time and temp for this cut of meat. I covered the meat in Montreal Steak seasoning and vacuumed seal for 24 hours. I will then Sous-Vide for 48 hours at 133 F. 

The meat was given an ice bath and refrigerated overnight after the 48 hour thermal bath and seared off the next day. 

One thing I forgot to mention. After removing the meat from the cold refrigerator I submerged the vacuumed sealed bag in the Sous-Vide thermal bath for a couple of minutes to warm it up a bit and then seared it off to produce that beautiful (Maillard reaction) brown look we all come to love. 
Over all the it was delicious however I think I would have ended up with a better texture if I would have Sous-Vide it for 24-36 hours instead of 48. I prefer more of a bite in my meat. Some people might like extremely tender meat and most of the time I do too but in this case I would have liked more tooth or bite. Again there is a fine line. Some question that I must ask. If I Sous-Vide only for lets say 30 hours will this be adequate to render down the gristle and connective tissue? I am not sure. In the end it's all about the love of food and the willingness to experiment and come up with something new and exciting. 

Update- 133 f at 40 hours is just about perfect.