When we lived in Boston, Janet and I would throw big dinner parties for her fellow Kennedy School students, and most of them featured a large beef rib roast. On seeing one of these beasts, one of Janet’s friends said, “I feel like I’m eating Raoul,” making a reference to an ’80s movie.
Since then we name all our big rib roasts Raoul and like the kings, increment them with Roman numerals. I dry-age them in our downstairs refrigerator for between 21 and 28 days, although I’ve gone up to 45, with pretty good results.
This is Raoul XXXII when we first brought him home from Costco on Dec. 1 for our New Year’s dinner, so he spent a month in the fridge.
He weighed about 19 lbs. and was the first bone-in rib roast I’ve aged. I put him on a rack and then, because I recently read about how putting salt underneath the beef can help it, I dumped a bunch of kosher salt on the sheet try, which I usually just line with aluminum foil.
I don’t think the salt helped, and I won’t do it again, but I don’t think it hurt, either.
For the science and detailed technique I refer you to J. Kenjy Lopez-Alt’s outstanding article on the subject at Serious Eats. Lopez-Alt reminds me a lot of Alton Brown before he turned into a jerk, and his recipes, science labs and other pieces there are all excellent.
I’ve tried aging meat several ways: in special bags that are sold for this purpose, wrapped in paper towels, wrapped in cheesecloth and just naked on the rack. Bare on the rack has worked well for me, although I would like to raise the humidity in the refrigerator.
Anyway, this is what Raoul XXXII looked like when he came out of the fridge after 30 days: That grid is the mark from the rack he was on. He looks all dried-out and gross, but all he needed was a little trim.
He finished up at about 16 1/2 pounds, having lost about a pound of water during the month, and the rest in trimming on the leathery, dried-out portions. I left more fat
on than I usually do, because I was roasting Raoul XXXII whole, and I usually cut the roasts into very thick steaks, about 2 1/2 pounds each.
Here he is, trimmed, tied and ready to roast. I cut the ribs almost off, leaving an inch or so connected to make carving easier but still allowing me to roast him whole.
I roasted Raoul on the Big Green Egg, starting at 200 degrees at 1:45 p.m. on New Year’s eve, aiming to pull him off at 128 degrees internal. My plan was to then run up the Egg to 700 degrees or so to crust the outside.
I later raised the grill temperature to 225 and then 250 when it seemed I was going to run out of time. When the internal temperature was only 125 at 9:45 I pumped the Egg up to 400 degrees and pulled Raoul when he was at 130 degrees. This very blurry picture tells the story after I cut the first servings.
The color might be a little off in this picture. He was a perfect medium-rare in the center, but a little more done on the edge than I like, and that’s because I took up the heat — if I’d pulled him at 128 as I had planned and then put him back on for just a couple of minutes when the Egg had hit 700 degrees, it would have been a perfectly uniform pink just about to the very edge.
Taste was good, with a little of the funky, metalic, cheesy flavor that you want from aged meat, and he was extremely tender. We still have a few pounds of him left, which we plan to freeze this weekend. The rib bones are on the menu for tonight, roasted again with some barbecue sauce.