How to Cook Half a Cow!


Ok, not really half a cow but it sure seemed like it!

One of our dear friends always has a Christmas Eve gathering with her family and friends. In years past she has prepared most of the dishes herself. But this year her husband had passed away a couple of months earlier and she just wasn’t up to it. And she decided she wanted to do a standing rib roast.

17 pound raw roast

We’ve done a few standing rib’s in our time so we decided to volunteer to cook it for her. If she would buy the meat, we’d do the cooking. This may be the classic example of why you should never volunteer for anything.

A few days before, she brought over the roast. It was almost 17 pounds of meat!! She said she figured she was serving around 25 people. We literally didn’t have a pan big enough to hold it.

We reviewed all of our recipes to make sure we had the timing down. She wanted to serve at 2 in the afternoon and we needed to back up the time from there. We weren’t preparing any of the sides, just the roast and the au jus.

Tails 2006, Heads 2007, Pennies

Because it wouldn’t fit into any one pan, we decided to cut it in two. This ended up causing problems that we didn’t anticipate. We also decided to do the standard slow roast rather than trying to cook it at very high temps for a while and then turning off the oven.

We prepared the roast by smearing with garlic, salt and pepper. We inserted the thermometer into the middle of one the roasts and placed both in pans side by side in the middle of the oven preheated to 325 degrees.

Fully Cooked Rib Roast

The expectation based on the recipes was that this would take 5-6 hours to roast. But we failed to take into consideration that we had cut the roast into two much smaller pieces. We kept a close eye on the internal temp and it was cooking way too fast! After 3 hours it was already up to 140 degrees which would make it medium rare in the center (what she said she wanted). We had to quickly turn off the oven and open the door to stop the cooking. We had planned to cover the roast with grated carrots, parsley and other herbs at about the 3 hour mark and let them cook into the meat. That plan had to be abandoned when the meat cooked so quickly.

Finally the temperature started to come down so we felt safe putting the oven on warm and just letting the roast rest in the warm oven until it was time to prepare the au jus.

We took the drippings and placed them into one of the roasting pans along with some red wine and beef stock, some chopped up mushrooms and some salt and pepper. We let that come to a boil and tasted it. It was perfect! After straining to remove the pieces, we placed into a container and arranged the roast onto a serving platter.

Roast and garnish

Although we didn’t stay for the dinner, we were told that everyone loved the roast. At the end of the evening there was only about a pound of meat left.

What we learned was that cutting meat into smaller pieces makes it cook much faster (DUH!) but that you can save it by using your instincts and thinking on your feet.

We’re glad we did this for our friend, but we don’t think we’ll volunteer to cook a half a cow again anytime soon!

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