sous vide prime rib

Sous Vide Prime Rib’s Time to Climb

Good things come to those who wait.

When novices endeavor to explore sous and sans vide processing, the guiding literature frequently suggests using eggs to get your feet wet. Mixed metaphors notwithstanding, eggs are typically a great value as proteins go. Small differences in temperature and time give disparate results, which helps people familiarize themselves with the nuances of the technology.

If your eggs come out undercooked, you can cook them a little more by conventional methods. They can almost always be adapted to some other purpose, scrambled up in a pinch for breakfast or cut into potato salad.  They’re great for making mayonnaise–very forgiving. The worst case scenario is that you end up discarding a few eggs–a minor offence, as opposed to ruining a Wagyu steak.

Honestly, I don’t process eggs via sous vide very often. I find them rather difficult. Sealed up in the shell, it’s pretty hard to know what they’re doing, and trying to stick to precise time intervals leaves one vulnerable to the inevitable interruption of a ringing phone, a knock at the door, or even the occasional family crisis. This can “Scotch” the entire effort, pun intended–there actually is a dish named Scotch Eggs.

Make it easy on yourself!

Sous vide really is very simple, although it may be surrounded by more complex steps and treatments. One of the very easiest proteins to process via sous vide is  “Prime Rib,” which is just about the exact opposite of a sous vide egg. I put those quotation marks there because most prime rib is not USDA “prime” grade. For that matter, the rib bone is rarely served with the dish, and is relegated to other purposes–“dem Bones,” as it were.

Prime grade beef does not even necessarily make the best prime rib. USDA Prime grade beef is so heavily marbled, and so tender on its own, that it may actually fall apart when cooked by slow process, which roast prime rib should always be.  It’s really just a name, like “London Broil,” and Peach Melba. There is no part of a steer’s anatomy that is called a London Broil, and who’s Melba? Before I completely digress, I will note that a rib eye roast is just about the biggest thing that’s practical for sous vide. I still usually cut them into three pieces, about 5lbs. each. Commercial manufacturers of deli meats make larger units, but they have huge tanks for processing, and different technology for packaging.

The hardest thing about sous vide prime rib is sitting still for the ten hours or so that it takes to achieve the desired state, all the while knowing that it’s calling out to you from its little aquarium. I don’t always do it the same. I really don’t always do ANYTHING the same, unless I’m working for somebody who requires it. But prime rib will always take at least that long. And it can stay in there much longer than that without suffering as a result, because of the precisely controlled temperatures used.

For that matter, it could be done faster, but sous vide was never intended to provide a fast-food alternative to other methods. It’s really not suited to people that are in a hurry–it’s better suited to lazy people like me that would rather plan ahead than rush at the last minute. Conventional methods take nearly that long, anyway, especially when you account for the required resting at the end of the process. With Sous Vide, your prime rib can be ready to eat at 8am, but not be served until 8 pm, with no appreciable difference in quality or appearance. As my friend Tom sang, the waiting is the hardest party.

I hear a train a’comin’…

Unlike sous vide processing eggs in the shell, there’s a little bit more involved in getting your prime rib ready for the tank. I usually time it so that I can go to bed after the roast goes in the tank, and then serve at my leisure the next day. This cannot be done reliably in the home with any other process that I am aware of. I don’t sleep in the kitchen, but I ALWAYS use a surge protector. The entire procedure is outlined in the recipe linked to this article. Once the process is completed, the prime rib is basically ready to carve.

There’s been plenty of time to prepare all the collateral components of the prime rib meal, so your patience will not be in vain. If you follow the temperature (and time) guidelines, there will be none of the “I better check it to make sure, oops, it’s not quite ready” scenarios. Sous Vide and Sans Vide are just that precise, much more precise than any other form of cooking.

Fools buy according to price alone. SV forgives many sins. Prime grade is not necessarily the best choice, as I said. Some companies that make ovens dedicated to prime rib recommend using select grade beef, because of the tenderizing action of low temps.

Ribbing allowed, limited time only.

That being said, I found Select bone-in Ribeye for $5.77/lb, which is a good price anytime. Usually, Select is not really much lower in price than Choice, because of what they call market forces. It is completely wholesome. Frequently, they are a bit larger than Choice, that’s part of the grading criteria. Conformation, the actual “shape” of the animal, plays as much of a role in grading as anything else. This time of year Choice goes as high as $11/lb, because they know you want it. At $5.77/lb., this one cost about 90 bucks, and you can easily feed 12 MEN, so that’s really less than $8 each.

And, Now, for a Brief Discussion Period.

At some point, you’re going to want to sear a crust onto the sv prime rib, either before or after processing. Torches are popular, but they are really pretty slow, especially for a big cut. You end up just kind of waving the torch around like a scared bullfighter. I always worked in restaurant kitchens, a world away from  home kitchens. But my experience in the industry led me to eventually notice a few things about ovens designed for the home.

Actually, quite ingenious. For example, most of them, gas and electric, have some form of broiler function. You will never see this in a standard restaurant oven. Restaurant equipment contractors want you to buy an oven AND a salamander, and a char broiler, and a steam table, and so on. I would LOVE to have a walk-in refrigerator in my home, I would never come out!

The electric stoves for the home usually have an element in the top of the oven, which almost makes up for all the other deficiencies of electric stoves. Chefs like gas, but that means the broiler will be in the bottom of the oven, underneath the gas element. That is a real pain in a cramped kitchen, and even a little dangerous.

Beyond that, even the full blown broiler function is thermostat guided, so it goes off by itself after a certain, unknown temp is achieved. Probably 450F, thereabouts. This is to prevent us from forgetting what we’re doing, going down for a nap, and burning down the neighborhood. I also noticed that if I left the oven door of my electric stove cracked open, the element never went off, because the thermostat never hit that magic number.

This makes for great results when it comes time to sear the outside of your prime rib,  and a smokin’ hot kitchen, too. Oh, well, everything has its price.

I like Devices

  •  We used the Nomiku this time around.
  • People in the FB group always want to know which IC is the best, it can really make me crazy after a while. They don’t even want to read the review we posted, they want to be told in PERSON.
  • The fact is, I haven’t found an IC yet that DOESN’T work.
  • With so many members, we hear reports of all of them occasionally failing, at about the same rate. The companies all seem to be very receptive to replacing them, even after warranty expiration.
  • They have all improved their facility, and the prices continue to plummet.
  • The new models feature a lot of WiFi and Internet capability, and the Joule MUST be programmed remotely.
  • Okay, where’s my cell phone? If I can’t find it, dinner’s gonna be late!

  •  It’s a beautiful sight.

  • Lovin’ that tight fit.
  • I ran the Nomiku for three days straight @140, in the large Lipavi tank, just to see if it would keep running.
  • I never did have to add water. In fact, without actually measuring, it really didn’t even look like it went down.
  • It just looks like it’s raining in there all the time.


  • What’s Not to Love?

  • I try not to get too fussy about presentation. Well, it doesn’t matter if I get fussy or not, I have a zillion colleagues with a lot more artistic talent and skill than I have. These guys, they toss food into the air and it lands in the perfect spot, and they’re done with it. Tweezers? They don’ nee’ no stinkin’ tweezers.
  • Me, I try to show a clean plate that isn’t too crowded, and that can be hard enough. But presentation matters a lot, in that it affects the way that the diner experiences his/her meal. That first bite is the litmus test. If the first morsel of a steak is tough, or fatty, it doesn’t matter one bit what cut it is, or what the rest of the steak is like. At that moment, the diner gets an impression that will linger throughout this course, and even subsequent ones.
  • Those of you who know me have heard me talk about the 7 o’clock rule. If you imagine the plate as a clock, MOST diners will take fork in left hand, knife in right, and attack that 7 o’clock position. Assuming the server has at least the bare modicum of training, that spot will be occupied by the entrée, and not the baked potato or, heaven forbid, a crab apple on a leaf of kale.
  • When you look at the cuts of Prime Rib shown above, because of the camera angle, you are looking directly at the 7 o’clock position. And take it from me, those little curved bands of meat that you see there are just about the most succulent, unctuous, tender bites on the entire steer, called the spinus dorsalis.
  • You heard it from me.

  • Neither is there any shame in well done.
  • 95% per cent of the world’s population eats their meat well done, if they are lucky enough to have any at all.
  • Other than the difference of about 20F, the only difference between rare and well done is the presence of myoglobin, which is not blood.
  • People like to “other” each other, by arbitrary standards–skin color, faith, political beliefs, eye color, language, height, age, I’m so sick of it I could spit.
  • Are we really gonna look down on people who just don’t want Myoglobin in their meat?
  • I scorched a little with the torch, and dipped in the hot au Jus. DO NOT BOIL.

  • But, sure, that’s the way I like it.

Sobbing, ever so softly. It’s like a dream.





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