The Wednesday before Easter holidays, I take the plunge and bravely ascend upon the local Preston Markets. Arriving mid morning, it is already bedlam. Preston Markets car park only ever seems to attract people who can’t drive (except me of course). Each very narrow lane has an arrow to indicate what direction you are supposed to travel but of course no one (except me) pays attention. Whatever needs to be done for that mad dash when one sees a potential parking space gets done. It’s messy and exasperating.
I thought picking Wednesday instead of Thursday is a pretty good move. But a lot of other people seem to have the same idea. I fancied a bit of a gourmet Easter break so I do admit I stock up as well, as if we are bunkering down. I think it is the fact that I really don’t want to have to go the shops for four days, except maybe to get fresh bread. And apart from having to get milk, I actually succeed in that quest.
I look around at several butchers but don’t notice the cut of beef I want. Choosing one to ask, the butcher pulls out a huge slab of beef ribs. I will have half, I say, but whole, don’t chop it up. As I am about to leave, he asks me if I am from Brazil. I smile wryly shaking my head. I buy some lamb cutlets and a slab of beef ribs and he asks me if I am specifically from Brazil! I don’t get it.
After a bit of a research, I am a bit disappointed to learn that our Weber Q can’t do any slow cooking. A friend even kindly tests his out for me and manages to keep it at 135 degrees for 45 minutes. Not good enough. But thanks, Chris, for trying!
I also google several recipes of slow cooked beef ribs but I can find none that actually mentions a whole cut of ribs. So I adapt. I figure if it takes around 3 hours to cook the cut up version, it would take maybe 5 to 6 hours for mine.
Just before 2pm on Good Friday (I did forget about the whole fish thing but I am not religious so…anyway there is a karma outcome so read on), the process begins. I slice up some organic onions and place them on the bottom of the baking dish. On top of that, I carefully place two long organic whole carrots. The ribs, which have been sitting out at room temperature for an hour, sit on top of this mini tower. I generously sprinkle the ribs with a homemade rub. Then, as a final piece de resistance, I pour in a can of beer (just a generic lager, VB in my case as that was all we have, but I am sure you can experiment with other varieties).
I pop it in a 125 degree oven, looking forward to dinner at 8pm. Then we wait. 8pm comes around and we are excited. We grab a fork, take the ribs out of the oven and stab it several times. But the meat is nowhere near falling off the bone. What are we going to do? After a quick discussion, we have to call it and proceed to dinner plan b. Two more hours we say. Coincidentally, Dean is reading something about an old BBQ mantra that says, “It’s done when it’s done.”
Just before 10pm, I repeat the test. Out of the oven, I pull the foil back. I take a fork and in the vain hope that it would be ready, I gingerly poke it into a section of the meat. But no matter how hard I tug and tug, the meat is not going to come off the bone on its own!
There is only one choice. The BBQ mantra has to be applied. Turn the oven down to 55 degrees and let it cook overnight. I go to bed.
Fast forward to 8:30am the next day, Easter Saturday, it is nearly nearly there. Just a little bit longer we say; 20 hour slowed cooked beef – there has to be a limit!
At 10am, we remove it from the oven, finally happy that it is falling off the bone as much as it possibly can . The ribs are wrapped in foil, the onions and carrots (which are all still fully intact) are wrapped up separately. The liquid is poured into a bowl and placed into the fridge. We venture out to do some errands including a visit to a sourdough bakery I had always wanted to try (The Natural Tucker in Carlton for those in Melbourne).
Returning home nearly one and a half hours later, it’s time to make lunch. At midday, we sit down and eat, a whole 22 hours after we first started and a whole 16 hours late.
What do we end up with? Pulled beef in a beer and beef consommé served on sourdough. Side salad of organic slaw with a homemade mayo. I cannot begin to tell you how much it is worth the wait. It really is done when it is done. Recipe here.
And what do we learn the not-so-hard way?
- We really aren’t supposed to eat meat on Good Friday
- Lucky the Weber Q cannot slow cook
- I understand now why the butcher wanted to chop it up
- Slow cooking for 20 hours is not as laborious as I thought. Unless you are paranoid about leaving the oven on, you can go out and leave it. And as in our case, you can even squeeze in a good night’s sleep! And you can pull the pan out with bare hands – no need for oven mitts!
- Don’t try to cook anything you haven’t done before or think “you can adapt” if you are expecting dinner guests.
- The old BBQ mantra “It’s done when it’s done” can be applied to all cooking. You can’t argue with a dish, it’s done when it’s done even if you are eating it 16 hours later after you had planned to.