A recipe so in-demand they had to remove it from the menu at Dinner and the killer-app for anyone with a Sous Vide cooker, it’s Heston Blumenthal’s 72-hour rib of beef recipe.
Here we are, late to the party as ever. Thanks to a marketing push in the UK by the makers of the Sous Vide Supreme some of our favourite blogs are rich with exciting and observant posts on using sous vide equipment in the home.
We’ve had a cheapo sous vide cooker for about three years now. We’ve referenced it on occasion, and you can see it sat beside our hob being splattered with fat in some of our photos, but we’ve never really mentioned it in detail.
I say sous vide cooker, look closely and you’ll see it’s clearly just a Gino Di Campo rice cooker. Round the back there’s a digital thermostat that’s been spliced onto the power cord. A temperature probe runs from this into the cooking pot (which ideally we’ll have remembered to fill with water). I made it myself using some drawings off the internet, twenty quids-worth of bits and some brown wire I got off the electrician at work. It’s not amazingly precise (there’s a variance of about 5°C) so you wouldn’t want to try to make a perfect soft boiled egg in it.
Set the temperature to, say, 62°C and that digital thermostat will turn the cooker on. It’ll keep heating until the reaches that temperature then the power goes off. If the temperature drops too low the power comes back on again to boost it up.
Our sous vide machine is cheap, efficient and roughly good enough for meat and fish. Which makes it ideal for cooking Heston’s 72 hour rib of beef recipe.
Recipes: Heston’s 72 Hour rib of beef recipe
Special Equipment: Sous vide water bath cooker, vacuum sealer
Special Ingredients: Beef ribs
Time: 75 hours approx. (includes prep & finishing)
Difficulty: Very Easy
Admittedly, we’re telling you this is Heston’s recipe, but to be honest it seems to have been done by any chef who’s got access to a sous vide kit (all the good ones, then. Controversy!).
Heston does feature 72 hour beef ribs in his Beef Royale recipe (served on the Fat Duck’s now-defunct a la Carte and briefly at Dinner) and was the main course in the Gothic Horror episode of Feasts.
We’ll be serving this in the vastly simpler Modernist Cuisine-style, with Heston’s Mashed Potato recipe and some of his Waitrose Finishing Jus for Beef.
Step 1: Salt
This is optional but a good idea. Cover the ribs in salt for an hour then wash the salt off. It’ll help tenderize the meat an extra bit, as well as drawing out moisture to make the ribs denser and more flavourful.
Step 2: Seal
Key to any sous vide recipe is having your food properly sealed. At the risk of sounding like show-offs we use a JML Food Saver from Argos and cheap bags off Amazon.
When cooking for this long it’s a good idea to double-bag the meat to prevent any leaks. It’s unlikely your bag will leak but it’s best to be safe than to find out your three day cooking process has been ruined by a small hole.
Here are our two of our ribs, I’ve nicknamed them Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill.
Step 3: Sterilize
The recipe Heston publishes in Fantastical Feasts is the only time we’ve seen this step listed. It’s also seemingly optional, since many other recipes (including Modernist Cuisine) don’t require it. Then again they haven’t been humiliated in the national press following an outbreak of food poisoning.
You immerse the ribs in the sous vide cooker set to 85°C for five minutes, which should be just long enough to kill off any surface bacteria (with beef the harmful bacteria tends to be only on the surface of the meat).
85°C is far too high a temperature to cook the ribs at though, so you after seven minutes are up you should immediately transfer them to the correct temperature of water bath, or just chuck in a few ice cubes to bring the temp of your current one down.
Step 4: Slow cook
And then you re-set the cooker to your chosen temperature. We’ve opted for 62°C as this is our first try, but you can go as low as 56°C if you like. Then put the ribs in and then leave them for 72 hours. Job done.
We needed the sous vide cooker to make Heston’s Mashed Potato recipe, so as an option you can put the ribs back into ice water once the 72 hours is up, then reheat them before serving – which takes about an hour if they’re still on the bone.
Step 5: Snip, Slice and Sear
With the ribs cooked you need to do the following:
Snip open the bags to get the meat out. There’ll be a lot of liquid / cooking juice in the bottom of each one that needs to be poured away.
Yes, these are lost meat juices and unless you cook at a lower temperature it’s difficult to prevent them. We tend to get quite a lot of this juice, more than any recipe warned me to expect. This might be down to our imprecise equipment. Do NOT try to save or consume this liquid, it’s not nice.
Trim the meat away from the bone.
Sear them in a pan or with a blowtorch for presentation and to add roasted Maillard flavours (DON’T do this before cooking! Although it’ll sterilize the meat there’s a risk of oxidisation which can create some unpleasant flavours during the long cooking time).
Step 6: Serve
And that’s it.
We served our ribs on Heston’s horrendously buttery mashed potatoes, with a dash of Waitrose Finishing Jus for Beef. We ought to have reduced the latter, as it was a bit too runny to nicely glaze the ribs.
Congratulations, you’ve just made Heston Blumenthal’s 72 hour Sous Vide Beef Rib recipe.
How much you like Heston’s 72 hour sous vide beef rib recipe will depend entirely on how much you like beef fat. Ask yourself: if you ordered a steak would you eat all the fat as well?
Our ribs had a lot of fat and connective tissue on them. The fat is still there, but it’s very soft and jelly-like.
The meat is ridiculously tender, but it’s the taste that really stands out. You’ll rarely get to eat meat as richly flavoured as this, and ours just came from a reasonable butcher’s stall in Leigh market, rather than some posh, organically reared breed. It’s the very essence of beefiness, with the flavour dialled right up to 11.
But there’s a still lot of jellied fat amongst those pieces of tasty beef. If you’re not the kind of person who enjoys them, or you aren’t happy cutting away the fat to get at the meat then this cut might not be for you. But, if you’re not such a fussy eater, then Heston’s 72 hour sous vide rib of beef will be the tastiest beef recipe you’ll ever make.
Our taste testing panel of 4 was split down the middle on this recipe, half of us tolerating the beef fat and the others unable to deal with it.
We figure the best way to get optimal flavour and leaner meat might be to do this with a cut of brisket next time. It’s not quite as flavourful, and you don’t get the added bone, but this is a cut you can easily source at the supermarket.
THOUGHTS ON SOUS VIDE COOKING
When we first built this sous vide rig I genuinely thought it would be the silver bullet that would put our home kitchen on a par with Michelin-starred establishments. A sort of plug-in fairy godmother waving her low-temperature magic wand over tough and tender cuts alike. But basically it’s just another kitchen appliance.
Two appliances, really, since you also need a separate food-saver to get the best results. Yes, you can use Ziploc bags, but you don’t want to rely on them for any longer than an hour or two.
A few years on and we’ve realised that our sous vide cooker is just another kitchen appliance, one with a scope not vastly greater than that of a bread maker or deep fat fryer. Ok, more of a frivolous modernist appliance, so it’s more akin to a pressure cooker or whipping siphon (we own those too).
You’ll buy one and for the novel first few weeks it’ll be proteingeddon every dinnertime as you snip open bag after bag of worryingly pale meat. And that’s because like a bread maker or deep fryer, Sous Vide water ovens really only have one focus – cooking meat and eggs (veg can be done, but it’s really not worth the effort).
Bear in mind your sous vide cooker can’t do everything. Casseroles and stews benefit from low cooking temperatures, but you can’t vacuum seal liquids, so you’d have to freeze all the ingredients first. And while a sous vide ham will be more tender than one poached in the oven you won’t get any lovely ham stock to work with afterwards.
We do love the precision of sous vide cooking though, which is why we’ve gone out and bought a Sansaire. We originally found this brand on Kickstarter. Developed by Modernist Cuisine’s Scott Heimendinger it does the job of a £600 Polyscience Immersion Circulator for about a third of the price. We chose Sainsaire out of pure loyalty to Scott and to Modernist Cuisine, but since they’ve had some serious delivery delays we’d recommend you buy the Anova instead.
We think immersion circulators are the best option for the home. Just as accurate as the chamber models, but much more versatile. Clipped onto the side of the pressure cooker our Sansaire can heat a couple of steaks for dinner, or we can stick it on the side of our drinks cooler and cook a couple of bone-in pork shoulders.
Plus, once you’re finished you can pack it away meaning fewer appliances taking up countertop space (in other I can’t be shouted at for clogging up the kitchen with more crap). It’s probably safer not having a box of legionella sat on your worktops, too.
Some of our favourite blogs have put up some great sous vide posts recently. You’d be seriously missing out if you didn’t read these:
Kavey Eats – Comprehensive and definitive are two words we always use to describe Kavey’s blogging. This introduction to sous vide cooking is no exception.
BigSpud – Gary’s blog has been a go-to reference for as long as we can remember. The man is a font of knowledge and creativity. For proof of that look no further than these fantastic at-home sous vide recipe ideas.
ChefSteps – I’ve not properly blogged for the past 8 weeks because I’ve spent all that time staring slack-jawed in amazement at the ChefSteps website. It’s quite literally the most wonderful thing I’ve ever seen. Here’s a magnificent series of short, fun videos that explain sous vide cooking, along with some great recipes to try out. (Fun fact: Chefsteps is run by Chris Young, one of the main guys behind Heston’s In Search of Perfection series).
Have you made 72 hour beef ribs, and if so what tips have you got for us? And what recipe should we try next once we manage to unbox our Sansaire? Tell us in the comments section.