Monday, September 27, 2010

Bread and Beef, Revisited

Yesterday, I had a great dutch oven day.  A triumph, even.  Two dishes, both of which have been, in the past, difficult, came out perfectly.  And, not only were the delicious, but I was able to learn what I did right this time, and why they failed last time!

The first to be finished was a loaf of bread.  It was, quite possibly, the best loaf of bread I’ve ever baked.  A delicious, rich-tasting crumb, with a soft, browned crust.  I was very pleased. I plan to write about it, especially since my friend, Andy, asked about breads.  That one will be put on the Black Pot as a separate article, coming soon.

Today, I’ll talk about the other dish, a roast beef. 

A long time ago, I figured out that there are two ways to cook roast beef so that you don’t have to chew it forever to be able to swallow it.  One way is to cook it medium to medium rare, so that it’s still a bit pink and juicy.  I like my steaks that way, so it would stand to reason that I also like my roasts that way.  I’ve been able to pull off this kind of roast before.

The other way to cook it is to roast it “low and slow” (meaning at a low temperature, for a long time), and to overcook it.  You keep it on the heat until the meat becomes so tender that it falls apart under your fork, and you hardly need a knife to eat it.  I’ve tried this before, but until today, I’ve not been able to succeed.

So, this time it worked.  I essentially followed the instructions and the recipe spelled out in that blog entry.  The only real difference in the recipe was that I didn’t use the bacon.  It tasted fine without it.  I also used a little less black pepper in the glaze.  Well, that, and the veggies were different.  I just used what I had on hand, which was pretty much the same.

There were some differences in my process, however.

First of all, I made sure that the meat was completely thawed from the beginning. That meant the time spent cooking was spent cooking and not melting the meat. I also made sure that I let the beef sit with the salt and pepper for a bit longer.

I made sure that I kept the coals to a minimum.  I kept it hot, but not too hot.  There was a pretty steady breeze out, so I had to replace them often.  The coal counts of 8-10 below and 10-12 on top were pretty accurate to what I was trying to maintain.  I cooked it a total of about 5 to 5 1/2 hours.  It reached an internal temperature of “well-done” after about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  Toward the end I started testing it by seeing how easily I could pry apart the meat fibers with a pair of forks.

I didn’t add any veggies or herbs until about the third hour.  I just poured them around the meat.  I left the meat on the metal bottom of the oven.  I don’t know if that made any difference at all, considering the relatively low heat.

I mixed up the glaze (like I said, a little lighter on the pepper, and also a little heavier on the honey), and, about an hour out to “done”, I started basting it on the top of the meat every 15 minutes or so.  It really added a sweet and sharp depth to the flavor of the meat.

About 15 minutes out to my projected “done” time, I started ladling off the liquid stock at the bottom of the pot to make a gravy.  There really wasn’t much liquid to use.  In retrospect, I don’t really think the meat needed the extra moisture nor flavor of a gravy.  Still, I made some, and it didn’t taste bad.

When I pulled it off the coals, I set it on the table, and we spent a good 15 to 20 minutes gathering and setting the table.  That allowed the meat to rest and the juices to re-distribute.  The residual heat also cooked it just a little bit more.

Finally, when we were all gathered, and the prayer said, I went to serve it and it just fell apart under the fork.  I had brought out a knife to cut it and serve it, but I didn’t use it.  My kids raved about it.  Really, the glaze and the long, slow cook made all the difference.


Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.
Mark's Other Blog Posts: Long, Long Time, The Seekers (LDS Scripture Mastery Game),


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