BBQ100/17: 7 Year old Dexter Rib of Beef
Another up front apology – There are more photos and more text than BBQ#99 and I have also copied and pasted a large part of the text from that post around sourcing the beef. If you read the last post and don’t want to read that bit again skip straight to this section.
Some time back Turner and George started stocking the Galician Blonde beef and there was a massive buzz about how good the meat was with some folk saying it was the best beef they had ever eaten. I bought a few different cuts over the years and it really is good. I was lucky enough to be at Meatopia 2016 when Marco Peerdeman, DJ BBQ, Richard Turner and John Torode butchered a whole side of a Galician cow then cooked the cuts before passing them out. Because I was sat at the front I managed to eat loads of it! There is no denying it’s an amazing product but as a big fan of British meat I held out some hope that older British beef would become available at some point.
Finally, the odd batch started to filter through at The Butchery but without mail order I couldn’t get hold of any. I saw Peelham farm were supplying restaurants in Edinburgh but their supply was so limited they couldn’t sell the older beef to the retail market. There was also a segment on the Jamie and Jimmy show where they talked about retiring ex dairy cows out to pasture for a few years before eating the meat.
Finally, I was able to get hold of some older British beef when Farmison started offering “British Old Cow” which really was something very special:
What was so special about it? The taste, the smell and the texture. It was the strongest beef taste I had experienced but also some of the tenderest meat. Even though the cow was older than those which usually hit the food chain. I had expected meat from an older animal to be tougher and need a bit of extra cooking but it was the opposite of that. Taste wise it’s the beef equivalent of comparing lamb and mutton.
The Farmison “Old Cow” and the Galician Blonde are both great products but I wanted to buy more British meat and it was proving hard to get hold of it let alone on a regular basis.
On Instagram I noticed Swaledale Foods kept posting about older beef they had provided to restaurants, it was usually Highland or Dexter beef as well. I have been keen to try Highland beef for a while after it got such a great write up in the book “Steak” and I have always enjoyed Dexter beef, it’s some of the best tasting beef I have eaten. You don’t see Dexter beef too often, maybe because it’s a very small cow so doesn’t deliver the same return per animal as a larger breed. The Swaledale site states:
The Dexter can weigh as little as 160KG deadweight – compare this with the Longhorn which can weigh upwards of 400KG. At its best the beef can be the best beef we have tried.
I kept posting on their Instagram posts asking to get hold of some and Richard from Swaledale got in touch. We had a few email exchanges and I meant to follow up and order some but I never quite got round to it with everything else going on. Last week I realised I was going to hit BBQ #100 during UK BBQ Week and I wanted something special to mark the occasion. I couldn’t think much further than some older British Beef for #100 so I got in touch with Richard.
I have to say that Richard is a lovely guy, really helpful and very enthusiastic about the quality products he is selling. We spent a fair bit of time on the phone but they don’t usually sell to retail customers as they supply some of the top restaurants in the UK. However, Richard didn’t rush me off the phone and it was a genuine pleasure to speak to someone so passionate about the quality of the meat they are selling. We discussed the older beef and Richard suggested a 7 year old Dexter which had been aged for 50 days. This sounded awesome to me! We agreed on 2 different cuts to cover BBQ#99 and BBQ#100.
I asked Richard to send me more details on the beef as I always like to know the background story of what breed it is, where it’s come from, how it’s been aged and how long it’s been aged for:
The beef being sent to you is from a 7 year old Dexter, and came from Andy Lambert’s farm in Hellifield. ( There is a picture of him and some of his cows on our Instagram page. ) As is the case with all of our meat, this is outdoor reared, grass fed, native breed meat. As you will see when it arrives the meat has great marbling throughout and a deep yellow fat cover.
The meat has been aged for 50 days in our Himalayan salt brick aging room.
The fans are state of the art meaning there is next to no moisture in the air as you will see from the dryness on the outside of the rib.
I was so excited reading this, I really couldn’t wait for the beef to arrive so I could see it. This was better than Christmas! The background story of the meat is something you can’t and won’t get in the supermarket and is one of the main reasons supermarket meat is so poor (along with the lack of dry ageing).
How was I going to top that for BBQ#100? I wanted a big bit of meat – it had to be a rib of beef! I have cooked a single bone joint and a 2 bone joint before:
The single bone joint was 1.5KG and the double bone joint was 3KG – So I went for a 4 bone joint this time.
I was quite nervous about how to best cook this due to the size of it. I had used the reverse sear method previously with ribs of beef but they were much smaller than this, it was going to be hard to reverse sear something this size as it was going to take up most of the grill surface so I couldn’t really run 2 heat zones. I had a look through my books and Richard Turner’s book “Prime” has a recipe to smoke a 3 bone rib of beef based on Smitty’s Market in Lockhart Texas. Sounded good to me!
When the beef arrived it was wrapped in muslin but I could see the yellow colour of the fat through the muslin. The joint was slightly over 8KG and was massive! I put it in the fridge until the day of the cook.
When I unwrapped the meat it was incredible. I have cooked a lot of meat this year but this was the ultimate specimen, truly a spectacular bit of meat!
Richard mentioned it had been aged for 50 days and their Himalayan salt chamber has very effective fans to remove all moisture from the drying room which is evident from the dark colour on the outside of the meat.
I put the meat out to have a good look at it from every angle:
Very simple prep as with the T-Bone steaks, just salt and pepper:
I set the smoker up with 1x4KG bag of Heat Beads and half a bucket of leftover heat beads from a previous cook. I fired up half a chimney of lumpwood and when it was lit I poured it onto the heat beads then left it half an hour to settle. I then put the smoker together, half filled the water tray and left it for another half an hour aiming for 240F.
When the temperature was steady I placed a couple of lumps of Oak wood from Smokewood Shack inside then placed the meat on the top shelf. I couldn’t quite close the lid to start with so had to move it around a little bit so the bones were right in the centre of the lid. The recipe suggested 3.5 hours at 240F:
After an hour the meat and the fat were taking on a great colour. I added some more Oak chunks.
I was a bit nervous of under cooking or over cooking the meat. I had the probe from my BBQ Guru pushed as far into the centre of the meat as possible but I think the probe is faulty as it was showing 60C quite early on. I got the Weber iGrill2 out and put a probe in on each side which seemed more accurate. The recipe says to cook it to medium so I set the alarms for 60C.
After 5 1/2 hours both probes were showing 60C so I opened the lid – what a fantastic sight awaited me!
Time to Rest:
The recipe says to rest the meat for 30 minutes so I took the opportunity to have a good look at it from every angle and take some photos! The colour of the meat, fat and bones was fantastic. I think this is the most impressive thing I have cooked so far. It’s like a piece of art!
I had only just taken it off to rest but I could see juice from the meat and fat running down the meat onto the board:
Time to Slice:
This is where I was getting nervous. The probes had shown 60C internal and it looked like I had got them both into the middle of the meat so it should be pinkish for medium. The joint had the rib bones and then another set of bones on the base so it wasn’t going to be easy to carve it like a Sunday roast. I thought the best plan was to remove the bones at the bottom and the slice between the rib bones to have 4 big slabs of meat to share.
I sliced away, it looked good – really good!
Nice bit of pink in the meat. The yellow fat looked great.
The colour of the bones where the smoke had hit it looked good too:
Ok, I was very happy with this. I hadn’t ruined it by undercooking or overcooking it which was my main concern!
Time to Eat:
I took one of the big slabs of meat and sliced it down into thinner slices. It was very moist and very tender, easy to slice. Really pink when I plated it, looked fantastic! The portion below is fairly modest, I filled it up once I took the photo!
How did it taste? Awesome! The beef had the strong beef taste I wanted without being overpowering so although it had been aged for longer it hadn’t gone that funky cheese way that some extra long aged meat can go. The fat was really soft and was one of the smokiest tasting things I have eaten, I loved it and again my wife ate it too and she isn’t a fan of fat but she enjoyed it.
|Weber Smoky Mountain
|Low and Slow
|Heat Beads (1x4KG plus half a bucket of leftovers)
|Smokewood Shack Oak
|5 1/2 hours plus 30 minute rest
What would I change about this one? I can’t really think of anything to change. It’s not something you are going to cook very often but what a showcase both of the quality of British meat but also what you can cook at home in your back garden in a smoker! Loved it!
As per BBQ#99:
Swaledale are launching a retail site soon –
‘ Native Breed Meat Company’ we will be looking to supply properly aged and prepared meat to the masses and show people what they have been missing out on, we are set to launch in the next few months, but we have a website that people can sign up to and be alerted when we go live.
The basic idea is people go online and order the meat and we can ship it to them by mail order anywhere in the country.
I have asked Richard to send me the website address and I will add it here once I have it. Great news that we will be able to buy older beef online from them soon, they sell Mangalitsa pork too which is something else I have wanted to cook for a long time. I will see if I can get some of that next!