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Dec 25, 2008 10:08 AM

Select Grade Standing Rib Roast?

Yesterday, I purchased a select-grade standing rib roast to cook in the oven. It was the only grade available for purchase, as I waited until the last minute to go shopping. It has a nice fat cap, but definately not as much marbling as I'm used to seeing at the high-end grocery store I work for. I cooked a Choice roast last year and it was fan-freakin-tastic. But the lack of marbling in this roast has me a little worried. does anyone have any hints to make it as great as it was last year? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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  1. Your best bet would be to lard it, but that's a really messy job if you don't have a larding needle. And they're not easy to find.

    4 Replies
    1. re: JoanN

      Easy to find on the web though... Here's one similar to mine, and it's only $12.99. Ninth item up from the bottom of the page labeled "Larding Needle with Pusher."
      Beware of the expensive ones! And I have never had success with the "larding needles" that use the lardon like a piece of thread trailing behind and outside the needle. The protective sleeve of the referenced larding needle just about guarantees success.

      Nearly all recipes for larding meats tell you to use pork fat. I don't particularly like pork fat with beef. Pork fat doesn't taste like beef! This type of larding needle, with the long hollow groove to hold the fat and the pusher to extrude it once the needle has pierced the meat, makes it possible to use beef fat to lard a rib roast.

      But to do that you must do two things: first you have to find a butcher shop where they actually cut their own beef; then you have to remember to ask the butcher for a piece of the trimmed cap fat when you buy the roast. And be patient when larding. Keep in mind that beef fat will crumble while pork fat will not, hence the great advantage to t his kind of larding needle.

      A larding needle is one of those single use tools that Alton Brown rants against, but sorry, Mr. Brown, when you need one there is no substitute. Actually, once you've invested the thirteen bucks and learned how to us one, there is sooooooo much you can do with it! You can lard any lean cut of meat ranging from beef, bufallo, lamb (legs), lean poultry, and even fish. Just do be careful of cured pork fat such as bacon, because it will make whatever you are larding taste like bacon.

      And finally, for the record and the neophyte cooks among us, the opposite of "larding" (inserting fat inside a cut of meat) is "barding," which simply wraps the meat in fat. Again pork fat is the most common, and chances are we've all had a beef tenderloin wrapped in a slice of bacon at one time or another. That's typical "barding." My only wish on that dish is that the bacon would take on the flavor of beef instead of the other way around! But larding and barding can add a lot of variety to your cooking, along with depth of flavor and juiciness to the finished dish.

      Sorry this isn't in time for Christmas dinner!

      1. re: Caroline1

        In reference to the barding. I bought a rib roast that doesn't have much of a fat cap on it. It was just the right size I was looking for, which is why I went ahead and bought it. But now I"m wondering how I can substitute that lacking fat cap? I bought some pork belly sliced and though to wrap that around the roast. Its not a smoked pork belly, and I picked the fattiest looking package. What do you think?

        1. re: Atochabsh

          If you have time, I would try very hard to find beef fat. Pork just does not taste like beef. I love pork, mind you, but I am NOT a fan of bacon barded tenderloin, for example. Either ask for part of the cap trimmed from other rib roasts, or a block of suet from the fat that surrounds the kidneys (considered prime fat for making Christmas puddings). Then use as suggested in the following.

          If all else fails, you can pick up a 7 bone roast (or similar cut of beef) that has large chunks of fat in it and cut out that fat, slice it in quarter or half inch strips to lay on your beef as a cap, then cut "lardons" of beef fat, narrowly pierce your beef in multiple places (going into the grain) and slide in a lardon of beef fat. That will simulate marbeling and give you the juicy flavor. Kind of like salting a gold mine. '-)

          Good luck!

          1. re: Caroline1

            On the Whatthehell theory, I'd go ahead and try the pork fat myself. The unsmoked belly should not have any of the "bacony" flavor that comes from curing/smoking, and plain pork fat, frankly, tastes pretty good. The result may not be the same as a fatty aged piece of beef, but it should be good nonetheless.

            Atochabsh---whatever you finally do, give us a report.

    2. Relax. You observe it has a nice fat cap, so that will help shield and baste the roast as it cooks. Do the first little while at high heat so you develop a crust and start to render some of that fat, drop the cooking temp for the majority of the roasting time, don't overcook, let it rest. It will be delicious and will look impressive and gorgeous. Don't speak of the grade to anyone again -- ssssshhhhh.

      1 Reply
      1. re: nosh

        I agree with nosh - when haven't I - get a good crust at high heat, baste, and lower the temp in intervals. It sounds like you already know the drill anyway. The mass of the meat will start to retain the heat and "cook" itself. Most rib roasts have a fair amount of fat to begin with, so as long as you have the cap, it should act as a container to the rest of the meat as long as you cook it slow for the majority of the time and baste or mop it occasionally. Some Yorkshire pudding and a good hearty cab or malbec of your choice should make for a fantastic meal. Anything else that you put on the table will be a bonus.

        I don't know if you have access to Costco, but we've had really good luck this holiday season with their Prime grade prime rib roasts. Great beef at a great price...

      2. Should have gone to Costco, probably could have got USDA choice for the same price, or less. I'd check out Good Eats on FN website for AB's recipe for standing RR, works well. That outer layer of fat will definately help.

        1. The select grade is more an issue of fatness/tenderness than flavor. Whatever else you might do to improve it, I would slice it as thinly as possible when serving. That will somewhat neutralize the toughness, and the flavor should be fine. You might also spread some of the juices around, which will also help.

          2 Replies
          1. re: johnb

            I used to believe that, but Christmas dinner proved me wrong. When I found a USDA Prime tenderloin for an incredible price a few weeks ago, I grabbed it and froze it, planning to do beef Wellington for Christmas dinner. But the closer it got to Christmas, the more I thought about how wasteful it would be to put truffles, duxelle, pate, and puff pastry in front of my son, the world's pickiest eater!

            While shopping for Christmas veggies at a local "farmers'" market on the 23rd, they were putting out some pretty good looking standing rib roasts. I asked the butcher what grade the roasts were. He said, "Select." and I said, "Do you have any choice or prime?" He explained they only sell Harris Ranch select, but could special order, then insisted their grade of grain fed select was as tender as choice, just fewer calories.

            I was extremely doubtful, but the roasts did look good, with the dark red color of well aged beef, just not as much marbling. So for $22.00 I bought a three rib roast. I cooked it for 18 minutes at 500F, then at 350F until the inserted thermometer reached 130F, then let it rest while the Yorkshire pudding baked. It was literally fork tender, and I was completely amazed! But I wouldn't dare do that with "just any" USDA Select!

            For what it's worth, the market is Sunflower Farmer's Market, a regional chain. Their website is And much to my surprise, they were cutting the roasts to order for a line-up of customers. They cut the three bone rib roast while I waited, but I failed to ask whether their beef is shipped in in whole carcases or just whole ribs. At that price, I have to assume it was wet cured, but if it truly was, it is the best wet cured beef I've ever had.

            1. re: Caroline1

              Sounds like you did good. Brava! Maybe they really do "select" them carefully and wind up with a good selection of roasts. I see great variation among nominally equivalent pieces of meat in just about any meat case I examine, and if I buy at all always carefully choose from what's available, mostly trying to find the maximum marbling, It pays to be careful in this business.

          2. So how did you prepare it, and how did it turn out?