The trick is to smoke the meat without making the meat smoke

Staggered Multi-Meat Cook

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About 10 days ago I posted a blog entry on how BALTIMORE PIT BEEF was a great make ahead food to bring to a party (see PARTY FOOD SUGGESTION). I made it for a holiday party this past week. It marked the first time I’ve grilled the Eye of the Round in the Winter and I learned a couple new things I figured I’d pass on. The biggest one is a lesson about carry over cooking and the cooking temperature used. But I also learned how to cook these roasts in one overlapping session vs. two separate sessions.
In the past when I’ve cooked two or three Eye of the Round roasts to make party sized batches of BALTIMORE PIT BEEF, I’ve gone through two or three separate cooking sessions. Due to the high temperatures used to cook the beef there is a lot of carry over cooking that goes on after the fact, both during the half hour rest and even after. Now for one roast this is fine because you get a range of doneness from rare to medium and you can keep most folks happy. I’ve learned from making this for several parties that some folks will just not touch rare roast beef. Most folks, even if they like rare roast beef, won’t refuse medium rare or rare roast beef. I was always afraid that if I made two or three roasts that finished up together, by the time I got around to slicing the second or third one, the meat would be all well done. So I would cook one roast at a time, turn off the grill and let the roast rest for 30 minutes before slicing it. Just before slicing the first roast, I would fire up the grill again to preheat it for cooking the second roast. By the time I was done slicing the grill would be heated and ready for roast number two. I would repeat the cycle again if necessary for a third roast. This procedure could take at least half the afternoon for two roasts and three used most of the afternoon.

This year I decided to think different. It was cold and I really didn’t want to blow through a whole propane tank with multiple warm ups and completely separate cooking sessions. Plus it gets dark around 4:00 and I didn’t feel like cooking in the dark. So I figured I would stagger, but overlap the cooking sessions. The first thing I did differently was to pull one roast out of the fridge one hour before cooking and the other 30 minutes later. This would give each about one hour of room temps before actually going out to the grill. I started the bigger of the two roasts first. If the second roast finished a bit early because it was smaller this would not be a problem. What I couldn’t do was be in the Kitchen slicing and out at the grill at the same time. The roasts are turned every 5 minutes so this wouldn’t leave much quality time in between for slicing. I had temperature probes inserted into each roast and I was able to track them individually. As the first roast started grilling the internal temperatures began rising very slowly, about 3-5 degrees (1.67-2.77 C) every 5 minutes. After about 15 minutes the internal temps began rising at a rate of 5-7 degrees (2.77-3.88 C) in 5 minutes. I began doing the math to see how long it would take to reach my target temperature of 125 degrees (52 C). Then I would subtract 30 minutes plus another 5 minutes fudge to see how long before I should put the second roast on. The thirty minutes was so the second roast would finish within the 30 minute rest time for the first. The additional 5 minutes was a cushion. I figured the smaller second roast would cook more quickly.

The roast moved to 7-9 degrees (3.88-5 C) rise in 5 minutes and I found I need to add the second roast. The first roast was at 80 degrees (27 C) at this point. I added the second roast and began turning both roasts every 5 minutes just as before. The second roast was following a similar pattern in terms of starting with a 3-5 degree (1.67-2.77 C) rise every 5 minutes. The first roast finished up at the one hour mark and began it’s 30 minute rest tented in foil. I went back out ti the grill and tended to the second roast. The first roast had taken 15 minutes longer than what they took to cook in the summer, but I could attribute this to the difference in temperature of the grill. In the summer the burners on high give me 900 degrees (482 C) at the grate level. Today with temps in the 20’s (-7 to -2 C) it was only 650 degrees (343 C). The cold weather affects the pressure of the propane which in turn affects the cooking temperature you can achieve. The second roast also took an hour which was a bit of a surprise. It weighed the same but was longer but thinner in one direction. The first roast was shorter and more cylindrical and thicker in profile. I figured the more rectangular shape of the second roast would allow the heat to get into the middle from the thinner direction sooner. This didn’t prove to be true. But even though it took the same one hour I was still ok because I’d added 5 minutes fudge time into the equation. After shutting down the grill, I was bringing the roast into the Kitchen when the timer went off telling me the first roast was ready to be sliced.

The one hour cooking time for both roasts was my first surprise of the day. The second and even bigger surprise came when I began to slice the first roast. In the past I’d slice one end and get some medium pieces which started turning to medium rare once I got an inch or so into the meat. By the time I’d get closer to the middle there were some pieces closer to rare. This time there was no changeover until I got within an inch of the middle where there were some medium rare pieces. I was quite surprised by this since nothing like this had ever happened before. Instead of waiting the full 30 minutes to slice the second roast, I cut into it s soon as I was done with the first roast. By cutting into the second roast 15 minutes early I was able to get some more medium rare meat. But even this roast was further along than I’d seen in the past. Now if these two roasts was for my consumption, or that of my family I would have been disappointed. We like our roast beef medium rare. But as I have mentioned, it seems like there is a wide range of folks who don’t like rare or medium rare roast beef. Sure enough at the party I heard some comments to that effect. So for this party I was ok with the doneness of the roast beef. The BALTIMORE PIT BEEF sandwiches were a big hit.

At first I was quite puzzled by what had happened, but I’d developed a working theory after mulling things over for a day. I think the fact that these roasts were on the grill for an extra 15 minutes meant there was more of an internal heat buildup. This in turn cause more carryover cooking to occur. I think that the higher grill temperature in the summer caused the temps to reach the interior meat faster, but not as much overall heat had penetrated into the meat. I’ve discussed this with several folks who’s knowledge I respect and they think there is something to this theory. One way for me to prove this theory is to cook another roast under similar Winter conditions and pull it at a lower temperature, say 10 degrees lower and see if I don’t get the results I am looking for.

What I thought was a ho hum, run of the mill, been-there-done-that cook, actually had two valuable lessons for me. The first lesson was I learned it was possible to do a staggered cook of one or more roasts and the time calculations were easily done with a series readings from an my Maverick thermometer. The second lesson is that the cooking temperature affects the carryover temperature. A lower temperature but longer cook will carryover more than a higher temperature but shorter cook. I will need to do my experiement where I cook at the lower temperature and pull the meat at 115 vs. 125 degrees. It is a tough job but someone’s gotta do it. I will report on the results in a future blog entry.

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