In a recent blog post titled Rib Roast Realities I suggested purchasing the beef strip- loin, instead of the adjoining rib roast, in order to save money and to put one’s cooking skills to the test. In the spirit of putting my abilities and money “where my mouth is” I recently went bargain shopping for a Christmas dinner strip-loin. The best price found locally was at a wholesale food service outlet store where their No-Roll (un-graded) whole boneless strip-loins were $4.79 per pound. No-Roll means that the packer opted not to have the carcasses, that a meat cut came from, Quality and/or Yield graded. So-called House or Company Grades are allowable, but can not use official USDA grade names. After searching the label listed Establishment number on my phone I recognized the plant as a one I knew to harvest both young dairy steers, as well as culled breeding stock (mostly dairy cows). I also knew that the plant of those strip-loins came from opted to employ the USDA’s grading service. So, the No-Roll cuts I was looking at were either low marbling young cattle (likely steers) or from C-maturity culled dairy cows. As a side note: bulls are not eligible for Quality grading. It was hard to tell for sure through the vacuum packaging, but I thought I could see some fine marbling on the cut ends of the roasts. The lack of a plump shape in the LD (Longissimus Dorsi) muscle and large perimeter dimensions further confirmed to me that those strip-loins came from Holstein dairy cattle. The only thing I couldn’t figure out for sure was if they were out of A-maturity market aged – low marbling cattle, or from C-maturity relatively young culled dairy cows. Next, I pushed on the exterior fat cover in various locations and felt the steak tail section to estimate overall fat wastage. In the end, it was the $4.79 per pound cost of No-Roll boneless strip-loins, compared to nearby supermarket prices of $9.99 per pound for Choice bone-in rib-eye roast, that convinced me to buy a less expensive roast. I had made a fairly well informed decision, paid my money and took my chances on a roast that had been wet-aging for almost a month.
Upon arriving home I peeled back the price sticker and discovered that the roast had originally been offered for $4.55 per pound. The price may have risen due to overall Holiday beef roast demand.
The dimensions of the steam table pan the roast is in are 11 1/2 X 19 1/2 inches: It was a comparatively large-thin roast.
After removing the vacuum bag I saw that the roast contained only a Slight amount of well scattered marbling; it definitely needed help in the flavor and juiciness palatability categories. Injecting water soluble ingredients pushes them in to where they can react with all the meat. Subcutaneous fat layers and muscle bundle sheaths both slow the absorption of rubs and/or a surface brine into roasts; thick roasts take even longer for non-meat ingredients to equalize throughout.
Here the roast has been injected with a solution containing Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, prepared mustard, sodium phosphate, brown sugar, bourbon and a little water. All was mixed to taste.
Crushed garlic and coarse ground black pepper was boiled and a little water then chilled before pouring it over the marinating roast. The roast was then held under refrigeration in a covered steam table pan and flipped once a day during the next 5 days.
The Christmas day the strip-loin went into the Wolfer Smoke-Cooker and was held in the 240F range for 2 1/4 hours; at which time it reached 135F internal.
Roast was then covered for about 1/2 hour while the remainder of the meal was completed. It was nice to have the oven freed by cooking the meat outdoors.
Here I sliced enough for dinner off the rib end of the roast. Juiciness, flavor and actual meat tenderness was very acceptable. However, this roast fell short in that it contained too much hard to chew gristle-like material. Spitting occasional un-chewable parts out at the table was a real downer. And, with that development I was relatively certain that the roast was out of would have been a Commercial grade cull cow.
The next day I cleaned the gristle out of the remaining meat with a knife and cut it into just over 5 pounds of steak cubes. About half of the steak cubes were later sliced down and used in a very enjoyable smoky chili.
Boneless Choice strip-loins were about $2 less per pound than bone-in Choice rib-eye roast. Further, I had good success with a Choice oven-roasted strip-loin last year. Although I did have some degree of success with the No-Roll strip-loin, I would not recommend it over the middle priced Choice strip-loin. All Select grade meat is from the A-maturity group, therefore a lower priced Select strip-loin roast would be a good candidate to prepare the way I did this No-Roll (likely Commercial grade equivalent) roast. Conclusion: when buying middle-meat steak cuts stick with Quality graded beef, or a House grade you have learned to trust, or if buying freezer sides learn how to evaluate beef carcasses.