Beef skills


Have you ever tried to wrap a beef fillet in a salt crust and bake it in the oven? If not, I highly recommend doing it. First of all, it’s a nerve-wrecking adventure, second, if you get it right, you’ll be able to serve a world-class meal: meat so tender and regularly cooked that you won’t believe it; a texture so soft and yet firm that you’d need to invent new words for describing it; a roast so spectacular that it makes you sing and hum while chewing on it. No kidding!

Beauty or beast? Only in the end, you'll know.

You’ll need a lot of salt, A LOT of salt. For a roast of 1.5 kilograms think of buying 2.5 kilograms of sea salt. It has to be coarse sea salt, don’t use the snow-white refined one. You mix the salt with some egg whites, some water (you could add herbs, if you liked to) – and then work the crust. Bring out a thick layer on the tray, pose the meat, then use your hands to cover it entirely as above. Pre-heat the oven until very hot, 240°C (460°F). Put the beast into this burning hell. But for how long? Well, that’s the nerve-wrecking part.

You wouldn’t like the idea of ruining such a noble and expensive part of meat, would you? And this is a technique you rarely use, so you shouldn’t trust your good cook’s intuition at all. That’s why I recommend using high-tech-equipment for temperature control:

Don't trust your intuition: cooking thermometer.

You can, roughly, count 30 minutes for a big piece of meat like the one I’ve used. But you should control the core temperature or should I say: closely monitor it?, beginning after 25 minutes. Here’s the basic rules: at 55-60°C (140°F) core temperature the roast is rare (really rare, what the French call “bleu”). Between 60 and 65° it’s perfect, I’d say, rare to medium, at 70° and more you enter the well-done section (=ruined).

This rules applies to any beef roast, with or without a crust. But beware: When you pull out the roast (to let it rest for at least 20 to 30 minutes), the core temperature is still slightly on the rise. In other words: When you measure 60°C and pull it out of the oven, it won’t simply stop there, it’s still cooking for a while! So here, in the end, your intuition is needed again.

PS: My friend Michael does the salt-crust thing with whole chicken. I’ve been lacking audacity to try it so far. Yet Michael swears that the results are fantastic…

5 comments

  1. Congratulations! Was it ALWAYS good? I’m not a fan of thermometers myself. Beef fillet is delicate though. Why would you risk a 80-Euro-piece?
    What I forgot to say: there’s an easy rule for fish in a salt crust: 12 minutes per pound plus 20 minutes resting time outside the oven!

  2. I am starting my sodium diet…but this is too crazy to pass by. I read about salt crust concept before, but this one really inspire me to actually DO IT…. I will do it this weekend, have it for dinner, and let you know how it works…

  3. I am starting my sodium diet…but this is too crazy to pass by. I read about salt crust concept before, but this one really inspire me to actually DO IT…. I will do it this weekend, have it for dinner, and let you know how it works…What part of beef (what cut) would you recommend?

    • What piece to use? Hard to say hence every country has its own butchers’ traditions. In any case you need a “noble” part, Sirloin, fillet or alike…and make sure that it is thick like a small roast and as regular as possible. Good luck!

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