Looking for something beyond turkey and the spiral sliced ham? Consider setting the holiday table with beef. Whether you’re serving an elegant standing prime rib or a flat-iron steak sliced and assembled into small plate appetizers, beef is a traditional yuletide favorite.
“Prime rib is a classic lots of people like to have for the holidays,” said Charles Mateker, a third generation meat cutter and owner of Mateker Meat & Catering in St. Louis, who offered his tips on picking prime rib. “Look for marbling. That’s what gives beef the best flavor. I like my prime rib cut from the big end that’s closer to the chuck, which has more marbling. Prime rib cut from the smaller end is closer to the T-bone and porterhouse that’s leaner.”
Mateker also recommended buying bone-in prime rib instead of the boneless cut. Bone-in delivers more flavor to the beef and can also serve as its own roasting rack. When deciding on how much to buy, plan on a pound per person when buying bone-in prime rib or a half-pound for boneless roast, which will allow for some leftovers.
“To cook your prime rib, I tell people we use salt, pepper and garlic to season it and bake it at 350 degrees for 15 minutes per pound,” said Mateker whose shop offers customers the option to have their prime rib roasted in house. “We cook it until the internal temperature is 130, then we pull it and let it rest because it will keep cooking. That will raise the temperature 10 degrees.”
Another tip Mateker offers is to wait to slice, which is a rule for any beef cut from roast to petite tenders. If sliced too fast, beef will lose its juices — and with those juices goes the flavor.
If a large piece of beef isn’t in your budget, try smaller “steakable” cuts such as the flat-iron or petite tender, which are cut from the shoulder. And don’t forget the venerable seasonal favorites of pot roast and meatballs. All are affordable cuts that can be used to create show-stopper appetizers designed to make the holiday menu sparkle.