Raising a toast to the beef industry

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
With all my ingredients prepped ahead of time, I'm ready to begin the evening's online cooking class Roast 'n Toast.

When Tammy Vaassen, executive director of the Wisconsin Beef Council (WBC), sent me an invitation to participate in a virtual cooking class dubbed Roast & Toast on Dec. 3, I admit I was a bit on the fence.

While I had roasted, braised, grilled and baked my share of beefs cuts over the years, I had never rose to the occasion to test my skills on such a prime piece of meat known as the Cadillac of beef cuts. I was hesitant to sacrifice such an expensive roast.

But thanks to a partnership between the WBC and the Milwaukee chapter of the American Culinary Federation, they would not only walk us through the steps of preparing the roast, but they sweetened the deal by providing a gift certificate to cover the cost of the ingredients along with a bottle of cabernet sauvignon to make the holiday wine sauce. That convinced me enough to send back the invitation with a big yes.

Prior to the zoom session I prepped the ingredients ahead of time, crushing the coriander seeds, chopping the pistachios, fresh thyme and shallots. With my computer on the island in my kitchen and all the ingredients assembled nearby, I was ready to tackle the recipe for Pistachio-Crusted Beef Rib Roast with help from Chef Lisa McKay, owner of Lisa Kaye Catering and member of the American Culinary Federation-Milwaukee Chapter.

Journalists, food editors and bloggers, foodies, beef farmers, Alice in Dairyland, ag advocates and more joined Chef Lisa McKay (top left) and Wisconsin Beef Council Director of Marketing Angie Horkan (top center) for a toast to the beef industry and a night of culinary exploration.

I was joined by other members of the media, food bloggers, meat crafters, livestock farmers, beef industry ambassadors and current Alice in Dairyland Julia Nunes who like me were gathered in their kitchens across Wisconsin. We were also coached by Angie Horkan, WBC's director of marketing who served as a valuable resource for tips on beef selection, preparation and more.

"The goal of this 1 ½ hour cooking class is to make you feel confident in making a prime rib roast for your family this holiday season," said Vaassen.

Horkan said consumers should become acquainted with the grades of meat before selecting a roast. Prime cuts which are typically served in restaurants are excellent for broiling, roasting or grilling due to the slightly abundant to abundant marbling.

While choice beef cuts are still of high quality, the meat has less marbling than prime. Choice roasts and steaks from the loin and rib are considered very tender, juicy and flavorful and are also suited for roasting, broiling and grilling at a cheaper price. Less tender cuts, such as from the round, are perfect for braising, roasting or simmering on the stovetop with a small amount of liquid.

Angie Horkan, Wisconsin Beef Council Director Of Marketing, shared tips on how to select, prepare and cook prime cuts of beef.

Select cuts are normally leaner than prime or choice. Those cuts are fairly tender, but because the meat has less marbling, they may not have as much juiciness or flavor.

"I often dig through the meat case looking for the beef with the most marbling inside of the muscle," Horkan said. "Those little flecks of fat in the muscle is what gives it flavor, tenderness and juiciness."

Horkan says that when selecting a rib roast be sure to check the label for the grade of meat. When in doubt ask the meat department staff.

"There's usually a huge price difference between select and prime," Horkan said. "Prime rib or ribeye roast is definitely King of the Table and 60 percent of these roasts are sold during the month of December."

If you find a good deal on the roast prior to the holidays, Horkan says its important to store the meat correctly in the freezer until it's time to cook it. Each pound of the roast typically serves two people.

"Take the meat out of the plastic wrap from the store and wrap them real tight in plastic wrap and then add a layer of heavy duty aluminum foil, making sure to wrap that tightly as well," she said. 

Other popular cuts of meat during the holidays include strip roasts.

"It's a New York strip steak left as a roast, similar to a ribeye. The strip is out of the loin while the ribeye comes from the rib," Horkan said. "It cooks very similarly. It has a fat cap over the top and should be prepared on a rack using a dry heat cooking method."

It's important to keep a close eye on the internal temperature of the beef cut.

Horkan says the ribeye roast can be roasted in a regular baking pan but suggests using a roasting rack to allow heat to circulate around the meat. Also important is the use of an oven safe thermometer placed in the thickest part of beef, not resting in the fat nor touching bone.

The timer should be set for 20 minutes per pound in a 350ºF oven.

"You want to make sure you pull that roast out of the oven when it hits 135 degrees for medium rare or 145 degrees for medium. Tent foil over the roast and let it rest for 20 minutes," Horkan said. "The roast will continue to cook with the juices boiling in the meat raising the temperature. As the roast rests the juices cool and settle down into those little pockets, which makes it juicy."

She warned against using a meat fork to transfer the meat to a cutting board.

"You don't want anything to pierce the meat allowing those juices to escape," she said. "Use a pair of tongs instead."

Nunes shared that Wisconsin is home to over 300,000 beef cows that reside on close to 14,000 farms across the state.

"Wisconsin is often known as the dairy state but the beef and dairy industry really go hand in hand," she said.

Josh Scramlin of the Midwest Farm Report encouraged participants to support beef producers during the holiday season.

"There are so many cuts of beef being used during the holiday season and its the biggest time of year for our producers," he said.

Beef farmer and president of the WBC Board of Directors Val Gaffney concurred, telling those gathered online that her family has worked for many years in promoting the beef industry in her community and across the state by supplying beef products.

"When you have the best it's easy to promote it," she said, raising a glass of wine for a shared toast. "Beef is always our guest of honor at any meal. It's the real reason to gather. So treat yourself and showcase the best and raise a toast to our love affair with beef."

While my end product wasn't supper club quality, it was pretty darned good according to my test subjects - my husband and youngest son. Armed with my newfound knowledge I plan to venture out and purchase another roast to serve for Christmas - thanks to the confidence boost of the Wisconsin Beef Council staff and advocates.

Pistachio-crusted Beef Rib Roast with Holiday Wine Sauce

Pistachio-crusted Beef Rib Roast with Holiday Wine Sauce

This show-stopper recipe will impress any guest lucky enough to sit at your table! The crunchy, salty crust pairs perfectly with the rich sauce made with mushrooms, shallots and red wine.

1  beef Ribeye Roast Boneless, approx. 4 lbs.


½  c. unsalted shelled pistachios, finely chopped

¼  c. coarsely crushed coriander seeds

2   T. finely chopped fresh thyme

2   T. extra virgin olive oil

1   t. coarse ground black pepper

Holiday Wine Sauce:

2   T. extra virgin olive oil

4   oz. cremini or button mushrooms, sliced

¼  c. finely chopped shallots

1   c. beef broth, divided

1   c. caberbet sauvignon

1   T. cornstarch

⅛   t. black pepper


Heat oven to 350ºF. Combine seasoning ingredients; press evenly onto all surfaces of beef roast. Cooks tip: To coarsely crush coriander seeds, place seeds in a food-safe plastic bag; seal well. Crush seeds with rolling pin, using a back and forth motion.

Place roast fat side up, in shallow roasting pan. Insert ovenproof meat thermometer so tip is centered in thickest part of beef, not resting in fat or touching bone. Do not add water or cover. Roast in 350ºF oven 1½ to 1¾ hours for medium rare; 1¾ to 2 hours for medium doneness.

Remove roast when meat thermometer registers 135ºF for medium rare; 145ºF for medium. Transfer roast to carving board; tent loosely with aluminum foil. Let stand 15-20 minutes (temperature will continue to rise 10º-15º to reach 145ºF for medium rare; 160ºF for medium).

Meanwhile prepare Holiday Wine Sauce. Heat olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium until hot. Add mushrooms and shallots; cook and stir 6-9 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and browned. Remove from skillet; keep warm.

Add ¾ c. broth and wine to skillet; cook and stir over medium heat 12-16 minutes or until reduced to 1 cup. Combine remaining ¼ c. of broth and cornstarch in small bowl. Whisk cornstarch mixture and pepper into wine mixture; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; add thyme and mushroom mixture. Season with sale, as desired.

Carve roast into slices; season with salt, as desired. Serve with Holiday Wine Sauce. Makes 10 servings. Total recipe time: 3 ½ hours.

My first attempt at cooking a prime rib roast turned out well thanks to online guidance.

For more information on how to select and prepare beef or find recipes, visit