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~ How to: French a Rib Roast (Beef, Lamb or Pork) ~

IMG_0619Knowing how to "French" a rib roast is a very cheffy skill.  Like boning poultry or fileting fish, you won't graduate from culinary school unless you can do it proficiently.  The verb "to French" means to "strip the meat away from the bone of a rib or a chop to cleanly expose the bone."  It's done with the finesse and expertise of a fine surgeon using a scalpel.  This process not for everyone, and, if you're not concerned with an upscale restaurant-type presentation, it isn't even necessary.  In fact, if you don't have a long, thin, razer sharp knife, don't attempt it!

IMG_0544Once you've seen it demonstrated, and, after you've applied what you learned, you will conclude that the process is really quite simple.  That said, unless you're a professional who does it every day or at least many times a year, don't expect to French a roast in five or ten minutes.  I know what I'm doing and it still takes me about 45 minutes of fussing with each cut of the knife.

IMG_0470What and what not to purchase if you intend to French your roast: Always buy the best you can afford --  rib loins are an expensive cut of beef, lamb or pork, and, a few extra dollars can mean a big jump in quality.  Always buy a whole rack, consisting of eight+ rib sections.  Do not buy a vacuum-sealed roast if it has been pre-marinated or pre-rubbed.  If you are intending to cut your Frenched roast into chops, look for the words "rib chops" rather than "loin chops".  They come from farther back on the animal and contain meat from both the loin and tenderloin.  Purchasing it frozen is ok -- thaw it in the refrigerator.

IMG_0463^^^ I Frenched a rack-of-primo-pork for New Year's Day! ^^^

IMG_0477Open the package and familiarize yourself with the roast.  The top side (top photo) is the smooth side with the creamy fat cap left on top. Sometimes, the shoulder blade will be left on the top side too.  In the case of my roast, it is not.  The shoulder blade is a bone.  Examine the top of your roast.  If it is left on, it is easily IMG_0472recognized and easily removed by cutting lengthwise underneath it with your knife.

The bottom side (bottom photo)  is the boney rib side with a thin, tough membrane (known as the silverskin) left on.  As I said, you can stop right here and roast this according to the recipe directions, there is nothing wrong with that.

Ready, set, French!  This is an 8-pound, 9-rib, rib-loin pork roast:

Nine ribs?  Yes.  A good butcher will usually ask you how many people you are serving and give you one more rib than you need.  Why?  Because ribs run through the roast at a slight diagonal, not squarely.  When he cuts through them with his bandsaw, he can rarely avoid one on the end that will be rendered unusable as a chop.  If he doesn't ask, you now know to request this.

IMG_0488~ Step 1.  The easiet cut is the first one, and it comes off of the top side. Look carefully at your roast on both ends.  "Eyeball" where the big round chunks of chop meat end and the rib bones begin on both sides.  Mark this, at each end, with a small cut of the knife.  The reason this must be marked is because this is not going to be a straight cut across the roast -- it will be wider at one IMG_0498end and narrower at the other.

Following the natural slant of the meat, using smooth strokes of the knife (no sawing), cut downward and outward, at a slight angle (not straight down), across the entire length of the roast, until you reach IMG_0499the rib bones.  The end result will look exactly like this. ^^^  Well done!

Note:  As I work my way through the Frenching process, I am not discarding my trimmings.  I will be further trimming them and using them to make a pan sauce for my finished rack of pork.

IMG_0512~ Step 2.  Flip the roast over onto the bottom side.  Remember how you "eyeballed" and marked the top of the roast on both sides?  Do the same thing at both ends of the bottom.  Now, using the tip of your knife, cut through the membrane across the entire length of the roast. Don't just make marks, make sure you "muscle your way" through the membrane all the way to the bone.

IMG_0530~ Step 3.  Using your fingertips, locate the tops of the rib bones.

IMG_0527Cut through the tough membrane, across the top of each bone (perpendicular to the original cut across the length of the roast), through to the bone.  Cut on top of the bones, not in between them.

IMG_0574~ Step 4.  Now I'm going to use the blunt edge (back) of the knife to begin separating/scraping the membrane and the attached meat from the bones on three sides without cutting through to the cutting board.  I do this by pushing down on the knife while gently but firmly lifting up on each bone.  This requires a little patience, and some muscle too.  This is, for me, the most difficult part of the exercise.

IMG_0581~ Step 5.  Desperate times call for desperate measures, and, here is where I put down my knife.  I reach for a couple of paper towels.  With one or two tugs on each bone (while lifting each already loosened bone and tugging down with the towel holding the meat tab), I pull each "tab" of meat and membrane loose from the bones.

Note:  There are other methods of IMG_0597achieving this, but I opt for doing no harm to this roast or myself.

~ Step 6.  Take a deep breath because we are almost done and it is all downhill from here.  Flip the roast back over on the top side and pick up the knife again. Trim the loose meat tabs away from the top side of the roast, then, clean up any loose, frizzy ends that might be hanging by the bones. Here is a big photo of what this should look like:

IMG_0592One last item.  Finish trimming the top fat...

IMG_0611~ Step 7.  Every good butcher will do this for you, but, if you are Frenching your own roast, it most likely hasn't been done.  Look to the top left of the above photo.  There is a flappy, floppy excess layer of fat and thin layer of meat that needs to be trimmed. This is easy to do by lifting and slicing your way across the top.  The goal is to remove the excess layer of fat and leave the layer of fat underneath it.  

... while leaving a layer of fat remain on the top of the roast!

IMG_0626Frenching any roast is indeed a labor of love.  Experts will agree mine is a job well done.  Experts might criticize me because my rib bones turned a little red (instead of remaining pearly white).  Let the experts try to photograph this process without that happening.

Next Up:  ~ How & Why to Tie a Rib Roast (Beef, Lamb, Pork) ~  

IMG_0679How to:  French a Rib Roast (Beef, Lamb or Pork):  Recipe yields instructions for Frenching a standing rack of beef, lamb or pork.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; boning knife; patience -- lots of patience

6a0120a8551282970b0147e13c129b970bCook's Note:  This ain't my first time at the Frenching, trimming and tying rodeo -- have kitchen twine, will travel.  For another one of my favorite "Frenched recipes" click into Categories 3, 11 or 21 for ~ Perfect "Prime" Rib (Standing Rib Roast) ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)


Chris! Great to hear from you. I will e-mail you shortly!!!

Hey jessedotsmom! I tried to use the email link but for some reason it doesn't work for me. I hope you read the comment section. I am Chris Taylor from the Black Shoe Diaries. You haven't done the Thursday tailgate food story for over a month and I am HUNGRY!

I have some ideas. I was thinking some of your recipes could work off PSU players or themes. We have a basketball player named 'Julian Moore' so maybe 'more julienne'? Present a recipe that works off a punned title. You probably already have recipes that could be used. I don't cook as well as you do but I can pun like a madman. So I could work with you.

I write for PSU hockey and they have some pretty good names or themes. Basically you could just give your recipes a PSU winter sports related name and make them foods that would be cool to prepare to watch hoops or hockey, or just winter-time comfort foods. Or anything. I could give suggestions but my food knowledge is weak. We have a star hoops player named DJ Newbill so if I put my culinary expertise to task I would offer you "DJ's PB&J". You could probably do better.

Give me an email if you are interested.

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