M. Bison: flawless victory?
November 11, 2007 10:59 AM   Subscribe

Help me cook this bison sirloin tip roast.

On a whim, and because it was a good-looking piece of meat, I bought a 2 pound bison sirloin tip roast. I've never cooked a sirloin tip roast before, and I've never cooked bison. I know that compared to beef, bison is very low in fat.

Please offer delicious recipes or cooking suggestions!
posted by ikkyu2 to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I have only had it once, but bison / buffalo is extremely lean as you say. The meat was prepared for me and was served almost completely raw...

Very good flavor, but very chewy.
posted by Black_Umbrella at 11:09 AM on November 11, 2007

Never cooked it myself, although I've had it in restaurants (and it's delicious!).

Anyway, the number one thing I've always heard with regard to bison is: don't overcook it!

Let us know what you did, and how it turned out.
posted by trip and a half at 11:19 AM on November 11, 2007

My friends and I have had very good luck with braising (slow cooking in a bit of liquid) bison. Which is a little weird, given that I would think of braising more for meats that are tough/marbled rather than crazy lean. The cut that we got was labeled a roast, and did have some visible fat. Might not be comparable to what you have.

I think the alternative (and maybe more typical for very very lean meat) is what Black_Umbrella mentioned -- searing it quickly and leaving the middle quite rare.

It does have really good flavor, richer and "darker" than beef, if that makes any sense.
posted by madmethods at 11:21 AM on November 11, 2007

My inclination would be to marinate it for most of the day (or overnight), even in just some oil and lemon juice and balsamic and garlic, then grill or broil it.
posted by occhiblu at 11:26 AM on November 11, 2007

As an experiment, cut off a steak-sized slab, then grill the steak to rare and dry-roast the rest of the sirloin to rare. You may find that the cut does well as a roast, but it's more likely that it would be best served as a steak. This way, if you like the steak, you can buy the bison again, but if the roast is a failure, you won't be turned off the cut entirely.
posted by maudlin at 11:38 AM on November 11, 2007

Hoo boy. Bison sirloin tip is a lean cut of a lean, stringy animal. You could grill it if you like your meat pretty rare, and it'd have to be cooked rare if you don't want eating it to be more of a chore than it's worth.

I think I'd cube it and make stew, to be honest. Break down the connective tissues via a long-and-low cooking method.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 11:42 AM on November 11, 2007

I am really liking marinating roasts in a dark beer (Oktoberfest or the like) lately.

Lemon is a good addition, as well. The last (beef) roast we did was based on a Southern Living recipe, with a dark beer, onion, garlic, and soy sauce marinade with a whole lemon sliced thin in there too. I let it sit about 8 hours in the fridge. Yummy!
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:51 AM on November 11, 2007

Great title.
posted by 517 at 11:55 AM on November 11, 2007

It seems cooking rights have passed over to me for this roast...

I found these instructions specifically for bison:

For roasts from lower cuts (sirloin tip, cross rib, inside round, outside round flat and eye of round), brown roast at 500 degrees F (260 degrees C) for 30 minutes, reduce heat to 275 degrees F (140 degrees C) and add 250 to 500 ml. liquid to the pan, cover pan or cover roast with foil, and cook to medium rare (145 degrees F, 63 degrees C) or no more than medium (160 degrees F, 70 degrees C). Slice roast at right angles to the grain, or for thin roasts, cut diagonally across the grain.

But they are unhelpful in that they do not specify even estimated cooking times, and I have no experience with pot roasts. Does anyone have any idea how long this cooking method would take?

(Further recipes or suggestions also welcome; the butcher shop almost always has bison and we've been wanting to experiment with it for a while now.)
posted by occhiblu at 11:59 AM on November 11, 2007

In case it's not clear, occhiblu and I are going to share this roast :)
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:01 PM on November 11, 2007

I've never cooked a buffalo sirloin tip, but I've roasted the beef version and everyone's right about how tricky it is to not make it turn out tough because the lack of fat. If you do end up roasting, do as the French and make some lardons to keep the meat tender. Buy a chunk of salt pork, or if you can't find that thick-cut bacon. Cut the fatty part into matchstick-sized slivers. Use your thinnest knife (the French actually use special large-bore hollow needles for this) and make slits in the meat. Slip in the lardons and, if you want, some flavorings. Fresh thyme or rosemary work well, fresh garlic not so much as the flavor doesn't mellow very much with the quick cooking time of a roast.
posted by TungstenChef at 12:07 PM on November 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Does anyone have any idea how long this cooking method would take?

Joy of Cooking says for a sirloin roast to tie it at 1 1/2" intervals to make it an even thickness. Rub with olive oil and salt and pepper and put into a 450F oven in a roasting pan. Roast for 10 minutes, then turn down to 250F until it reaches the desired temperature. Since the temp of the roast will go up by 5F after you take it out of the oven, you probably want to pull it at 125-130F for medium rare. They say 20-30 minutes/lb but that's for a 3 1/2lb roast, at 2lbs I'd say check the temp after 20 minutes as it's going to go up quickly. With such a small roast, if you pour hot liquid in the pan it's going to cook very quickly and you're pretty likely to overshoot your desired doneness.

Roasting is such a tricky business, if you miss your desired temp and it goes above, let's say, 145F you've got shoe leather. I try to do my roasting early and have backup ingredients on hand to make it into a pot roast or stew, once you go above medium with a cut like this there's no other way to salvage it.
posted by TungstenChef at 12:25 PM on November 11, 2007

Do you have other suggestions for cooking it, rather than roasting? I'm not wedded to the roasting.
posted by occhiblu at 12:30 PM on November 11, 2007

If it's an appropriate shape, I'd cut it into steaks. It's probably not the weather for grilling wherever you're at, but there's a lot to be said for pan-broiled steaks. Cut the roast into 1 1/2-2 inch thick steaks. Rub them generously with cracked pepper and (preferably kosher) salt. Heat up a heavy pan, preferably cast iron until very hot. Sear the steaks (be sure not to crowd the pan) until they're a little less done than you want them to be, about 6-7 minutes per side.

Now, pour off any excess fat from the pan and put it on mediumi-high heat and add 1/4c shallots or onions. Cook for 15 sec, remove from heat and add 1/4c brandy. Return to the heat and cook until the brandy is almost gone, then add 1c beef stock. Cook, scraping up the browned bits for about 5 minutes. Add 1/4c heavy cream and cook until reduced by half, about 4 minutes and you're ready for some really good steaks.

Note that this recipe was written for beef, which has enough fat that you can cook it in the pan without any added fat. For buffalo, I would rub the steaks with olive oil and let them set for a few to give it time to soak in, then rub with the salt and pepper. This recipe says to use 1T salt, but definitely reduce this if you use canned beef broth or else the sauce will end up too salty.
posted by TungstenChef at 12:47 PM on November 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

How about barding or wrapping it with bacon fat? That's the classic strategy for tough, lean game.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:46 PM on November 11, 2007

I've also successfully braised bison, though I'm not sure if it was the same cut. Basically a stew approach: chunks braised in liquid for 3 hours or so. The first time I cooked bison I used red wine & beef broth as the braising liquid, with anchovies, garlic, onion, and dried cepe mushrooms as flavorings; added spinach at the very end; and served over wild rice. I liked this so much that I've duplicated it several times since. Seems to work well with the intense taste of bison and though it's counterintuitive with such a lean meat the braising approach yielded tender meat.
posted by yarrow at 2:15 PM on November 11, 2007

Can I ask which butcher shop? Was it Golden Gate Meats?
posted by trip and a half at 2:43 PM on November 11, 2007

Presuming you have a day for marinade, and some high quality balsamic vinegar, you might find that the vinegar's acid, combined with time (and maybe a little powdered bromelain), followed by browning and then low temperature, moist braising, could produce a richly flavored, tender result, with good texture.
posted by paulsc at 2:48 PM on November 11, 2007

Can I ask which butcher shop? Was it Golden Gate Meats?

I love Golden Gate Meat, but can't always afford to shop there - I'm only a doctor, not a hedge fund manager. This was from Falletti Foods, a fairly new place on Broderick between Oak and Fell.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:04 PM on November 11, 2007

I had bison sirloin at a wedding and it was fantastic. The grooms uncle is a bison farmer and his wife prepared it.

You need a thermometer to know when a sirloin is done. The internal temp should be about 160.

I would braise it like a pot roast. Sear the outside at a very high temperature and then turn the heat down. Add some onion, perhaps some carrots, some redwine and dry mushrooms and stock, and then cook it very slowly, keeping the lid on as much as possible.

The advice the bison farmer's wife gave was to make sure there was a lot of juice. If it begins to dry out, add wather or stock. When you pull the meat out of the pot/ oven, slice it, and pour juice over it as it rests. (I let meat rest about 5-10 minutes). It will absorb a lot of liquid.

The roast we had wasn't as tender as beef, but it wasn't stringy, and it was absolutely delicious. Bon Appetit.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 4:12 PM on November 11, 2007

Could I have made more typos? Anyway, here is a site I found that might be helpful.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 4:33 PM on November 11, 2007

I report general agreement on a couple points:

1) I will cook this roast today.

2) Occhiblu and I agree that we would like to have TungstenChef to our kitchen.

3) In the grand tradition of the great chefs, I am well fortified with tequila.

Thanks for all the answers. I'll post about what I did and the results.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:04 PM on November 11, 2007

I am probably a bit late to the party, but in addition to the above suggestions, a little time spent with a larding needle and some bacon works wonders on lean meat.
posted by TedW at 7:05 PM on November 11, 2007

I interlarded the roast with matchstick-sized bacon lardoons as recommended (Hormel, Black Label.)

I then marinated the roast in a Ziploc bag for about 6 hours with 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, the juice of 1 lemon, a few tsp of olive oil, 1/4 tsp sea salt, 2 bay leaves, black pepper, a crushed clove of garlic, half a small onion (scored), a sliced up organic bell pepper, and 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper.

I heated 1/2 tsp olive oil in a pot until frightful and removed the roast from the bag and rolled it in liberal sea salt and black pepper. I then seared the roast on each side. I prepared a deglazing liquid from 1.5 cups old red wine, 1/2 cup beef stock, 1/2 tsp salt, liberal black pepper, and the non-liquid ingredients of the marinade. Meanwhile as the roast was searing on the last side I added 8 boiler onions to the pot.

I added the liquid and deglaced and transferred the covered pot to a 350 degree oven. After 45 minutes I removed it. Internal temperature was 135 degrees, went up to 140 as the roast rested. I then carved the roast thinly (1/2 cm thick) and let this sit in the pan juices for 5 minutes, and served with the onions. It was pink in the middle, not dripping red. We paired it with a cheap Montepulciano.

Flavor was good; texture was quite firm but not tough or gristly; the pan juices and onions were delicious. Colts lost by a nose.

Thanks to everyone for your help making dinner a success! A++, WILL EAT BISON AGAIN!
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:32 PM on November 11, 2007 [3 favorites]

Thanks for the update. I'm so glad you enjoyed your bison roast. And thanks for the answer about the butcher, too. I'll have to check them out: they're not that far from me.

"Heat oil until frightful" is definitely going to be a part of my recipe phrase arsenal henceforth.
posted by trip and a half at 7:51 AM on November 12, 2007

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