Smoked in Texas

Tim Rattray’s Spinalis

by Daniel Vaughn · June 8, 2015

San Antonio chef Tim Rattray visited Dallas last week to be the guest chef at Knife for one in a series of special collaboration dinners benefiting RED*. Throughout the week, Knife’s chef John Tesar invited five chefs including Aaron Franklin of Austin’s Franklin Barbecue and Rattray from the Granary which is known for their boundary-pushing barbecue menu featuring items like brisket ramen and smoked shoulder clod with quinoa. Some of Rattray’s courses in Dallas were pretty straightforward like a pecan-grilled quail, but one required two days of prep and utilized an unusual cut of beef – the ribeye cap.

Ribeye Cap 07

The ribeye cap is also sometimes called the deckle or more precisely the spinalis. It is the muscle that makes up the outer edge of beef surrounding the eye of a ribeye steak. When removed intact from a large prime rib roast it looks like a long thin steak similar in proportion to a skirt steak. It’s one of the most well-marlbled and tender cuts of beef that exists, which is why it’s so highly prized. Davey Griffin, a professor at Texas A&M’s Rosenthal Meat Center has been known to tell a crowd of students that he always eats the spinalis first in case he dies before he gets to the rest of the steak. It’s good eating, so I was excited to see it on Rattray’s draft menu. The day before the dinner, I met him in Knife’s kitchen to watch every step of the process from raw beef to composed dish.

Day #1

1. Slice the spinalis in half. Note the heavy marbling.

Ribeye Cap 05
2. Sprinkle on powdered transglutaminase, aka meat glue, which bonds together proteins.

Ribeye Cap 08

Ribeye Cap 06
3. Roll the meat and shrink wrap the rolled sections.

Ribeye Cap 10

Ribeye Cap 12
4. Seal meat cylinders in cryovac to refrigerate overnight and set the meat glue.

Ribeye Cap 01

Day #2

5. After seasoning with smoked soy sauce (which tastes like liquid beef jerky) the beef goes into a sous vide bath.

Ribeye Cap 09

Ribeye Cap 13
6. The beef is then removed and finished over a wood fire. Such is life in a busy kitchen, the fire went out mid-way through cooking, so they were finished in a broiler.

Ribeye Cap 04
7. Now cooked completely, the rolled sections of spinalis were cut into medallions.

Ribeye Cap 03

Then they were plated with blanched sea beans and a sauce made with blood orange zest and Thai chilis.


Ribeye Cap 02

The sous vide process ensured an even doneness from edge to edge, but it was the cut of beef that did the most to keep it so incredibly juicy and tender. While the wood fire didn’t pan out, the smokiness from the soy sauce was apparent in every bite from one of the finer pieces of beef I can remember eating.

*Full disclosure, I attended gratis as a diner at the press table.




    First learned about the Spinalis cut from Shawn at Master Purveyors of Tampa, FL. Amazing stuff. Not sure how I feel about the meat glue. Just don’t know enough about it. So going to defer to Rattray and his experience there. Am quite certain the plate he put down in the photo above would be most delicious.

    JR says:

    The use of transglutaminase raises a couple of red flags for me. One comes from an ABC report that explains the problem:

    The outside of a piece of meat comes in contact with a lot of bacteria making its way from slaughterhouse to table. Usually cooking a steak on the outside will kill all that off. The center of a single cut of steak is sterile, that’s why you can eat it rare. But glued pieces of meat could contain bacteria like E. coli on the inside.

    Two, transglutaminase antibodies are found in blood profiles of celiacs. If I understand the implications of that statement, then transglutaminase is the substance that is attacked when it enters a celiac’s body. Deliberately adding it to food can’t be safe for a celiac.

      Joe says:

      Provided the meat is held long enough at temperature during sous vide cooking, E. coli and most other pathogens will be reduced to a safe level.

        JR says:

        Maybe so, Joe, but do you trust with 100% confidence that a restaurant worker will maintain the correct temperature every single time? I sure don’t.

    longhorny1 says:

    Yeah, what those two guys said is concerning..but I’d pick that up off the dirt near my grill and eat all of it!

    JW Green says:

    I am very surprised by this story…endorsing a cook technique that uses a chemical additive???
    What on earth does that have to do with TMBBQ???

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