Standing Rib Roast with Yorkshire Pudding

Preparation info

  • Serves

    10 to 12

    • Difficulty


Appears in

The Cook’s Canon: 101 Recipes Everyone Should Know

The Cook’s Canon

By Raymond Sokolov

Published 2003

  • About

In the Middle West when I was growing up in the fifties, young—and sometimes even older—brides often succumbed to a malady known as hostess heat. This was a fever brought on by panic over the prospect of preparing dinner for guests. What if the rumaki were cold? What if the hollandaise curdled? What, worst of all, if the Yorkshire pudding came out greasy and flat, instead of as nicely browned and puffy pastries baked at the last minute in the drippings of that most canonical of roasts, the standing rib?

Because of its size, a standing rib roast was invariably company food. All by itself, it made for a festive dinner party, but some anonymous villain in Yorkshire had saddled the American housewife in a society still dominated by Anglo-Saxon attitudes with the ticklish problem of turning out a so-called Yorkshire pudding at the last minute, when hostess heat burned highest.

Following the lead of C. Anne Wilson in Food and Drink in Britain, from the Stone Age to the 19th Century (1973), it is possible to sketch a rough history not only of Yorkshire pudding but of roast beef itself. From the end of the Middle Ages, Yorkshire was a cattle-raising center, its pastures and cow barns then known as vaccaries. The demand for beef increased and stayed steady during and after religious meatless days were abolished during the Cromwell Commonwealth. But spit-roasting remained the normal method for roasting meat until the nineteenth century, and the mechanical spits of the day had a dripping pan (in France, lèchefrite).

When wheat came into general use in the eighteenth century, thrifty cooks in the north of England, including Yorkshire, started making batter “puddings” directly in the dripping pan while the roast turned. Ms. Wilson notes that in 1737, a recipe was published in the anonymous cookbook The Whole Duty of a Woman for a “a dripping pudding” made under a roasting piece of mutton with a batter like those made for pancakes. Then, in 1747, Hannah Glasse published the first edition of the most important of all British cookbooks, The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy, by a Lady, which contained the first printed recipe for “Yorkshire Pudding.”

This was really hard work, and chancy, what with all that stooping in front of a hot fire, as well as the uncertainty of timing with a spit. So when you try to make Yorkshire pudding (for a discussion of “pudding” in British usage) in your modern oven, think of how much easier your whole duty as a woman or man is than it was for the cooks who first tried their hands at this fine thing. They also liked to serve raspberry vinegar with their dripping puddings and beef. Vinegar went out of fashion for two centuries and a half but returned to chic with the nouvelle cuisine. Try some with your roast and Yorkshire pudding.