I’m a big fan of roasts. Roasted chicken, roasted pork shoulder, roasted tenderloin. Honestly, if someone roasted a car tire the right way, I’d probably eat it. Okay, maybe that’s taking it a bit far, but you get the point. Roasted meat is awesome and it’s super easy. But from time to time, I hear stories of utter horror where somebody tried their hand at roasting, only to have the veggies come out while the meat come out tougher than a well-worn leather shoe.
While a lot of us grew up in households where the Thanksgiving turkey was roasted into a bird-shaped chalk that no amount of the finest gravy could moisten again, there IS a better way! We’ve compiled a list of 5 simple tips for perfect roasts that will take your next beef roast into a meal fit for a king. But before we get into that, there are a couple roasting definitions that you should know.
Trussing – To tie meat or poultry in a way that creates a compact shape for even cooking. Check out this video to learn how to truss a chicken, and after you’re done with that, check out this one to learn how to truss a roast.
IRT (Instant-Read Thermometer) – Your best friend when it comes to roasting meat properly. An instant read thermometer is a kitchen tool that checks the internal temperature of your roast, allowing you to quickly gauge doneness.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about tips for better roasting.
5 Tips for Perfect Roasts
Preheat your oven. I have yet to come across a roasting or baking recipe that doesn’t call for preheating. But, it’s a step that many people skip. I skipped the preheat step pretty much up until I started going to culinary school. It’s actually important to allow your oven to preheat for about 15 minutes before roasting meat for even cooking. Preheating also helps the meat cook faster without burning the outside. Most ovens have timers or lights that let you know when they have reached the proper temperature.
Use the right pan. You want to choose a roasting pan that fits the style of meat you are cooking. For the budgeted cook, choose a sturdy pan with high sides. If you can choose two pans, select one of the aforementioned styles as well as a cast iron skillet with deep sides. This will enable you to accommodate roast recipes of all sizes. The biggest rule of thumb is to make sure you choose a pan that is large enough to accommodate your recipe, but not so big that juices become burnt in exposed surface areas. And on the subject of heft, be sure that the weight of the pan isn’t so heavy that you’ll have a hard time moving it in and out of the oven when a weighty piece of meat is sitting in it.
Elevation. Get in the habit of elevating your meat when it’s in the roasting pan. This prevents the bottom of the meat from burning or cooking unevenly. There are two ways to do this. One is with a metal rack that sits inside the pan, and the other is by adding a layer of vegetables to the bottom of the pan and sitting the meat on top of it. In my opinion, the latter option is the better one because the meat soaks up some of the flavor from the vegetables, and you simultaneously get a side dish to eat with dinner. A common mix of veggies is what we in the culinary world call “mire poix”, which is 50% onion, 25% carrots and 25% celery. But you can use whatever veggies you want. Potatoes are a great choice as well.
Test the internal temperature. This is where your IRT comes in. You want to test the meat at the thickest part to check for doneness. This will vary depending on your personal preference and type of meat. For example, a medium-rare beef roast should be removed from the oven at 130 degrees and set to rest until it reaches 135 degrees. For a more complete list of cooking times for meats, check out the Reluctant Gourmet’s Meat Doneness Chart.
Let the meat rest! Meat continues to cook even after it’s taken out of the oven. This is called carry-over cooking. The “resting” period allows for even carry-over as well as even juice redistribution, which means you get a delicious, high-quality piece of meat that everyone at the dinner table will love.
Now that you’ve been schooled in the realm of the roast, you shall fear no meat! All you have to do is follow these simple steps and you’re sure to be the talk of the dinner table with your mad roasting skills.