Roasting 101

Feb 16, 2018 | Cooking Tips

One of the most basic and oldest forms of cooking is roasting. It is a simple process where meat or vegetables are cooked in a hot oven for a period of time. It is something that you have probably done even if you don’t know it. Though roasting is a basic cooking technique there are some important things to know in order to get the most flavour out of your food. These few simple tips will improve the overall quality of the food that you choose to roast.

Whether you plan to roast pork, chicken, beef, or lamb there are a few things that you want to keep in mind. First of all, don’t cover things while you roast them. Covering will cause your food to steam as opposed to roast. So, if you are roasting a chicken and cover it, you won’t get nice crispy skin. It will be slimy, and chewy. This brings up a second point. The surface of meat that you are roasting should be dry. Moisture on the surface will prevent skin from crisping, and meat from browning. This will give your food a grey appearance and a bland flavour. Although moisture is bad when roasting, fat is good. Basting with fats such as butter or bacon grease will cause skin to brown and crisp and meat to get the beautiful brown surface.

The temperature at which you roast depends on the size and fat content of what you are roasting. The higher the fat content the more forgiving it is. For example; a piece of pork shoulder, which is beautifully marbled can sustain a longer amount of cooking and remain tender. A pork tenderloin on the other hand is so lean that it is prone to over cooking. Larger, fattier cuts of meat can be cooked on a low to medium temperature (300°f – 350°f) whereas smaller, leaner cuts can be cooked on medium to high temperatures (350°f – 450°f). You can also use a variable temperature cooking technique where the roasting is started at one temperature and finished at another. This is often done with turkeys. To insure that the bird is cooked through it is roasted for a long period of time on a low temperature. Near the end of cooking, the temperature is turned up in order to brown the skin.

Medium sized pieces of meat (between 2-6 lbs (1-3 kg)) can be seared (cooked in a pan with a pit of oil on medium high heat for a short amount of time) prior to roasting in order to get an even brown colour on the surface. Alternatively, the roasting can be started on high heat and finished on low heat to attain the same result.

Seasoning with salt, pepper, herbs, and spices should be done prior to roasting in order to evenly distribute the flavour throughout the item. Be thoughtful about what ingredients you are using to season. You do not want burnt pieces of garlic or herbs flavouring your meat. Generally, I keep my seasonings basic when roasting, sticking to salt, pepper, and maybe one or two spices. I then heavily flavour the sauce.

Using a high-sided roasting pan, preferably with a rack, is your best option for roasting. The high sides cause the heat in the pan to circulate and having the meat elevated above the surface of the pan on a rack allows that circulating heat to fully surround your meat and cook it more evenly. If you don’t have a rack you can rest your meat on a bed of vegetable which will help to flavour your meat. Use a pan that isn’t so big that any juices that leave your meat will evaporate. You want to collect these juices for your sauce.

The things to keep in mind are…

  • Make sure the surface of your meat is dry.
  • Baste with fat.
  • Do not cover.
  • High heat for smaller learner items.
  • Low heat for larger, fatier items.
  • Variable temperature cooking works well for very large pieces of meat.
  • Season prior to roasting, but be wary of what you are seasoning with.
  • Use a high-sided roasting pan preferably with a rack when roasting.




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