Roasting Meat: Tips, Technique, Equipment

Print

Roast-Chicken_cOf all cooking techniques, roasting has to be one of the easiest because you do almost none of the work. Sautéing something means you have to stand there flipping and stirring. With boiling, you have to keep an eye on the pot. Even grilling requires ongoing attention. But roasting? You season a chicken or large cut of meat, put it on a rack over a pan, slide it into a hot oven, and leave it alone. And one more thing: Roasting brings out flavors and turns a humble cut of meat into something spectacular.

By Sharon Sanders

If there really is a life of Riley, it probably involves roasting. Of all cooking techniques, this has to be one of the easiest because you do almost none of the work. Sautéing something means you have to stand there flipping and stirring. With boiling, you have to keep an eye on the pot. Even grilling requires ongoing attention. But roasting? You season a chicken or large cut of meat, put it on a rack over a pan, slide it into a hot oven, and leave it alone. You spend more interactive energy waiting in line at a fast-food drive-through. Oh and one more thing: Roasting brings out flavors and turns a humble cut of meat into something spectacular.

How does roasting do its user-friendly thing? It simply follows basic science: As intense dry heat penetrates the chicken or meat inside the oven, the juice bubble to the surface. The liquid evaporated, leaving proteins and sugars that caramelize the meat to create the characteristic roasted color, aroma, and flavor.

A few words of advice: Roasting generally requires tender cuts, which are usually higher in fat. We've used beef tenderloin, pork loin, leg of lamb, and whole chicken - all moderately lean. There are arguably leaner cuts of beef and pork, but they require moist cooking (such as braising or stewing) to make them tender.

As you might imagine, on account of all the work it's been doing while you're going about your business, a chicken or roast needs a brief rest when it comes out of the oven before you step back in for the glory of the carving. Here again, your roast is doing the work for you. While the meat is kicking back on the counter, its internal temperature continues to rise. This finishes the cooking process while allowing the juices to settle and redistribute. That means they'll stay in the meat rather than escape to your cutting board. Unfortunately, you have to make a slight effort here. After you've taken the meat or chicken from the oven and put it on a plate, you can deglaze the pan, which involves pouring liquid such as wine, broth, or water into the roasting pan and scraping up all the browned bits in the bottom. In a few moments, everything dissolves and mingles, and you have a savory broth that can be served as is or used as the base for a gravy or sauce.

A cooking technique like roasting may seem counterintuitive to our modern attachment to instant gratification, but consider this: A chicken or roast can be seasoned hours or even a day before cooking. By late afternoon, just put it in the oven and go for a walk. You'll come home to a big olfactory rush; the only drawback is that you'll barely be able to wait to sit down at the table.

Or you can make a big roast on Sunday and eat like royalty all week. That leftover roast beef, lamb, pork, or chicken in the refrigerator almost makes itself into sandwiches, main-dish salads, pastas, and quick soups. Again, the work is done for you. Where's the downside? Forget that - where's the carving knife?

Equipment for Roasting

You need only a few essentials for roasting: an oven; a heavy, shallow roasting pan; and a thermometer to determine doneness. Here's how to make those essentials work optimally in the process.

OVEN

Postition the rack in the center - usually the second level from the bottom - so hot air can evenly surround the roast.

PAN

Most roasting pans are at least 13 x 9 inches or larger. In addition, you need a slightly raised rack that elevates the meat from cooking in its drippings and allows adequate circulation. Some pans come with racks; others are sold separately. Ideally, the pan should extend 2 or 3 inches beyond the edges of the roast. If the pan is too large, meat juices will evaporate too quickly, and the drippings may burn instead of caramelizing. You don't necessarily have to invest in an expensive pan; your oven's broiler pan can work just as well.

THERMOMETER

Three types can be used. A standard meat thermometer is inserted into the thickest part of the roast prior to cooking. It stays in the oven during the process. These are inexpensive and, for the most part, accurate.

An instant-read thermometer is inserted into the roast, read, then taken out. It does not stay in the oven. Advantage: It's more accurate than a basic meat thermometer. Disadvantage: You have to check the temperature early and more frequently. If you wait too long in the cooking time, there is a possibility of overcooking your roast.

Our preference: an instant-read that sits outside the oven, connected directly to the roast inside with a wire containing a stainless-steel sensor. It lets you keep track of the temperature without your having to open the oven. You set the end temperature for the food (180°F for roast chicken, for example), and the thermometer continually monitors the heat. When the roast reaches the temperature you've selected, an alarm sounds. Cost: $25 to $35; available through Cooking.com (www.cooking.com).

When Your Roast is Done

Leaner roasts, as we've used here, will be succulent if cooked medium-rare or medium. Always place the thermometer in the thickest part of the roast, away from bone or gristle, for the most accurate readings. In general, you should pull the roast from the oven at 5°F below the final recommended temperature - the roast will continue to cook slightly as it rests. (The exception to this is roast chicken, which should cook fully to 180°F.) Allow about 10 minutes for the roast to rest and fully reabsorb the juices. We recommend the following degrees of doneness:

BEEF AND LAMB: medium-rare (145°F internal temperature after resting) to medium (160°F internal temperatuer after resting)

PORK: medium (160°F internal temperature after resting)

CHICKEN: fully cooked (180°F internal temperature)

About seasonings: Cooks tend to season more today than in the past; with less fat in leaner meat and chicken, you'll get a big flavor boost from spices, herbs, chiles, seasoning pastes, and breading.


www.foodnouveau.com

Add comment

Security code
Refresh

FDRPolls

Your best fast-food restaurant is