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Roasting meat

Tips for roasting meat to perfection, chicken, turkey, lamb, pork, or beef.

Oven roasting is suitable for reasonably tender pieces of meat or poultry. Slow roasting is usually the preferred method, as it ensures the joint is well browned outside, moist and tender inside. Only the really tender cuts can be browned, seared or roasted at high temperature, a method that produces the best flavor, but makes the meat tougher and dryer.

Rub salt into pork skin before roasting to get a crispy crackling.

Season the meat to your taste. Salt is better added afterwards, as it makes moisture to get out of the meat. If a recipe calls for salt and pepper added before roasting, rub them on the fat, rind and skin, never on the cut surface.

Best practices are preheating the oven and letting the meat to come to room temperature before cooking. These promote uniform cooking at the center without over browning. An exception: roasting a frozen piece of meat. If you must, place the meat from the beginning and choose a slow oven. Even so, the total roasting time from the moment the oven reaches the temperature will have to be adjusted; it will need to cook for longer.

A meat thermometer is the best way to attain a perfect degree of doneness, no undercooking, no overcooking. Insert the thermometer in the thicker part of muscle; the bulb should not touch fat or bone.

Beef may be served underdone. Make sure that veal and pork are cooked thoroughly. Some recipes ask to serve lamb or mutton slightly undercooked; we prefer to cook thoroughly lamb and mutton also.

Choose meats with a layer of fat. If the meat is very lean, rub with lard, butter, dripping, good cooking oil, or bard with rashers of streaky bacon, so it would not dry out. Rub the cut surface just with cooking oil.

Place the meat on a rack, fat side up, inside of a roasting tin. The grid holds the meat out of the drippings and prevents burning at the bottom. If the fat is at the top, the roast will be self basting.

Oven temperature and recommended time for meat

Beef – roast bone-in ribs, boneless ribs, round tip, round top, sirloin or rolled rump at 325˚ F (160˚ C – gas mark 3), rib eye or round at 350˚ F (180˚ C – gas mark 4) and tenderloin at 400˚ F (200˚ C – gas mark 6). Estimate 20-25 minutes per 1 lb plus 20-25 minutes. Using a meat thermometer, it should read 140˚ F (60˚ C) for rare beef; 160˚ F (70˚ C) for medium beef; 180˚ F (80˚ C) for well done beef.

Veal - roast at 325˚ F (160˚ C – gas mark 3) to an internal temperature of 175˚ F (about 80˚ C). It should take about 35 minutes per 1 lb + 35 minutes. Juices should run clear.

Venison - roast at 375°F for 30 minutes per pound + 30 minutes. For a juicier roast, cover in a flour and water paste and cook at 450°F for 10-15 minutes then reduce to 375°F and cook for the rest of the estimated time.

Pork - roast at 325˚ F (160˚ C – gas mark 3) to an internal temperature of 175˚ F (about 80˚ C). It should take about 35 minutes per 1 lb + 35 minutes. Juices should run clear. Pork can be kept moist by searing the outside briefly on the stove top, cooking time then should be reduced slightly.

Ham, Bacon, Gammon – roast at 325˚ F (160˚ C – gas mark 3) until an internal thermometer reaches 140˚ F (60˚ C), 20 minutes per 1 lb + 20 minutes. Most ham, bacon or gammon is pre-cooked.

Lamb – estimate 25-30 minutes per 1 lb plus 25-30 minutes. Using a meat thermometer, it should read 180˚ F (80˚ C) for a meat well done.

Poultry – choose a young bird (look for a pliable breast bone) and roast chicken at 375˚ F (180˚ C - gas mark 4), turkey at 325˚ F (160˚C – gas mark 3) to an internal temperature of 180˚ F (80˚ C) in the thigh or 160˚ F (70˚ C) in the stuffing. Juices should run clear. Estimate 25 minutes per 1 lb + 25 minutes.

Game birds - cook at 450°F for 10 minutes and reduce to 400°F for the remainder time. Estimate 40 minutes for a young pheasant and 50-60 minutes for an older one. Baste frequently.

How to roast meat

Roasting is essentially a dry heat cooking method. It does not require addition of water, stock, wine or other cooking liquid. Liquid is many times added to prevent the drippings from burning. Some recipes call for added liquid to give a new flavor or more moisture. Poultry will benefit of a little white wine or cider added halfway through cooking.

Chicken, turkey and poultry in general will need turning from time to time to be sure they cook evenly in all sides.

Meat on the bone roasts faster because the bone conducts heat to the interior. The shape of the roast influences the penetration of heat, meat with short chunky bones (i.e. ribs) take longer per pound than meats with long bones (i.e. leg). Boned, rolled meats or stuffed meats take the longest time per pound.

Well aged beef takes less time to roast. Rare beef takes less time than medium or well done.

A rest time of 15 to 20 minutes allows the juices to distribute more evenly. It also lets the interior finish cooking. You can remove the meat from the oven when it is about 5˚F below the desired internal temperature. The interior will reach the desired temperature in that rest time.

The type of oven affects the cooking time. Recipes usually indicate times for a normal gas or electric oven. If you are using a convection oven set the temperature about 25˚F less than indicated in the recipe, cook for a shorter time -about 25% less time. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Set the tray in the center of the oven. Temperature is lower at the bottom and higher at the top. This does not apply to convection ovens.

Do a practice roast before inviting family and friends for the first time. All said, ovens have their unique personality and work slightly different. It is a good idea to become familiar with yours in advance.