Roasting tips and tricks


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You probably roast a tasty chicken once or twice a month and a delicious turkey at least once a year. But how often have you really and truly considered roasting such as what it means and how to make the most of it for almost any food?

Roasting means to cook food in an oven in an uncovered pan or dish. This method usually produces a well-browned exterior for the food, and (hopefully) a moist interior. Seems simple enough, right? Then why does the turkey sometimes end up dry and tough? Like most cooking techniques, there's a method to the madness. It's not roasting anything, but choosing the right thing to roast - at the right temperature, for the right time, with the right additions. Done properly, roasting can be nearly foolproof. Roasting produces a delicious and excellent looking result with most foods.

Choose the right food to roast

When it comes to roasting meat and poultry, choose cuts that are reasonably tender to begin with. Tough cuts of meat that need significant moisture to break down tough tissues are not the ones you want for roasting - those cuts need braising, which is completely different. So how do you know what to choose? For the most part, the butcher at the local mega mart will make the identification for you. Look for cuts of beef that say "roast" on the label - and most poultry does great at being roasted. When if comes to roasting vegetables, it can be a little more of a challenge - with results that are worth it. Roasted vegetables are delish! But not all veggies cook in the same amount of time. A 1 inch piece of carrot and a one inch piece mushroom cannot be roasted exactly the same way; one takes much longer than the other. However, you can roast them together if you chop the respective vegetables into pieces that will roast in about the same amount of time - the carrot piece being much smaller than the mushroom piece in this example.

Choosing the right temperature for roasting

Choosing the right temperature for roasting will depend on the amount of time you have and your desired results. Your choices are:

  • Low roasting
  • Low roasting will produce a result similar to braising. The food takes longer to cook and you won't develop a crisp exterior - but you are also less likely to overcook the food.
  • High roasting
  • High roasting does develop a terrific crust on the food - but you are a a greater risk of overcooking the food. Of course, high heat also means faster cooking.
  • Low then high roasting
  • Roasting for most of the cook time on low, then increasing the temperature to high will give a nice crust to the food. The interior of the meat will be closer to a low roasting method, but the exterior will be closer to the high roasting method.
  • High then low roasting
  • Faster than low then high roasting, it also promotes a beautiful crust with an appropriately moist food interior.

Seasoning

Most foods that are roasted shine on their own. All they need before going into the oven is a little oil on the surface and some salt and pepper for seasoning. You can, of course, get more complex with seasoning - but you don't have to.

Time and temperature

The amount of time something takes to roast will, of course, depend on what you are roasting. When roasting meats, a probe thermometer with a temperature alarm is your best friend! Insert the probe into the thickest part of the meat, set the target temperature with the alarm and you can almost ignore dinner for a while. When the alarm goes off, remove your meat from the oven, and dinner is ready 10 minutes later after the meat has time to cool. Don't forget to factor in temperature carryover: meat just out of the oven continues to cook for a few minutes and the internal temperature can continue to rise 5-10 degrees! As mentioned, vegetables cook at different rates. If you want to have all your vegetable pieces the exact same size, start roasting the longer cooking veggies first and add in the faster roasting veggies over the course of the roasting time.

Crown roast of lamb

Ingredients:

  • 2 racks lamb, 1 1/2 to 2-pounds each, frenched (if desired)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 Fahrenheit.
  2. Bend each rack meat side in and fat side out into a semicircle. Use kitchen twine tie them together at the base and center to hold the racks together.
  3. Rub the lamb with the olive oil.
  4. Combine the salt, pepper, garlic, thyme and coriander and press all over the lamb. Place the roast in tube pan with the center of the pan coming up through the middle of the roast. Place this pan in a slightly larger baking dish.
  5. Place on the middle rack of the oven until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 130 F, approximately 8 to 12 minutes per pound.
  6. Remove from the oven, transfer the roast to a rack, cover with aluminum foil and let the rest for 20 minutes. Pour the juices from the pan into a small saucepan.
  7. Add the sherry vinegar, mustard and rosemary to the pan juices and stir over very low heat. Serve the meat with the warm sauce.

Roasted root vegetables

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled and scrubbed
  • 1 pound celeriac, peeled
  • 1 pound turnips, peeled
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled
  • 1 pound parsnips, peeled
  • 2 onions
  • 2 leeks (white and pale green parts only)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Several garlic cloves, peeled, to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 Fahrenheit. Spray two large cookie sheets with cooking spray.
  2. Cut all the vegetables into 1 inch pieces. Toss with olive oil and rosemary.
  3. Divide the vegetables between the two baking sheets. Place in oven and roast 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  4. Reverse the positions of the two baking sheets. Stir and turn over the vegetables. Add half the garlic cloves to each baking sheet.
  5. Roast another 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Transfer to a serving dish and serve.

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