Roast dinners are delicious, but preparing them can easily begin to feel overwhelming. We're answering some of your most burning questions to ensure you never have a meat mishap again. 

Relaxing meat

Why should meat and poultry be rested after cooking and how long should they be rested for?

meat resting

Resting meat after cooking allows the fibres of the meat to relax. The juices, which expand during roasting, shrink as the meat cools so the joint deflates and the fibres consolidate.

The meat is then firmer and easier to carve. If you try to carve is straight from the oven, the slices will be ragged and steam from the hot juices can cause scalding.

Large joints weighing more than 2kg (4lb 8oz) should be covered in foil and rested for 20-30 minutes.

Small roasts need 10-15 minutes and can be rested uncovered.

 

Small is beautiful

I enjoy a roast, but there are only two of us in our household. Are small joints worth cooking?

small roast

Joints of meat and poultry weighing under 1.5kg (3lb 5oz) are now commonly available, reflecting the growing number of small households.

These joints need extra care to be successfully roasted. Although small, they still need time to cook through, and as there is not enough fat and juices to keep the meat moist, they could become dry and tough. The answer is to bard them and baste often.

Making gravy from small joints is another problem because they will not provide enough of the vital sticky juices. But you can create the basis of a good gravy by roasting the meat on a bed of sliced onion and carrot and pouring 150ml (5fl oz) of stock, wine or water into the roasting tin at the start.

 

Trouble-free roasting

How do I ensure my roasts are always successful?

roast dinner family

  • Weigh the meat to calculate the cooking time (see chart below) but remember that cooking times are only meant as a general guide and a long, thin piece of meat will take less time to cook than a thick, round one of the same weight.
  • Before putting the meat to cook, allow time to preheat the oven to the required temperature. This may take 15 minutes or more.
  • Put the meat on a roasting rack or trivet in a roasting pan. This keeps the meat off the bottom of the pan where the melting fat accumulates and allows the heat to penetrate the meat more evenly as it circulates around it.
  • Beef and lamb should be cooked at 230°C (gas mark 8) for 20 minutes fist, to brown them. The temperature is then reduced and roasting completed according to the chart below. Roast pork does not need this initial browning as it is cooked at a higher temperature to ensure crisp crackling.
  • Halfway through the cooking time, check the meat. If it is well browned on top, turn it over and baste it with the melted fat and juices in the bottom of the pan.
  • The meat must reach an internal temperature of 60°C to be rare, 71°C to be medium pink and 80°C to be well done. A meat thermometer inserted directly into the centre of the meat eliminates guesswork. It should be positioned when he roasting is almost complete, and should not touch any bones or the roasting tin as both of these conduct heat and give a false reading.
  • When the cooking time is up, stand the roast on a warm serving platter in a warm place to relax and firm up, or leave it to rest in the turned-off oven with the door ajar while you make the gravy.

meat chart  

 

Adding fat and flavour

What is the advantage of barding and larding over basting?

roast chicken

Very lean meats, such as veal and game birds, and very small joints of any meat, need extra fat when they are roasted or they become dry and tough.

Continual basting is time-consuming and opening the oven door lowers the temperature. The answer is to make a roast ‘self-basting’, by barding or larding it.

Barding involves covering the joint with a layer of fat, which melts over the meat as it cooks. Pork back fat is the most suitable as it does not have a strong flavour, but some game birds are barded with streaky bacon, tied into place.

Larding involves threading strips of pork back fat through the meat with a larding needle. It is particularly suitable for large joints, which need a long cooking time as the fat slowly dissolves, basting the meat internally and adding extra richness to the meat juices. 

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