Do you steer clear of roasting certain types of meat out of fear your roast will be dry and inedible? Well, fear not! Regardless of what type of meat you’re roasting these simple tips will have your entire crew salivating at the mere mention of a roast dinner.
Once you’ve perfected the humble roast, it really is incredible just how many extra mouths find their way to your table. Luckily, some roasts are big enough to feed a small army and the same principles apply regardless of the size of the meat you’re roasting.
The secrets to cooking a superb tender roast depend largely on the oven temperature, roasting time, whether to cover it or not and the amount of moisture you add to the dish while cooking. Also, while lamb, beef, chicken and turkey are all roasted in a similar fashion, you will need to adjust the way you cook pork. I’ll provide specific guidelines especially for pork at the end if you want to produce a killer crackling.
So let’s talk temperature. If you roast meat at a higher temperature you’re far more likely to produce a tough, dry roast. That’s not exactly appetising and this is primarily why many people avoid roasting meats like turkey or beef. The secret is to cook the meat at a lower temperature when it first goes in the oven. By low I mean around 150-160 degrees Celsius.
Roast the meat at this temperature for the primary cooking period – so about three quarters of the time. Towards the end you can raise the temperature to over 200 degrees Celsius. This will enable the meat to brown or crisp any skin.
Now, let me just say that you CAN’T overcook a roast in the right conditions. In fact, the longer you cook the meat the more tender and delicious it will become. So if you do have a few hours up your sleeve, put your roast on early.
Obviously, smaller roasts will cook quicker than larger ones. So if you have a large roast for multiple guests (say 3 plus kilos), don’t be afraid to put your roast on for around 5 hours. Trust me, this will make it super tender and the meat will literally fall off the bone.
Covering the roast
There’s been times when I’ve roasted meat which has been too large to cover and have had similar results to roasts that I have covered. The primary difference is how brown and crispy the skin has become. The meat still remains tender once you bypass the outer layer. So ideally, if you want a crispy skinned chicken, it’s probably better to cook it uncovered. If you want a nice tender piece of beef, then try covering it.
Some people can produce amazing roasts using oven bags, but you don’t really need one. What they do is trap the meat’s juices in a small area around the roast and make it tender by producing steam. However, if you add at least a cup of water per kilo of meat to the bottom of the roasting dish, this will have the same effect.
If you find the water evaporates during cooking, don’t be afraid to add more. This will depend largely on whether the meat is covered or not, but the key thing to remember is that it’s far better to add too much water than not enough.
Ideally, you want to provide the perfect conditions for the meat to roast. This is done by combining ample moisture with a low temperature over a long cooking time. This will produce meat that is succulent and tender regardless of the type of meat you roast.
The perfect pork
With pork, it’s best cooked uncovered and the temperature should be adjusted like the other meats. This is done a little differently, however. The initial and final cooking periods should be done on high (over 200 degrees Celsius). This enables the crackling to cook to perfection. The remainder of the cooking time should be done on low (150-160 degrees Celsius).
Additionally, you need to concentrate on providing enough moisture. Don’t be afraid to give the pork plenty of water inside the base of the dish. Avoid tipping it over the cracking as it’s preferable to keep this dry. You shouldn’t need to add oil, but a decent amount of salt will help to perfect it.
That’s it! The secrets to cooking the perfect roast have been revealed. If you follow these simple guidelines you will never cook a tough, dry roast ever again!
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