Many of us love the occasional roast, particularly on Sunday before starting the week again. What a great time to sit down and eat with friends or loved ones and enjoy some traditional roast meat with all the trimmings.
If you haven’t had the benefit of being passed down an age old technique it can seem quite intimidating to roast, what might be, a significant investment. The basic methods for roasting are really not difficult to master and anyone can create the perfect roast if they know the rules.
Choose the right cut
Make sure that you pick a piece of meat that lends itself to roasting well.
It is important that your chosen cut has a good layer of fat or that some form of fat is added during cooking. The heat needed to roast a piece of meat will dry it out without the presence of fat. You don’t need to be concerned about the level of fat in a traditionally farmed piece of meat or poultry as this is good fat, the result of a natural diet. If you don’t like the fat, you can always cut it off before serving. One technique where there is a good layer of fat is to score the outside so that the fat renders during cooking and naturally bastes the meat. You can also spoon over the fat from time to time to ensure that the roast doesn’t become dry.
When choosing beef for a roast, look out for something that has been dry aged for a minimum of 21 days. If you can find grass fed native breed beef, all the better, as this will have taken longer to mature and had a natural diet that produces healthy fat.
The king of roasts is the fore rib. This will have a good layer of fat on the outside and a marbling of fat running through the meat.
If you choose a leaner cut such as the salmon cut topside, you may need to add some extra fat during cooking or pay attention to basting the meat well as it cooks. If you let us know, we’d be more than happy to include some extra fat for you.
Leg, shoulder and loin of lamb are the choice cuts. The shoulder needs to be roasted more slowly to ensure that the connective tissue in the meat breaks down well.
Rare breed pork roasts really well and will have a good natural fat covering. Much of this fat renders out during the roasting process and is perfect for separating out and storing to roast potatoes and other vegetables. Score the skin of the pork with a sharp knife in the same direction as you are going to carve, a clean Stanley knife is a great tool for doing this. Drying the skin and a rub of salt before the oven is a reliable way to achieve a crispy skin. The most popular roasts for pork are shoulder, loin and belly.
Most birds roast well, but the leaner ones like chicken will require some oil or butter to be rubbed on the skin and if possible pushed under the skin to maintain the moisture during cooking. Duck and goose have a good quantity of fat, this again can be kept for use at a later date.
Weigh the meat if you haven’t made a note from the label and calculate the cooking time using our guide.
Season the meat before placing in a preheated oven. For the joints with a larger fat content you may want to rest them on a wire rack in the cooking tray to strain off the rendered fat.
During the cooking time, baste the joint with the fat a few times to prevent the meat from drying out.
When you feel the meat is cooked, remove it from the cooking tray and allow it to relax either covered with foil in a warm place or back in the oven at a low temperature (around 100C). This allows the meat to absorb the juices from the cooking and for all the fibres to relax. Small roasts and poultry will need 15 minutes and larger roasts can be left up to an hour. If you’re unsure whether the meat is cooked how you like it, check with a temperature probe against our guide.
During the resting time you can take the opportunity to make your gravy from the remaining pan juices. Skim of any unwanted fat from the cooled juices that you have retrieved from the pan. The fat will have risen to the top in a layer. Remove all the brown caramelised gunk from the bottom of the pan by adding stock or alcohol and giving it a good rub with a wooden spoon or spatula. If you’re using wine make sure you cook off the alcohol before continuing. Strain the liquid from the pan into a saucepan and add a knob of butter mixed with flour to make a roux. Cook for a few minutes and then season if required.
When carving the meat put it on a firm surface or chopping board and as a rule of thumb cut down toward the board or toward the bone. It is important to cut across the grain of the meat to avoid tougher slices of meat.