Does the thought of buying, preparing, cooking and carving a large chunk of raw beef, pork or poultry send shivers up your spine? Well if it’s any consolation, you are not alone. For so many of our customers, especially our younger shoppers who tend to shop only for themselves or for two, the need to cook large roasts comes up infrequently and is avoided if possible. Unlike home cooks raised in previous generations, you most likely had little or no training while living at home... Want some help overcoming your fear of the roast?
Start by asking questions and getting advice from others. Start with your Prisco meat department and friends or relatives who have faced the three headed monster “roast” and come out victorious. Two things that give you a bit of an advantage today that mom didn’t have are the Food Network and the Internet, both great sources of reliable information available pretty much 24/7.
Getting started, you will need a few critical pieces of equipment (listed in order of importance):
1. An oven: If you've been using this as storage, remove all occupants and see if you can turn on the oven. If not, skip the rest of this and call for take-out.
2. A roasting pan: You can substitute the broiler pan that probably came with your oven with a big Dutch oven or cast iron pan. Size will dictate what you can cook.
3. An instant-read thermometer: This will insure that everything you cook comes out fine. Too often people want to skip this and say “who needs a thermometer? I’ll just cook it as long as the recipe calls for." Far too many expensive roasts have been ruined for lack of using a meat thermometer. Ovens are not all alike and there are hot and not-so-hot spots in any oven. We offer them for sale in our store and for less than $10 you can have as good a tool as the best chefs use.
4. A good piece of meat: A whole bird (chicken, duck, or turkey), a beef or pork roast, etc. When choosing your first victim, know something about the cut of meat and plan accordingly. Different cuts are priced differently and need to be prepared and cooked differently or they will simply turn out uneatable.
5. Spices: Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper are a good start. A good sea salt is the next step up. Garlic is always good and if you have fresh herbs or a favorite spice mix/rub use it!
6. A rack, preferably a V-shaped rack. Helps heat get everywhere evenly and gives the meat juices a place to gather for making delicious gravy to enjoy with the meat and accompanying side dishes.
7. Oven mitts & apron (white hat optional): That oven is going to be hot and things can get messy. A Dr. doesn’t go into the OR without her scrubs or a fire person to a fire without a helmet, coat, boots, and fire pants with suspenders. Be prepared and dress the part.
8. A baster and/or a brush: Mom wasn’t opening the oven door just to see if the pork roast was still in there. Your roast needs a little help on its way to becoming delicious.
9. Olive oil, butter or melted butter: Moisture and even cooking are critical to the success of venture.
10. A timer: Doesn't matter if it's on your stove or smart phone, just make sure it's loud enough that you can hear it.
The act of cooking your roast or bird
• Remove the meat from the fridge and open the package. Note the weight as this is critical to the amount of time needed to correctly coot the meat. Refer to a cookbook or to our Prisco’s website recipe tab for a recipe corresponding to the meat that you are preparing to cook.
• Make sure oven racks are in the middle of the oven and you have enough room for the roasting pan and its contents. If not, lower the rack until you do. If you are cooking a bone-in roast there is no need for a rack as the bone will act as your rack. Preheat the oven to 350° (250° if you're doing duck).
• While the oven is heating, pat the meat dry with paper towels. Salt and pepper liberally (i.e. use more than you think), inside and out. This helps bring out the meat’s natural flavor.
• If you're using a rack or just the top layer of that broiler pan (the one with the holes) you might want to give it a quick spray of Pam or a light rub of olive oil (makes clean-up easier).
• Place your meat on the pan and put it in the oven. The length of time your meat will need to cook depends on the size of your roast and how well cooked you like your meat. This is where the instant-read thermometer will save the day! Click here for a handy chart and remember to always stick the thermometer in the thickest part of your roast (for chicken it's the thigh).
• When the meat is cooked to your liking, remove it from the oven and let it rest for at least 10 minutes. This is not about torturing you or your guests, it's about letting the juices re-circulate, making the meat tender and juicy.
• Carve, serve and enjoy!
I’ll leave it at that as carving meat is another topic entirely, but as I said earlier advice is always available on the internet to help if necessary.
Margaret Prisco – Meat Manager