Making the Most of Holiday Roasts
For the most part, roasts are easy for the cook, as much of the cooking time is actually hands off (leaving you time to get the side dishes ready). But there are things to keep in mind as you prepare your holiday centerpiece. Here are some tips to insure your holiday roast is the best it can be this year.
- Buy the best you can afford. It’s the holidays so splurge if you can on the best roast available. Roasting by its nature concentrates flavors; the better your roast is at the start of cooking, the better it will be at the end.
- Choose the right pan, and possibly a rack. Choose a heavy-duty roasting pan, preferably one with a good heat conducting metal sandwiched between the stainless steel. Pans such as this one by Mauviel, or this one by All-Clad, can be pricey, but will last a lifetime. Avoid nonstick pans for roasting; though they are handy for cleanup, they don’t give you the browning you want in most roasts.) Look for a pan with sides that are not too high as you want the hot air of the oven to circulate freely around the food. For the same reason, a roasting rack works well for most roasts.
- Let the oven heat fully before roasting. This can take up to half an hour on some models. While the oven is heating, let the roast stand at room temperature to warm up some; this will promote more even cooking and juicier results.
- Don’t baste during roasting, unless it’s specifically called for in a recipe. Most of the time, you’re looking for crisp skin or a nicely browned exterior. Basting will keep that from happening.
- Check for doneness with an instant-ready thermometer. Cooking times vary widely based on your oven (all ovens vary somewhat in actual temperature), the size and shape of roast, and even the material of your roasting pan. While a recipe’s timing is a good place to start, the surest way to test for doneness is by internal temperature. Instant read thermometers like this one are inexpensive and accurate. If you roast a lot, you might consider a thermometer with more bells and whistles, such as this one.
- Let the roast rest before carving. During roasting, the juices are driven toward the center of the roast. By letting it rest, the juices redistribute and you get a juicier roast. The length of the rest varies depending on size and density of your roast (anywhere from 10 minutes to 40 minutes depending on the size of the roast).
- Sharpen your carving knife and slice on a cutting board with a trough like this one. If your cutting board does not have a deep trough, consider placing the caring board on rimmed baking sheet so its juices don’t run all over. Serve the juices, reheated, along with the roast, or add them to your gravy or sauce.
- Don’t forget about those tasty bits in the pan. Deglaze them with wine, water, or broth to serve alongside your roast.
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