Roasting is one of the easiest ways there is to cook a large cut of meat. The method works perfectly for beef, pork, and lamb, and allows you to prepare a large meal with minimal effort.
Why You Should Roast Meat
Roasting meat at low temperatures (between 275 F and 325 F) provides the most flavorful, juicy, and tender results. It also minimizes shrinkage and helps the meat cook evenly. Generally, the larger the cut of meat, the lower the roasting temperature should be.
The only problem is that these lower temperatures don't produce a brown, flavorful crust on the exterior of the meat. Therefore, it's typically best to begin roasting at a high temperature to get the meat nice and brown and then lower the heat for the duration of cooking.
The steps below apply to any large cuts of meat that would typically be roasted, both boneless and bone-in, including:
- Rib of Beef (e.g., Prime Rib)
- Beef Tenderloin or Sirloin
- Shoulder of Lamb
- Leg of Lamb
- Loin of Pork
- Pork Shoulder
How to Roast Meat
Roasting is easy, though it's not quick. Expect most cuts of meat to take at least two hours, though it may require four hours, or slightly longer, depending on the size and whether or not it includes bones.
- Season the meat ahead of time—the night before you plan to roast, for instance—so that the flavorings have enough time to penetrate the meat. Seasonings can include kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, as well as various spice rubs, fresh or dried herbs, garlic, and so forth. Refrigerate the meat and take it out about half an hour before you plan to roast it.
- Heat the oven to a high temperature—usually around 450 F, but for slow-roasted pork shoulder, start at 500 F.
- Set the seasoned roast on a rack, fat side up, in a roasting pan. The pan's sides should be relatively low to allow the hot air to circulate around the roast. Using a rack (rather than placing the roast directly on the bottom of the pan) also promotes even airflow. Don't cover the pan.
- If you are using a meat thermometer (analog or digital), insert the probe into the center of the roast, being careful not to hit bone.
- Place the meat in the oven and cook for 20 to 30 minutes at the high temperature.
- Lower the temperature to between 275 F and 325 F and roast until done.
- Remove the roast from the oven, cover it in foil, and let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving. This results in a much juicier roast because cooking tends to drive all the meat's natural juices into the center of the roast. Resting it before slicing gives the protein molecules a chance to reabsorb some of that moisture, so those juices don't spill out onto your cutting board.
- While the roast is resting, prepare a sauce. There are several tasty sauces for beef and pork to consider. Alternately, make a simple velouté sauce by whisking the pan drippings and some additional stock into a butter-flour roux.
Roast Doneness Guidelines
Beef and lamb are medium-rare when the internal temperature of the roast has reached 135 F; medium is 140 F to 145 F. Cook pork to 145 F. Veal is usually served medium (145 F to 150 F) or medium-well (155 F).
Remember that the temperature of an average roast can rise another 10 degrees after you take it out of the oven. Therefore, you're going to want to take the roast out of the oven when the thermometer shows a reading about 10 degrees lower than you want it.
- For roasting a big piece of meat, a meat thermometer that you can leave in the roast while it cooks is better than an instant-read thermometer. The instant-read type requires you to poke a new hole every time you measure the roast's temperature, and that will alter the results.
- An electronic meat thermometer can be programmed to beep when the meat hits the target temperature.
- Don't baste! Every time you baste, you have to open the oven door, and that lowers the oven temperature. Roasting the meat fat side up allows the fat to drip down over the roast as it melts, thereby keeping the exterior nice and moist.