Nothing beats the mouth-watering smell of a juicy roast in the oven. It is the symbol of special occasions and family celebrations. Today, buying a larger roast is an investment. If you are going to spend the money, it is worth knowing how to cook it properly. Although I am talking specifically about beef in these tips, the methods work for any large piece of meat.
A prime rib or rib roast is the first seven bones of the cow’s rib section. The first cut, or first bone, has more of the central eye of the meat and less of the fattier cap, although I love the taste of the fattier section. The meat is flavourful and succulent and the bonus is the bones, eaten out of hand or coated with marinade and grilled the next day. A porterhouse roast, which is an overgrown T-bone steak, gives a bonus of a piece of filet when you carve it.
Buy the best quality meat you can afford. Look for one of these qualifiers: raised without antibiotics, naturally raised, grass-fed, Canadian Prime or AAA. It makes the difference between taste and tasteless.
Best results are obtained with a mixture of high and medium-heat for most good cuts. The low-heat method, popular at the moment, is gentle on fibres and is best for tougher cuts, but I find it never has the umami taste of the high-heat roasting method.
Always roast your meat on a rack in a roasting pan. This allows the heat to circulate, browning the underside of the meat as well as the top. Never cover a roast with a lid or foil. It produces steam and the meat will have a dull colour and lacklustre taste.
When cooked, place the roast on a carving board. Let rest for 10 minutes to allow the juices to retract before carving.
Although not quite foolproof, a roast’s cooking time can be estimated by weight. Using the ratio of 15 minutes per pound for rare plus an extra 15 minutes tacked on the end, or 20 minutes for medium-rare plus 20 minutes, you can usually get exactly what you want. Roast at 450 F for 30 minutes. Turn the heat down to 350 F for the remainder of the time. Use an instant-read thermometer to confirm when your meat is cooked. Stick the thermometer into the fleshiest part and cook to 125 F for rare, 140 F for medium-rare and 160 F for well-done. If your roast is too rare and you are out of time, slide the undercooked slices into the gravy for a couple of minutes to cook a little more.
And gravy? Here is the old-fashioned method that works every time. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the roasting pan. Place pan over a burner on medium heat and sprinkle in 2 tablespoons flour. Stirring constantly, cook until the flour is browned. Add 3 cups stock (chicken, beef or veal; homemade or store bought) and a squeeze of tomato paste for richness. Bring to a boil, stirring, then simmer for 5 minutes or until thickened and the flour taste has disappeared. Season and add any meat juices sitting on the board.
Lastly, my mother’s secret to a successful roast: Broil the top of the roast for 5 minutes before cooking or until the fat is crisp. It makes all the difference.
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