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Roast Meat: Just Heat

by Jane Wangersky | November 14th, 2013 | Cooking Basics
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roastWe can now buy ready-cooked roast beef at the supermarket. Just heat and enjoy! But . . . that’s pretty much how you cook roast beef in the first place. Just heat and enjoy. It’s a lot less expensive than the ready-cooked stuff, and it tastes better. You just have to heat it a whole lot longer.

Not all of us work from home, or are comfortable leaving something cooking all day in an empty house. Even so, most of us can find time on a weekend or day off to roast some beef, pork, or other meat.

The first thing you’ll need is a tender cut of meat that won’t toughen in dry heat. In the U.S., as the USDA says, “Unfortunately, names for various cuts can vary regionally in stores, causing confusion over the choice of cooking method.” But you may find meat labeled with the basic cut it came from. In that case, look for rib or loin for your roast beef — chuck and round are less tender and work better as pot roasts. You’ll probably find rib and loin roasts more expensive than other cuts. For roast pork, again, look for the words “rib” or “loin”, or “crown roast” and “Boston butt”. Yes, ribs include spare ribs, though we usually don’t think of them as roast pork. If you’re confused by the labeling, just ask the meat department staff if this would be good for roasting.

Next, I really recommend a meat thermometer. You can probably buy one while you’re at the supermarket. Some of them are even labelled with meat names (like “beef, rare”) so you don’t have to remember the safe temperatures for the different kinds.

You’ll also need a roasting pan — or maybe not. If you have a big enough frying pan that’s all metal, that’s fine too. It should have something put in to hold the meat off the surface of the pan so it’s really roasted by the dry heat and not steamed in its drippings. There are roast racks and so forth, but you can use metal jar lids or anything else that’s clean, the right size, and ovenproof. For years I’ve been using what I think is the broiler pan from a toaster oven. Whatever you use, remember to grease it.

Roast meat is great just by itself, but you may want to brush or spray yours with a a little oil and sprinkle on a couple of teaspoonfuls of spices before you cook it. Experiment to see what you like best.

Stick your meat thermometer into the thickest part of the roast. Heat the oven to 350 for pork, 325 for beef (except tenderloin, which can take up to 425). Then put the meat in and leave it till it’s 145 degrees.

How long will that take? Roughly half an hour a pound for beef, from 12 to 30 minutes for pork. I’ve found the temperature climbs quickly toward the end of cooking.

If it’s ready early, let it sit till dinnertime — a few minutes of this is good anyway, to redistribute the juices.

Then enjoy — you’ll find it worth the wait.

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