Cooking School Day 17: Roast

Cooking School Day 17: Roast

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Emma Christensen
Oct 28, 2014
(Image credit: Emily Han)
(Image credit: The Kitchn)
  • Today's Topic: Roasting
  • The Goal: 20 lessons, 20 days to become a better cook at home
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Today, we're switching from the stovetop to that big piece of equipment below it (or beside it): the oven. Let's talk about roasting. Roasting gets a lot of attention around the time of Thanksgiving turkey and Easter lamb, but this is also a technique that we can bring into our everyday home cooking. Ever tried roasting green beans? Or shrimp? Roasting is the perfect way to turn just about any ingredient into something dinner-worthy, and today we're talking about how.

Day 17 Lesson: Roast

What is roasting? Roasting is a dry-heat cooking method like sautéing, except instead of happening over a burner on your stove, it happens in the all-encompassing heat of your oven. While in that cozy space, ingredients cook from the outside in. As moisture evaporates from the food, flavors concentrate and a browned, crispy crust forms on the outside — and if you're lucky, some spots of delicious caramelization. Roasting most often happens at 400°F or higher, especially with quicker-cooking foods like vegetables and pork tenderloin. Large roasts, like turkey or leg of lamb, often start at a high temp to encourage browning and cripsing, but then the heat is lowered to 350°F so the meat can cook through without drying out.

What kinds of foods get roasted? You can roast anything from green beans to turkey — almost everything is improved with some time in a hot oven. With roasting, we're usually talking about whole ingredients that can be served on their own, like roast chicken or roasted carrots, as opposed to dishes of assembled ingredients like meatloaf or lasagna. Tossing or rubbing the food with a little butter or oil helps it cook a little more evenly, prevents it from drying out too quickly, and also helps develop a crust (and of course, makes the food taste even better). While you shouldn't roast foods with any liquids, you can add flavor by rubbing or tossing foods with herbs or spices before roasting.

Use a large, shallow pan: When roasting, use a low-sided pan that's large enough to comfortably hold your food without crowding. A baking sheet, a cast iron skillet, and a roasting pan are all good options. You can also lift larger items, like a turkey, off the pan with a roasting rack; this allows hot air to circulate under the food as well. The goal is for moisture to evaporate; a crowded pan, or a pan with high sides, would trap the moisture close to the food, steaming it instead of roasting it. Your food will still cook, but you won't develop that lovely crust on the outside or the same intensity of flavor.

Pro Tip!

Just like preheating a pan on the stove before you throw ingredients in, try preheating your baking pan in the oven before roasting to give a nice jumpstart to the cooking. The food hits the pan sizzling and can help to start to brown the bottom of the food, which is especially great when roasting vegetables that have a lot of moisture like zucchini or asparagus.

Watch the cooking time: The biggest risk when roasting is letting food roast for too long. Eventually, too much moisture will evaporate and roasted foods will become dry. Left even longer, the outside can start to burn. Smaller foods like green beans and shrimp will roast much more quickly than larger foods like a leg of lamb or a turkey. Smaller foods are done when they've developed some color and are tender all the way through. If you're roasting something larger, like a leg of lamb, it's usually best to check the internal temperature and to stop cooking once the food has reached a minimum safe temperature.

Roasting with a recipe: Make sure smaller ingredients are cut to uniform sizes so that they cook evenly. Larger cuts of meat are often roasted as is, though sometimes a recipe will call for trussing or binding before roasting — again, the idea there is to make the food as uniformly shaped as possible so it cooks evenly. You can always ask the butcher to truss meat for you if you're not sure of your trussing skills.

Minimum Safe Internal Temperature for Meat, Fish, and Poultry

Temperature should always been taken in the thickest part of the meat. Make sure your temperature probe does not touch bone.

  • Poultry (Whole, Parts, or Ground): 165°F
  • Ground Beef, Pork, Lamb, and Other Meat: 160°F
  • Whole Cuts of Beef, Pork, Lamb, and Other Meat: 145°F
  • Fish (Whole or Fillets): 145°F
(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

(Image credit: Henry Chen)

Every lesson has three homework options. Maybe you've already got one down, or you just have time for a quick study session. So pick one, and show us by tagging it with #kitchnschool on Instagram or Twitter.

(Image credit: Henry Chen)

Study: Go memorize the the safe minimum cooking temperatures listed in the chart above for cooking meat, fish, and poultry. Yes, it's boring. But memorize it now and you'll never have to look it up again.

(Image credit: Henry Chen)

Practice: Roast a pan of potatoes. More than perhaps any other vegetable, potatoes are transformed through roasting, becoming creamy on the inside and super-crispy on the outside. Use our Rosemary Roasted Potatoes as a guide, tossing the potato cubes with any spice you wish.

(Image credit: Henry Chen)

Improve: Roast a pork tenderloin. If you've never roasted a larger cut of meat before, start with this. Pork tenderloins roast surprisingly quickly and are almost impossible to mess up. Here's what to do: How To Roast a Pork Tenderloin in the Oven.

The Kitchn Cookbook & Roasting

The Cooking School was inspired by our new book, The Kitchn Cookbookand there's plenty in the book to help your Cooking School experience.

Today's tip: One of our favorite recipes for roasting appears on page 194: Roasted Chicken Thighs and Squash Over Polenta. It's a sheet-pan supper and shows how convenient roasting can be: just roast cubes of squash and boneless skinless chicken thighs all together at once and serve over polenta.

5 Recipes to Practice Roasting

  1. Southwestern-Spiced Pork Tenderloin
  2. Roasted Green Beans with Harissa
  3. Miso-Maple Sweet Potato Tacos with Coconut-Cilantro Sauce
  4. Roasted Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Goat Cheese & Garlic
  5. Roasted Shrimp Scampi

The Kitchn's Cooking School

The Kitchn's Cooking School is 20 days, 20 lessons to become a better cook at home. Every day we'll tackle an essential cooking topic and explain what you should know. Each lesson has three different homework options, so you can choose the one that teaches you what you need. Whether you want to refresh your skills or start from scratch, come to school with us!

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