The holidays are for roasting. There’s something about it that just feels like home. Maybe it’s the comforting smell or the snap and crackle that escape from the oven or the rich flavors of the browned crust. Whatever the reason, a holiday wouldn’t be complete without a roasted turkey, prime rib or pork loin—not to mention roasted veggies—in the oven.
We have early man to thank for our love of roasting. He discovered fire, and in the blink of an eye, was spit-roasting a wildebeest to a perfect brown. Today we do it all in the oven, which helps control the elements, but the technique is strikingly similar.
The tips below are divided into sections for meat and vegetables to help you get the most out of anything you roast. But first, a few principles to keep in mind:
- Roasting requires pretty high heat. This is where roasting differs from baking, which happens at lower heat and doesn’t brown with the same gusto.
- Keep the roasting pan uncovered. Covering the roasting pan with a lid or aluminum foil will cause the food to stew in it’s own juices.
- Roasting requires fat. It can be part of the food, such as the layer of fat that covers a pork loin, or added by tossing veggies in olive oil, for instance. But the fat isn’t negotiable—without it roasted foods turn out dry and rubbery.
- The best cuts for roasting are tender, such as loins and sirloins and poultry, as they stay juicy in the dry heat. Tougher cuts of meat need more time to break down their connective tissue, so stick to braising or other moist cooking methods for those.
- Bring meat to room temperature before roasting.
- If roasting lean meats, cover with salted bacon or fatback, which keeps it moist and adds amazing flavour.
- For extra flavour, score the exterior fat and add coarsely chopped garlic, herbs and sea salt.
- Salt and season the roast well before putting it in the oven. You’ll use less salt in the end and build deeper flavours during roasting.
- When roasting whole poultry, try brining. Soaking it in a salt/sugar mixture helps give the bird flavour and keeps it plump and juicy.
- Brown smaller cuts like chops, chicken breasts and fillets of fish in a pan on the stovetop before finishing in the oven. It’s a fast and easy way to get that roasted flavour for a smaller group.
- If you have a roasting rack, great, but I prefer to sit the roast directly on top of a bed of thickly sliced vegetables. They give the pan drippings a great flavor and they can be eaten afterwards.
- A roast will keep cooking even after you take it out of the oven, and the internal temperature can rise as much as 15 degrees. To prevent overcooking, take the roast out of the oven before it reaches the desired temp.
Watch how to create the perfectAussie-style pork crackling here.
- Roast different veggies together. Combine earthy vegetables like Brussels sprouts and turnips with sweet ones like beets, carrots and parsnips.
- Cut vegetables into uniform-sized pieces to make sure they cook evenly. If you’re in a rush, go for a smaller cut, which will roast faster.
- To increase browning, cut vegetables on the bias to increase the surface area.
- Don’t overcrowd the pan. Veggies that are too close together will steam, rather than brown. Pick a pan that’s big enough to allow the vegetables to spread out.
- Most vegetables roast perfectly at 450 degrees F (232 degrees C). Tender vegetables like asparagus and zucchini will need 15 to 20 minutes, while broccoli and peppers will take 5 to 10 minutes more than that. Heartier root vegetables require 40 minutes or longer.
- Garlic adds amazing flavour to roasted veggies, but it will burn if kept too long in a smoking hot oven. Add it in the last 30 minutes of roasting.
- Vinegar and citrus are also flavour-boosters, but they slow down browning, so add at the end.
- Conventional wisdom is to toss the veggies once or twice during roasting for even browning. But don’t be a slave to this though. Turnip and winter squash can be perfect with just one side browned.