The Holiday Roast

Understanding the fundamentals of roasting results in juicy, perfectly cooked meat.

By FamilyTime


Christmas dinner is one of the triumphs of the holiday season, and yet nothing ruins the meal more than a dry, tasteless roast. With a few basic techniques, this need never happen.

Choose the best meat you can afford -- preferably beef, pork or lamb cut from the rib, loin, sirloin or hindquarters. Once you decide on the cut and weight of the meat, decide on the roasting temperature.

High-Temperature Roasting
This means roasting at temperatures higher than 400°F. The high temperature produces a crispy crust and rare-to-medium interior meat with plenty of moisture. It is best for small cuts (3 to 4 pounds) of high-quality meat.

Moderate-Temperature Roasting
Over the years, home cooks have roasted meat at 325° to 350°F with good success. This is the best temperature for large beef roasts, pork shoulders and meaty legs of lamb - and you will find most standard recipes call for these temperatures.

Low-Temperature Roasting
If you are fortunate enough to buy a tender, well-marbled, moderate-sized cut of meat (8 to 9 pounds), try this method. Begin by turning the oven up to 450°F to sear the meat. After 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 250° to 275°F. This produces tender, moist meat with minimal shrinkage.

Determining Doneness
Cookbooks provide the number of minutes per pound for roasting meat. Use these guidelines when scheduling the meal, but rely on an instant-read thermometer to determine when the meat is actually done.

Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. When it registers within 15 degrees of doneness, monitor the meat every five or 10 minutes.

Beef--140°F. for medium; 155° to 160° for medium-well
Pork--155° - 160°F.
Lamb--140°F. for medium; 155° to 160° for medium-well

Let roasts stand for 15 to 25 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to collect. The temperature continues to rise during this time, too.

Roasting Pans
A good roasting pan is one that is the right size. The sides should not be higher than the meat. The pan should hold the meat without crowding, but if it's too big, the meat juices will burn.

A roasting rack can be a flat grid or "V" shaped. If you don't have one, prop the meat up on some vegetables - celery or carrots work well - which add flavor during cooking.