MEAT KNOW-HOW ROASTING MEAT

A PERFECTLY ROASTED PIECE OF MEAT TURNS ANY MEAL INTO AN OCCASION, WHETHER IT IS A HUGE CELEBRATION ROAST, A MEDIUM-SIZED FAMILY ONE, OR A TINY ROAST FOR TWO PEOPLE. UNDERSTANDING WHAT HAPPENS TO THE MEAT WHILE IT COOKS GIVES YOU GREATER CONTROL.

ROASTING MEAT

CHOOSING THE RIGHT CUTCHOOSING THE RIGHT CUT Roasts are good on or off the bone, although bone-in cuts look very impressive. When cooking roasts to well-done, bones lubricate the meat. In rare cuts, however, they are less important. Bone-in cuts (with the exception  of loin cuts) contain several different muscles, some of which cook at different times and whose grain lies in different directions. This can make carving more awkward. The best roasting cuts come from the  middle part of an animal (ribs, saddle, and loin), or the hind leg, although tender lamb and veal shoulders make excellent, more informal roasts. Tougher cuts can be slowroasted successfully. If the meat is marbled with fat, it will stay succulent from rare to well done; very lean meat, such as most game, is not successful roasted to well-done. Very small cuts (less than 2in/5cm thick) are more like a thick steak

OVEN ROASTING

OVEN ROASTING: THE THREE STAGES 1 Brown the meat. This is what makes roasted meat taste so good. Extra small roasts and birds will not be roasted for long enough to brown the outside so should be browned all over in a frying pan first (see p27) and then only given 5–10 minutes in the hot oven. For larger cuts, start them off for 20–30 minutes in a hot oven at 425°F (220°C) for convection ovens and 450°F (230°C) for standard ovens. Very large roasts, such as turkey and goose, will need 45–50 minutes to brown and may need to be turned around in the oven midway. 2 Partly cook it. The oven is then turned down to 350°F (180°C) to nearly (but not quite) cook the meat. This is where a meat thermometer is invaluable because the number of variables (temperature of the meat when  it started, its thickness and fat cover, oven variations, and degree of doneness required) make it impossible to give exact timings. The meat must come out of the oven when it is 5–8°F (3–5°C) below the desired finished temperature to avoid it overcooking. For dark game meats, taking the meat out 16°F (10°C) below is even better. 3 Rest the meat. This crucial stage completes the cooking and makes the meat more tender. It also distributes the juices evenly because the heat continues toward the center of the meat while the less-cooked juices in the center are drawn back to the edge. This is the secret to perfectly roasted meat. All you need to do is keep the meat warm—it must not be cooked any more. The ideal temperature is 175°F (80°C). A plate-warming drawer is perfect, otherwise put the roast over a stove or a warm radiator. Cover it with foil and a thick cloth to keep  in the heat. Make sure the roast does not get cold. The meat thermometer should show the temperature rising until the meat is cooked  to your liking.

PERFECTLY COOKED
PERFECTLY COOKED This roast has been rested,  so the juices in the meat are evenly distributed, making it moist all the way to the edge.

SPIT ROASTING This is how all meat used to be roasted and gives arguably the best results of all. Browning, cooking, and resting is combined in one process. The meat is slowly turned in front of  a hot fire, held in a cage, or on a metal skewer. Spit roasts work best when the meat has a good covering of fat, so lean meat should be barded (see p232). A drip tray catches the fat and juices. Some ovens have electric spits—use  a meat thermometer to check how it cooks.

SPIT ROASTING
LOW TEMPERATURE “ROASTING” This slow method cuts out the second stage  of roasting. Meat is cooked rare but there is  no danger of overcooking if a meal is delayed slightly. Brown the roast all over, in a pan or  a hot oven. Open the oven door afterward  and fan out the intense heat. Then cook it very slowly at a temperature of 175–200ºF (80–100ºC) for several hours. A thin cut—less than 2in (5cm) thick—will cook in about an hour. Large roasts take 2–3 hours or more; use a meat thermometer to show how it is cooking. This method is not suitable for domestic poultry.
SOUS VIDE AND STEAM “ROASTING” Meat is sealed into a vacuum pack (sous vide) that is immersed in a bath of water kept at  a tightly controlled temperature. The process  is slow but utterly reliable, although not everyone likes such uniformity of cooking. Steam cooking is similar but the meat cooks  in moist steam rather than a water bath.  The meat is quickly browned before serving  to improve flavor and appearance.

SOUS VIDE AND STEAMPIT COOKING This is popular in the Pacific Rim, especially New Zealand. A fire is lit in a sizeable pit containing large stones. The meat and other food is prepared beforehand and packed into  a metal basket. This is placed onto the hot stones and immediately covered in wet matting or leaves to produce steam. It is then covered with earth and left to cook for about three hours using the heat stored in the pit

MEAT KNOW-HOW FAST AND FURIOUS

PAN-FRYING AND GRILLING MEAT IS AN EXCITING METHOD OF COOKING THAT REQUIRES  SKILL TO MAKE SURE THE MEAT DOESN’T OVERCOOK. A COMBINATION OF FIERCE  HEAT FOLLOWED BY GENTLE RESTING PRODUCES THE BEST RESULTS.

fast and furiousIN GRILLING OR PAN-FRYING MEAT, the  aim is to produce a brown, flavorsome outer surface with moist flesh inside. Many cuts  of meat can be cooked this way, as well as burgers, sausages, kebabs, and satays. For rare and medium-rare meat, prime cuts  are usually recommended, although many of  the cheaper cuts can also be used. For those who like their meat cooked to well-done, only the prime cuts will stay tender enough. How well cooked the meat should be is  a matter of personal preference, although poultry and ground meat products should  be cooked until the juices run clear with an internal temperature of 165ºF (75ºC). In some countries, the same applies to pork (see the cooking charts on pp40–45). Ideally, meat should be brought to room temperature before cooking so there is less contrast between the outside and inside temperatures during cooking. In reality, most meat is cooked straight from the fridge and needs a little extra time to cook.
PERFECTLY PINK Some people like meat with a cooked band surrounding an undercooked center. Others prefer the color to be uniformly distributed  so the juices and flavors are distributed throughout the meat. To do this requires three stages, especially if it is more than 3⁄4in (2cm) thick. For pieces under 1/2in (1cm) thick, just follow steps 1 and 3. 1 Brown the outside of the meat as quickly and thoroughly as possible—2 minutes per side is the minimum for a steak. 2 Lower the heat and partially cook the meat. 3 Rest the meat in a warm place for 2 minutes for every 1/2in (1cm) of thickness to finish its cooking and distribute the juices.

on the heat
ON THE HEAT When cooking meat on the barbecue grill, make sure there is a warm place to one side  of the heat to rest thick steaks or roasts.

SEARING OR BROWNING MEA

SEARING OR BROWNING MEAT Grilling or pan-frying at a high temperature caramelizes the surface of meat and gives  it its delicious flavor. Heavy-bottomed  frying pans produce the best results. Thin pans overheat easily and often warp, which  causes uneven browning.  Apply a thin layer of pure lard, beef dripping, or oil that can be heated to  high temperatures—such as grapeseed, canola, or peanut. Heat the pan until  it starts to smoke. Lay the meat in  it and do not touch it for a minute or two. Then check the meat  and when it is well browned, turn it over. If you turn the meat before it is really brown, some liquid will be pushed out and the meat will boil, not brown.

SHALLOW FRYING AND GRILL PANSSHALLOW FRYING AND GRILL PANS Use a heavy frying pan,  or a ridged cast-iron grill pan, which uses less fat and produces a striped effect on the meat. Brown the meat as above, using butter if wished, then reduce the heat. Turn the meat a few more times until cooked. Large pieces of meat need more fat to cook than  thin ones.
STIR FRYING AND SAUTÉING Use a wok or deep-sided frying pan  over high heat. Slice everything thinly beforehand, so it cooks evenly. The meat  is put in first, then any vegetables, moving  the food around quickly all the time. Liquid  is added at the end. The whole process takes only minutes and the food is served at once.

CHARCOAL AND BARBECUE GRILLINGCHARCOAL AND BARBECUE GRILLING This is usually done outside, although indoor artificial charcoal grills are available. Wait until the coals have subsided to a gray ash before cooking. If possible, have a cooler area to rest large pieces of meat after grilling. Very fatty cuts can cause flames to flare up so turn them frequently to avoid a burned coating.
DEEP-FAT FRYING Large, uneven pieces of meat that do not sit easily in a flat frying pan, or are coated in
batter, can be cooked in a deep-fat fryer.  Half fill the pan with oil or fat and heat it  to 350–375°F (180–190°C). If the oil is not hot enough, it gets absorbed into the food.

BROILING IN THE OVEN
BROILING IN THE OVEN Meat is placed under a fierce heat that  cooks it from above. Good for reduced fat cooking as only a spray of oil is needed to brown the meat. Best for thicker pieces of  meat as anything thinner than 3⁄4in (2cm)  is easily overcooked.
TANDOOR OVEN A heavy, cylindrical clay oven built to retain  and reflect the fierce heat from a charcoal fire. Meat is covered in a marinade or paste, threaded on metal skewers, and lowered into the oven; it cooks very quickly and keeps the meat juicy.
DOUBLE-SIDED GRILLS These grill on both sides at once under a closed lid. Surplus fat drains into a tray. Fatty meats cook well but lean meats steam rather than grill and don’t brown.

DOUBLE-SIDED GRILLS

MEAT KNOW-HOW SLOWLY DOES IT

LOW TEMPERATURES, LIQUIDS, AND LONG COOKING TIMES ENSURE THAT MEAT STAYS MOIST  AS IT COOKS ALL THE WAY THROUGH. SLOW-COOKING IS PERFECT FOR CHEAPER CUTS OF MEAT  THAT MAY BE TOUGH OR SINEWY; THEY COST BARELY HALF AS MUCH AS PRIME CUTS. THESE DISHES LEND THEMSELVES TO “GETTING AHEAD,” SINCE THE FLAVORS IMPROVE WITH TIME

BROWNING THE MEAT

Most slow-cooking methods start off by browning the meat. Although it is not essential, it always adds lots of extra flavor and color  to the dish. Make sure the meat is completely dry so that it browns quickly. If meat takes too long to brown, it becomes tough. Cook the pieces in small batches, making sure they have plenty of space so the outside browns very quickly. If crowded they will release water, which makes them boil rather than brown.

DEGLAZE THE PAN
DEGLAZE THE PAN

The frying pan will accumulate a lot of caramelized bits during the browning process. Add a little water to dissolve them and add this delicious browning to your dish, otherwise it may burn onto the pan and taste bitter.

Cooking method

COOKING METHODS

•  Stewing Small pieces or slices of meat are browned, covered with liquid and cooked in  a lidded dish in the oven or on the stovetop. Where there is plenty of gravy, dumplings can be cooked in the stew once the meat is cooked. Electric slow-cookers use very little electricity and can be left to cook all day.

•  Braising Cuts or roasts are cooked to well- done in a covered dish in a slow oven. Braising uses less liquid than in a stew but the steam produced keeps the meat moist. Fatty cuts cook really well this way; very lean pieces benefit from larding. This method is especially good for poultry pieces or slices of pork and lamb shoulder, which cook in about an hour.

•  Pot roasting and slow roasting Prime cuts can be cooked pink; tougher cuts are cooked to well-done. Place the meat in a deep tray
or dish with some vegetables, if desired. Pot roasts usually have some liquid, too. The meat is browned first at a high temperature, then loosely covered and cooked slowly for several hours at around 275°F (140°C).

•  Simmering and poaching The meat is not browned, so no extra fat is used. A roast or whole bird is completely immersed in liquid (usually water) that is brought slowly to a  boil. The temperature is immediately reduced  to very low heat so that the water is barely bubbling. Cool the meat in its liquid before straining it off to prevent it from drying out. Reduce the stock and use it to make a sauce  for the meat. Simmering is especially good for meat on the bone as the stock is rich and silky.

•  Steaming Thin strips or small pieces of  very tender meat can be cooked in a steamer for very low-fat dishes. Care must be taken to cook the meat enough but at the same time not to toughen it by overcooking. A meat thermometer shows when it is just cooked. The cooked meat is quite bland so benefits from added flavorings. See also sous vide  and steam “roasting” on p29. Ground meat preparations, such as covered terrines, are placed in a dish of water (known as a double boiler) and cooked in the oven— the water ensures that the meat is cooked gently and evenly throughout.

•  Pressure cooking Meat is prepared in the same way as for stewing or braising, but  when the lid and pressure cap are put on  and the temperature raised, the pressure in the pan cooks the meat extremely quickly,  so this is a very economical way of cooking meat. Make sure the pan is cooled before opening the pressurized lid.

•  Slow barbecue Perfect for cooking meat slowly so it falls off the bone; it can also be shredded. The process is the same as for hot-smoking (see p22), except that damp wood is not used since no smoke is required.
TASTE AND TEXTURE

•  Never try to speed up slow-cooked dishes (except when pressure cooking); if they get too hot, the moisture is squeezed out of the meat, leaving it tough and dry.

•  Only dust meat in flour if you want a flour-thickened gravy. Make sure the meat is almost dry and use only a very light dusting or the gravy will be too thick.

•  Don’t use flour if other starchy ingredients, such as potatoes, are included in the dish.

•  If there is flour in the dish, don’t cook it  on top of the stove as it will stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook it in the oven.

•  If a broth is too watery at the end, strain off the meat, reduce the broth, and return it to the meat. Don’t boil the meat in the broth or it will fall to pieces.

•  Adding vegetables improves the texture and flavor; they are especially helpful for dishes containing lean meat, and also make the dish go further, which reduces the cost.

•  Chopped bacon adds flavor to a stew.

•  Although herbs and spices are cooked with the meat, only add salt near the end of cooking otherwise the dish could be too salty.
BEEFY DISH A deep, rich gravy surrounding meltingly tender pieces of beef; this is the epitome of the perfect stew.
EXCESS FAT
If a stew produces too much fat during cooking, skim off any excess from the top with a spoon or ladle. Start at the center of the dish and depress the spoon, but do not  let any liquid enter it. Using a circular spiral motion, move the spoon to the edge of the dish where the fat will have accumulated.  Allow the fat to trickle into the spoon and remove it. Repeat the procedure until you have removed as much excess fat as possible.