4 – 6 adults
Roasting meat may seem like a daunting task to a new cook, but its actually very simple. The key is getting the timing right, and as such, roasting the meat first, then preparing your accompaniments is always the best idea.
Roasting is essentially cooking food in hot air. Your oven is a closed system that reaches a high temperature; the hot air inside the oven cooks the meat and can sometimes dry it out. This is why we put water in the bottom, to add liquid to the system and prevent the meat from drying out too much. Below is a guide to cooking various types of meat.
Each oven is slightly different. The cooking times we’ve given here may vary – it’s best to check the temperature in the centre of the meat rather than relying on the cooking times printed on the meat package or this information.
Beef brisket runs from the bottom of the neck to down under the ribs and is usually one of the cheaper cuts. It can be quite fatty, so look for the leanest piece you can find, which isn’t often very easy as they are rolled and tied.
Brisket needs to be cooked slowly, so place the meat in a roasting pan and add water so it comes a third of the way up the joint. Season the meat and cook at 180°C fan / Gas 4 for an hour. Reduce the temperature to 170°C fan / Gas 3 and cook for an additional 2 hours 30 minutes.
Keep an eye on the water level so the brisket doesn’t dry out.
Topside is generally leaner than brisket so can stand hotter, quicker cooking time. It’s also the best cut to use if you like your beef cooked rare.
Season the meat with salt and pepper, and drizzle the joint with oil. Preheat the oven to 200°C fan / Gas 5 and put the beef in when it is hot.
Rare beef – 1 hour
Medium beef – 1 hour 15 minutes
Well done beef – 1 hour 25 minutes
Cheaper cuts include shoulder and belly pork.Belly pork is often sold in slices or a large piece. Shoulder can be bought in steaks and or a rolled joint .
Shoulder is great for most recipes as it can be cut into small chunks and casseroled, cooked on skewers and grilled.Ribs are the end of the belly cut and are good barbecued.
Middle priced cut is leg of pork, which can be bought as a joint or steaks. Pork chops are usually middle priced cuts of pork.
More expensive cuts are loin of pork and fillet. Loin is often sold either as a fast cook roasting joint or steaks. Fillet is very lean and is good for stir frying as it cooks quickly.
Pork should be cooked throughly and should not be considered as a meat to be rare. To cook pork with the skin on to form crackling, score the skin and rub some salt into it. Heat the oven to its highest setting – preferably 220 C, 450 F, Gas 8 for 25 minutes, then turn it down to 180 C, 375 F, Gas 5 for 25 minutes per pound.
Lamb is a very oily meat, with a thin skin which does not crisp easily. It takes on flavours very easily, though has a wonderful taste of its own. In particular it is good with rosemary and of course, the classic mint.
Being oily, it produces good gravy, and is the very best meat for roasting vegetables in the same pan, and for making gravy.
Often, the lamb is sliced and rosemary, other herbs, garlic or cloves are inserted to flavour the meat while it cooks.
Cook at 200 C, 400 F, Gas 6
For pink lamb, 1 1/4 hours
For more well done, 1 1/2 – 1/34 hours
Shoulder of lamb is high in fat, and often thought to have the greatest flavour. It is roasted slowly – this meat does a lot of work as the sheep is constantly lowering its head to feed, and therefore can be a little tougher than leg.
Cook for 3 hours at 170 C, 325 F, Gas 3, basting it regularly with the juices in the roasting pan.
Chicken can be bought in joints; breasts with and without the bone and skin, thighs, drumsticks and of course whole birds.
Thigh meat is a cheap cut and makes excellent curries and casseroles. Thighs with the skin and bone still on are good seasoned with salt and pepper and roasted in a large tin for about 30-40 minutes at 190C/gas mark 5.
Drumsticks can also be roasted in the same way as thighs always check to see the juices are running clear by pushing a sharp knife in the thickest part of the meat after about 30 minutes.
Chicken breasts are very versatile they can be left whole and wrapped in bacon or pancetta and roasted on an oiled baking sheet for 30 minutes at 190C/gas mark 5.
Or oil and season the breast with salt and pepper and wrap in a foil with some sliced garlic cloves and oven bake at 200C/gas mark 6 for about 30 minutes.
A whole bird can take an hour to roast at 180C, 350 F, Gas 4 – but it is important that the whole of the bird reaches 75 C, 170 F for at least 15 minutes – you are best using a probe thermometer when cooking chisken and pother poultry.
A turkey crown is simply the breast attached to the bones of the carcass, the wings and legs having been removed. They are useful if you don’t need all that meat.
The crown can become dry, as it takes a long time to cook, so you have to make sure it remains moist. The best way to do this is firstly, pushing butter under the skin of the crown – small amounts, but use a whole 250 g packet.
Then, as it cooks, baste the crown in it’s juices every 20 minutes.
Cook at 180 C, 350 F, Gas 4 for 25 minutes per kilo plus an hour.
Remember as for chicken, it needs to be completely cooked, so use a thermometer to check the deepest part of the meat reaches 75 C, 170 F for at least 15 minutes.
On the whole you can treat the whole turkey as a crown, but there are some differences.
Firstly, there are giblets in a bag inside the bird, so remove them before you cook it.
You need a big roasting pan.
You need to make a tent of aluminium foil to cook the bird for most of the cooking time, though you can remove it for the last 30 – 60 minutes. This is to protect the bird from over cooking on the outside.
Put a lot of butter under the skin to keep it moist. You can lay the bird on some leeks in the roasting pan, upside down – breast facing downwards. This ensures the juices falling into the pan fall into the breast first, keeping it moist.
Counteract too much evaporation by lining the outside of the bird with fatty bacon, the breast, the legs and wings.
Cook at 180 C, 350 F, Gas 4 for 20 minutes per kilo and add 90 minutes to the cooking time.
Baste the turkey every 30 minutes and pour off excess liquid into a pan for gravy and soup.
You must be careful when handling a turkey, they are heavy and pouring hot liquid from a heavy pan is dangerous. You can use a baster to suck out the liquid if you wish.
It is important you defrost turkeys fully before cooking. This process can take upwards of three days, so you need to plan ahead.
Take the roasting dish with the bits of meat left behind, all the fat and juices too. Place it on the cooker hob on a medium heat.
Sprinkle the flour into the meat and stir with a wooden spoon, get all the bits out of the corners, they are full of flavour.
Add the stock and bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.
Season to taste and add a tablespoon of gravy browning if needed.
Alternatively you can simply add the stock to the meat juices and add the appropriate amount of gravy granules, stirring all the time. (The instructions on the packet will give the amounts. Products such as Bisto have been used for many years for this purpose.