There are many cookbooks that give instructions for roasting and many of them are quite wrong! Well, incomplete as to what’s going on anyhow. Your cookbook may say to cook a roast for this long at that temperature and even when you follow instructions carefully and take the roast out at just the right temperature the roast gets overdone! The turkey is dry or the beef overdone and dry. Residual heat is the culprit and allowing for it will give you the right results. This is called the “Post oven heat rise”.
The size of the roast and the ambient room temperature both affect the finished roast. When you test a large roast as it comes out of the oven you will find that the outer layers are much hotter than the inside. This heat has to go someplace! If you put the roast in a cool place, that heat is drawn out of the roast, put it in a warm place and the heat will continue moving toward the center thus cooking the roast.
Plan to allow at least a half-hour for the roast to “rest” in a warm place before you will carve it. This allows the heat to rise to finish the cooking and the juices to settle down. When you carve a roast too soon the juices will spill out and the roast will end up being much drier than in a roast that has been rested.
A small roast. When a roast is as small as 4 pounds or less it is likely to lose heat fast enough so you must cook it to the final temperature in the oven. Treat a small roast like a steak, table below.
A large roast such as a Prime rib or a fresh ham will have more residual heat than a smaller roast and the post oven heat rise can overcook these pieces. Use the table below with finished cooking temperatures.
Prime rib; Or a large roast, take a whole rib out of the oven when it is at 120 degrees in the center for rare or 130 degrees for medium-rare and put it in a warm place away from any drafts (or cover it lightly with foil) to trap the heat and finish the cooking. Allow at least a half-hour before serving it and you should end up with rare to medium-rare. You can use this time to make your job easier, less last-minute running around to finish the meal.
Chefsref on the best countertop oven. I’ve been using this oven for years and it performs spectacularly. This oven actually heats to and holds the correct temperature which is unusual for a countertop oven.
Stuffed Pork Loin
When roasting anything with stuffing the temperature of the stuffing is critical. You must cook the stuffing to a temperature of at least 265 degrees or you risk food poisoning and by the time you reach an internal temperature of 265 the outer layer of meat will probably be overcooked. For this reason, I rarely cook stuffed meats, I cook the stuffing separately.
Season and roast
Seasoning; There is no evidence that salting a roast actually pulls out any more juices than not salting so season to your heart’s content. Personally, I like Worcestershire sauce brushed over my beef roasts with garlic and onion powders and a light dusting of thyme. When using powdered spices it’s a good idea to spray the seasoned roast with a vegetable oil spray to keep the spices from drying out too quickly. Insert slivers of garlic into any roast at all if you like garlic. Experiment and find something that makes it your own dish, the spice companies online have some wonderful spice mixes worth trying.
Cooking temperatures; There have been endless experiments with the oven temperature and no consensus has been reached, so, that being said it’s all about personal preference. For a beef roast at home, I like to start at a very high temperature say 500°, and reduce the temperature right away to 300° or less. This allows the crust to get brown and delicious while the insides cook slowly to become tender. Most any other roast I would cook at 325° which seems like a good compromise between browning and cooking the interior. Commercially we have a slow cook and hold ovens that let us cook a roast very slowly so the enzymes can break down connective tissue and yield meltingly tender roasts.
Over-cooking: What if you overcook the roast? The same knowledge may bail you out of trouble. If the roast is not too far gone, quickly put it in the refrigerator! The cool air in the fridge will pull the heat out of the surface and overcome the internal heat rise. You can’t un-cook a roast so pay attention; the best you can do is preventing it from getting any worse.
Wire racks. Consider buying a wire rack to place under your roast. Turkey will provide its own rack with the carcass but most roasts benefit by allowing an even transfer of heat to all areas of the roast. When you roast in a plain roasting pan, the bottom half-inch of the roast will cook more quickly than the rest because of the heat transfer from the pan.
Roasting Bags; These trap the juices around the roast and result in a “roast” that has been steam-cooked, the only use I see for these is for poultry to help retain some of the juices
Roasting charts are almost always wrong and again they are subject to too many variables to be of much use beyond a ballpark guess. Learn the characteristics of your own equipment and environment and you will be far better off than using any chart that gives you minutes per pound and temperatures to use when roasting. In my own experience, I’ve found that ovens placed side by side will need different times to cook identical products.
Thermometers and temps
Instant read thermometers: Oven temperature and how the heat moves in an oven play major roles so learn your own equipment and buy an instant-read thermometer. If you use a chart and it tells you the roast will be done in 2 hours start checking the temperature at 1 hour or the halfway point. This will tell you how fast it is cooking so you can get an idea of when to check again. Once you’ve done this a few times you’ll know what to expect and can adjust your cooking schedule. Remember any time you puncture a roast with your thermometer you are injecting whatever is on the thermometer into the roast, so wash between uses!
Buying and using an instant-read thermometer. One thing that is usually overlooked is the dimple! Look at the shaft of a pocket thermometer, a little way up from the tip should be a dimple. This is a warning! The thermometer is designed to be inserted in food up to the dimple, insert any less and the reading is not reliable. Avoid buying a thermometer that lacks this simplicity.
Finished Meat Temperatures (Fahrenheit) NOTE: Steaks and small roasts are cooked to their final temperature in the oven/grill, roasts are purposely under-cooked a little to let the heat rise after it is removed from the oven:
Beef and Lamb
- Rare Steak or Small Roast 130° Roast 120°
- Medium-rare Steak or Small Roast 140° Roast 130°
- Medium Steak or Small Roast 145° Roast 135°
- Medium-well Steak or Small Roast 150° Roast 140°
- Well done Steak or Small Roast 160° Roast 155°
Poultry ALWAYS at least 165° for safety
The USDA does not recommend cooking a turkey in an oven set lower than 325º
Never stuff a turkey, by the time the stuffing has reached a safe temperature of 165º the meat is always overcooked. Poultry temperatures are critical, there is a great deal of contamination in our chicken that can only be corrected by cooking to a safe temperature.
Pork chops 155° Roast 145°
The FDA has recently reduced the safe temperature for pork to 145, ergo, if you cook your chops to 145, they will have a touch of pink but will be tender! The incidence of trichinosis is actually lower in pork now than that in beef. The pork industry is highly regulated as to what they are allowed to feed the livestock. The result is that we do not have to cook pork well done. In fact, a chop-cooked medium-well will be much more tender and juicy than one that has been cooked well done. If you’re buying your pork from farmer “Old McDonald” then to be safe cook it well done. The difference is that big commercial outfits are required to cook food before it is fed to hogs.