Roasting 101

So, kid, you wanna know about roasting? This isn’t just some arbitrary step in a recipe. This is the real deal, a technique you can master to make infinite meals out of any meat or veggie. Roasting may look easy as pie, but just like pie, it’s not all that easy. What a misleading idiom.

The Basics of Roasting

Roasting is what happens when you stick something in the oven, uncovered, at a temperature of 400 degrees F or higher. It’s referred to as a dry-heating method because it pulls moisture out of the food as it cooks, leaving crispy layers, caramelized flavors, and concentrated goodness in its wake. Rubbing the object of roastification with butter or oil will help it to cook evenly, but it won’t prevent the food from becoming too dry if you leave it in the oven too long. Thus, it’s very important to keep track of time and the internal temperature of the items cooking.

You’ll also need the right vessel to accommodate whatever you’re roasting. A baking sheet works fine, and a shallow pan is even better. Cast iron skillets can be good for roasting meat, but if you have any sort of roasting pan, you’ve hit the jackpot. Whatever you’re using, preheat the oven with the pan inside, so it will get warm and brown the bottom of your food slightly right as it hits the metal.

Below, I’m going to give you a few extra pointers on roasting vegetables and meat, though you can roast seeds, nuts, and some types of fruit as well.


Roasting Vegetables

If you want to roast a batch of vegetables, the first thing to do is make sure to cut them into roughly uniform sizes. This will aid in cooking the whole pan-full of veggies more evenly. If you’re roasting potatoes, try to dice them into the same shape. Trim asparagus and carrots so they are similar lengths and sizes. And if you’re roasting red peppers, it is best to work with whole halves of the pepper, skin-side up to start.

You’ll want to toss the food in oil or butter to coat each piece, and add seasoning before placing them in the pan. I find it best to line a pan with foil or parchment paper when roasting veggies, to aid in clean up afterward. With most vegetables, you should flip the pieces or shuffle the pan about half way through the total cooking time, to ensure both the top and the bottom are roasted sufficiently.

Here are some cooking times for roasting some common vegetables at 400 degrees F:

potatoes, peppers – 45 minutes

onion, garlic – 35 minutes

brussel sprouts, most types of squash – 30 minutes

carrots, asparagus – 20 minutes


Roasting Meats

And now onto the heavy stuff! There are many tips and tricks to the perfect roasted chicken or turkey, and just as many more for certain cuts of lamb, pork, and beef. The time it takes to roast these different items will vary, depending on type of meat and its weight. If you’re cooking small chunks of meat, like diced beef or shrimp, the cooking time will be much much shorter. Remember to cut the meat into uniform pieces if you are dicing it beforehand.

Sometimes a recipe will call for “binding” the meat, which means wrapping it in kitchen twine to hold the meat together as it gets more tender.You also may find a rack useful for cooking whole birds, which hoists the carcass off of the pan and makes the bottom (read: breasts) as crispy as the top. For almost all meat that you will roast, factor in a “resting” period after cooking, and have a cutting board nearby to lay the cut on as it cools.

Here is a list of commonly roasted meats, and what your meat thermometer should read when the cut is done cooking:


Ground red meat and pork: 160°F

Red meat and pork:145°F

Fish: 145°F

You can find tons more tips depending on what type of food you’re roasting, but these tecnhiques will cover the besics. Now that you’re on your way to becoming a roast-master, here are a few recipes to test your skills:

Roasted Cauliflower with Olives, Currants, and Tahini Dressing
Sweet and Savory Roast Pork

One comment

  1. […] Roasting is one of the easiest modes of preparing a vegetable. To do this with brussels sprouts, simply halve each sprout, as pictured above, toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil per pound, and stick on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Try to shuffle the sprouts around about halfway through to prevent them from sticking to the baking sheet. […]

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