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How To Choose and Cook a Roast

roast beef

Let’s first get our terminology straight, what exactly is a roast? Basically, a large portion of meat cut from any region of the animal is a roast.  From those large pieces, thinner cuts are made and those are steaks and from those steaks, strips and chunks are cut and those are best for stir-fry and stews. Roasts are cooked in the oven at higher temperatures for shorter periods of time.  That’s why they need to be cut from regions of the animal that start out tenderer. Forget about the fancy schmancy made up names that every butcher has concocted. What you need to consider is that

cuts from the chuck or shoulder region are going to be tougher than those cut from the rib. For a solid piece of meat from the chuck look for the Square or French roast, or one of my favorites the Silver Tip.  That cut is lean and solid (good traits in a mate) and should be roasted to rare. However, if you want to dazzle your dinner guests then move next door to the best (and most expensive) roast from the rib section. This is a ritzy neighborhood known for its juicy beefy cuts.  The seven ribs in this section are used to create the glorious standing rib roast. Cuts from the short end will have less bone and a meatier eye. You can also cut a boneless version, which becomes a rib-eye roast. It is leaner but also less flavorful because it is usually trimmed of its fat and is missing the hearty bones.

Other cuts of meat can be roasted.  There are shoulder roasts, which are a little piecey as the shoulder is more segmented.  I usually suggest rolling and tying a shoulder roast and preparing it with a savory stuffing.  A lamb shoulder is a perfect cut for this prep.  You can also roast cuts from the breast; they are fatty but succulent and can be roasted with or without their bones and served stuffed or unstuffed. Breast of veal is a good example of a savory cut from the breast region.  It doesn’t yield a lot of meat, but it is very flavorful.

Any way you slice it all you need is a lovely ladleful of au jus to make a stunning statement and bring any roast to life.

Here are a few of my favorite roast recipes for a Roast Beef, a Veal Roast with Chicken Liver Stuffing and a Roasted Lamb with Lemon Potatoes. There are lots more in The Kosher Carnivore, so I hope you will explore that book and find your favorites. Whether you choose a cut from the breast, shoulder, chuck or rib, many of the same principles apply.   Here are a few simple rules to follow:

  • Have the proper roasting pan- size does matter, and a rack will help the air circulate around the meat for more even browning.
  • Most roasts need 15-20 min./pound but that can vary with the starting temp of the preparation, so have an instant read thermometer on hand to test for doneness.  You can also gauge by watching the meat.  When it stops rendering juices, you know it is beginning to over cook.
  • Be sure to let the meat rest loosely covered with foil (it will gain 5 to 10 degrees)
  • Prepare your gravy using the tiny bits of brown goodness that cling to the bottom of the roasting pan.  Place it directly on the stove and thicken with a slurry of water and cornstarch should you want a thicker gravy.
  • Don’t hack at your meat, use a good carving knife to cut even slices
  • And, most importantly, be sure to engage your butcher in a dialogue.  Starting with the right piece of meat will make all the difference.