To ensure meats and poultry roast to perfection, keep these guidelines in mind:
Meats such as chops and roasts are usually already trimmed closely of fat, but you may need to trim them more. Fat renders off during cooking and may burn, while the membranes will shrink and cause meats to curl up. Trim the fat to a 1⁄8-inch layer, and use the tip of a sharp knife to slit membranes at 1-inch intervals around the meat.
Although it's not essential, trussing poultry gives it a nicer shape and helps keep the drumstick and wing tips from overbrowning. For trussing tips, click on the link at right.
Whole fillets of beef, pork or lamb roast more evenly when trussed. Boneless roasts are also tied to give them a more uniform, attractive shape and to make them easier to carve. For tips on tying a boneless roast, click on the link at right.
Fish fillets do not need to be tied, but you should tuck the thin end under the rest of the fillet to keep it from drying out before the whole piece is cooked through.
Bringing Food to Room Temperature
Before roasting food, bring it as close as possible to room temperature. Remove the food from the refrigerator shortly before you're ready to preheat the oven. This takes off some of the chill, so the outside won't overcook before the center is done. In the interest of safety, however, it is best not to leave uncooked meat or poultry out for more than 2 hours, or less time in warm weather.
Baste food regularly as it roasts. Pull out the oven rack and brush or spoon pan drippings, a marinade or a glaze over the food. This adds color, promotes the formation of a crust and helps prevent the food from drying out.
Basting liquids are often the accumulated pan juices, but they can also be melted butter (flavored or not), or various mixtures based on water, stock, wine or beer. Basting liquids should also include fat, which enhances flavor.
When turning foods, use tongs or, for smaller foods, a large spoon. Avoid using a fork, which will pierce the skin and allow juices to run out.
Before carving, a meat or poultry roast benefits from resting at room temperature for 5 to 15 minutes after removing it from the oven. This allows time for the juices to settle back into the meat and permits the internal temperature to stabilize. The meat will be more moist and easier to carve. Tenting the roast with aluminum foil will keep it warm while it rests, but this will cause the skin to steam slightly.
For tips on carving a turkey, click on the link at right. The same technique can be used for carving a chicken.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series: Roasting by Barbara Grunes, (Simon & Schuster, 2002)
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