A Shout Out To “The Roast”

By Chef Craig Rodger

Roasting food in the oven is a time honoured technique for several good reasons. Here a few reasons why I think everyone should roast a piece of chicken, meat or fish once every week.

  • It allows you to cook a large number of portions at once. In other words you can place one item in the oven and feed several hungry people without having to individually cook pieces of chicken or steaks.
  • Something magical happens to food in the oven. Meat slowly and evenly turns golden and delicious, unappetizing layers of fat begin to melt and become crispy and irresistible. Roasting juices begin to collect and gather round vegetables that have been roasting beside the main piece of meat or fish. It is almost impossible to recreate on top of a cooker the constant controlled heat that produces the characteristic roasting flavours.
  • Seriously, what can be easier? You season a piece of meat, chicken or fish with salt, pepper, some herbs and spices if you like, then you drizzle some oil or lump some butter on top so it’s good to go. The only tricky part is cooking it to the correct degree, but this gets way easier over time and if you follow some guidelines about how long for a given weight you will get much more accurate results – you could go the rest of the way and treat yourself to a meat thermometer, they are cheap and you can get one online within the week, it basically guarantees beautifully cooked meat every time.
  • It’s economical. $30 worth of meat will feed a family of 4 and provide leftovers that can be used to make another delicious meal. Using seasonal vegetables to roast alongside the meat or fish imparts them with a beautiful flavour and ensures you don’t miss out on your vegetable intake.
  • It’s the ultimate timesaver. You can have the meat or fish in the oven while you prepare a salad and have some green vegetables like green beans or broccoli prepped and ready to be blanched closer to tea time, other than that dinner is ready.

So here’s how my 3 step guide to an easy, perfect roast:

  1. Remove the meat or chicken from the fridge 45 minutes before you need, this will raise the core temperature and ensure the meat is evenly cooked reducing the amount it dries out.
  2. Season liberally and with a bit of flair. Stuff the cavity of chicken with some lemon or orange, push some sage or thyme under the skin of the chicken, blitz some garlic, rosemary and capers with oil and massage into your leg of lamb or beef sirloin. Don’t skimp on the salt – remember you’re not only seasoning the surface, you need enough salt for the entire piece of meat including the centre –  the salt finds it’s way into the meat one way or another.
  3. Control the time and temperature. For all the benefits of roasting it only asks for a little bit of care and attention in return. Begin the roast at around 180°C for 20 minutes then reduce the temperature down to around 140°C and let the temperature carry through slowly into the centre of the meat. Lastly, allow your meat, chicken, even fish to rest. This allows the remaining heat to finish cooking the meat or fish and also allows some of the intense heat to escape meaning the meat or fish should be juicy and succulent when you carve it.

I hope you have a go at roasting, it is such a good skill to have and with a bit of practice you will be a pro in no time – if you overcook the meat you can always transform it into a stew or a curry but it’s actually impossible to go too far wrong with a roast!

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