Chef Wayne Talks Techniques: Roasting

Let’s talk about techniques:

When I start to cook, I look first and probably foremost at my ingredients and decide which basic technique of cooking will yield the best flavor for the foods that are being used and the final dish. The techniques being; roasting, braising, blanching, sweating, stocks and sauces. These are my tools for creating a great dish.

First let’s look at roasting. Roasting is cooking with dry heat and I further break that down to pan roasting and oven roasting. Both are the same: pan roasting finishes the food in the same pan on top of the stove and is best for vegetables, fish and meats. Oven roasting starts on the stove and you later transfer the pan to the oven to finish the cooking. This is best for your thicker meat cuts and also for harder vegetables like potatoes and squashes.

Here are the basic steps we will cover: brown, gently roast, baste and rest.

First – brown the food on top of the stove in a pan with a small amount of oil on medium to medium high heat. I like to use iron pans at home. Do not worry about the food sticking to the pan when it is brown it will release, be patient!

Second – roast at about 325 – 375 degrees for best result. This helps the food to caramelize and evenly cook.

Third – about three-quarters of the way through roasting, add some butter to the pan, it will melt quickly as it combines with the pan juices. This is your basting liquid to spoon over your meat or fish during the last minutes of cooking.

Fourth – let your food rest! This simple act allows the redistribution of juices that have been forced to the center of the meat in the early stages of cooking. Usually about a five minute period of rest is required.

So now how do you tell if your food is done? Vegetables are cooked through when easily pierced with the tip of a knife. Fish can vary a bit, but usually fish is done when it turns opaque. Your fish can be removed from the pan when it still has a slight touch of translucency and by allowing to rest, it will finish cooking on its own. Tuna, on the other hand is best when seared on the edges yet rare in the center. Meats can be tricky, you can use your finger as a tester or a meat thermometer. Another trick is to use a long metal skewer inserted through the meat and left for a few seconds. When the skewer is removed and touched on your skin, if it feels warmer than your skin, the meat should be about medium rare or 125 degrees.

Let us also remember there can be a lot of variation in the timing of roasting such as your oven temperature or the thickness of the food. So, when reading a recipe, don’t take it as gospel. It is a guideline, check the food earlier than the recipe states and keep checking until it is done to your liking. Use your eyes.

– Chef Wayne Anderson

2 Responses to Chef Wayne Talks Techniques: Roasting

  1. Robert says:

    I make cornish game hen from time to time, but I have always started in the oven and basted with butter immediately and about every 15 minutes until done.

    Would your oven-roasting advice apply in that case?

    • Robert, you are working correctly in roasting the Cornish game hen. The game hen is a whole bird, just like a whole chicken or turkey and therefore can not be seared properly in a pan before finishing in an oven, and basting is an important part of your cooking process for both flavor and a nice crisp skin. — Wayne

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