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The Science Of Roast: How To Make The Perfect Roasted Meat

The Science Of Roast: How To Make The Perfect Roasted Meat

It's one of the family meal dish par excellence, but it's not so easy to make as it seems: find out how physics could help you while making this famous recipe

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Let’s begin with a warning: what you’re about to read may challenge much of what you believe to be true about cooking. After all, we’re talking about a dish that many people view as simple and straightforward – the roast, the family meal dish par excellence. But the truth is that a roast isn’t what it seems; its success depends on myriad factors, like the choice of meat and putting to use some little tricks once it’s done. We’re here to unveil those secrets.

About the meat. “Roast” is a generic term, indicating a cooking method which can be applied to various kinds of meats. The most common kinds are beef, pork, chicken and turkey. Beef roasts are probably the most popular, and is selected based on the quantity of collagen, the protein that gives meat its consistency. Contrary to what many think, a roast shouldn’t be cooked much, so it’s a good idea to choose a cut with less collagen – this is why veal is such an ideal choice.

Now for the roasting itself, and the de-bunking of a myth. Long cooking times are needed for cheaper cuts, those high in collagen, which the heat helps to tenderize. Think of stews, for example. But now that we know that a roast should be made with superior-quality meat, cooking time should never exceed two hours – in the oven. While some recipes call for the use of a pan, a real roast is roasted solely in the oven. Before placing it in the oven pan, however, you must first prepare the meat. A “roll” should be patted with paper towels to eliminate as much water as possible, and then greased everywhere with oil and butter, then quickly browned in a pan over a high flame. This high temperature produces a Maillard reaction, which, thanks to the conductivity of the oil and butter and the compounds present on the meat’s surface, will give a nice caramelized aroma. Afterwards, the meat should be placed in an already heated oven, ideally with on skewer, which, as it turns, guarantees an even cooking throughout. If you don’t have one, a classic roasting dish is fine, but the meat should be turned every so often.

So now that we’ve given you some tips, let’s get straight to the recipe for the perfect roast. Heat the oven to 180°C, and in the meantime, prepare the filling: mixed ground pork and beef, salt, spices, bread crumbs and beaten eggs. Place the filling over the meat and roll it, tying it with kitchen string. Massage the roll with oil and butter, not using salt or pepper. At high temperatures, salt will cause the meat to lose liquid and dry it out, while pepper may give the dish too strong a flavor for some palates. Season only at the end: yes, another myth de-bunked!

Brown the roast evenly in a pan over high heat, pouring a cup of either red or white wine over it and letting it evaporate. Now put the roast in a greased oven pan and place in the oven. After a half hour, turn it. Another half hour should be enough. Once you remove the pan from the oven, season the roll with salt and pepper and wrap it in foil. In the meantime, put the pan on the stove and when it’s heated, pour in a bit of wine or water, a pinch of salt and scrape the bottom with a wooden or plastic spoon, using the water to scrape up all of the delicious crust. At this point, it will form a sauce, and let it condense to your desired thickness. The result is guaranteed to please even the most demanding of family members at any Sunday lunch.

Still curious to know how physics could help you while at the stoves? Don't miss our articles about food and science!

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