Holiday EntertainingHow to CookGrillingRoastingHolidaysRoast Chicken

For a Juicier Holiday Roast, Pretend Your Oven is a Grill

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The basic problem with roasting your roast in a roasting pan, even with a V rack, is uneven cooking. The bottom of your roast is shielded from heat circulation, and if there are vegetables in the pan to catch any drippings, the temperature at the bottom of your roast will be even cooler (sometimes 100° F cooler). Meanwhile, the top of your roast will be exposed, basking in direct heat, getting a beautiful crisp exterior. Half the roast in one state, and the other half is in a whole other one. You could flip your roast partway through, but that can be precarious.

Soooo, what now?

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Well if it were up to Meathead, the author of the eponymous book, this predicament would never happen. He’d have thrown out your roasting pan long ago. “I hate the roasting pan,” he hardly sugarcoated when he talked rib roast on Facebook Live. Go to his website to see how he really feels about the roasting pan:

Now that you're not going to use a you know what (r-o-a-s-t-i-n-g p-a-n), Meathead has two—unorthodox but also sage—suggestions. You could grill your roast (he's a capital-G Griller), or you could use your oven like you do a grill, by which we mean put your roast directly on your oven rack. Like, right on the racks, like you do on a grill. Yes, I said that.

Here’s the set up:

  • Position your oven racks about 2 inches apart towards the upper part of your oven.
  • Put a piece of foil down on the bottom rack.
  • Put a pan of any sort on the foil-lined rack. You can stick your meat scraps and bones, aromatics, wine, and/or stock in the pan—this is where the drippings will drip.
  • Put your well-oiled roast (and that means your rib roast, but also pork crown roast, turkey, chicken, leg of lamb) on the top rack.

The meat then gets heat circulation all the way around, including from the bottom—and you won’t need to turn it at any point. You’ll still get to make a good sauce with the drippings, you’ll just also have a uniformly juicy piece of meat to go along with it.

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Left to right: problematic to beautiful, evenly cooked orbs.
Left to right: problematic to beautiful, evenly cooked orbs. Photo by Meathead

Concerns?

If the thought of putting meat right on oven racks just makes you think about how much you’ll have to clean, remind yourself that you clean grill racks; this is the exact same idea.

If you’re worried the meat will stick to the racks, think again to your grill; if you oil your meat, yes it will at some point stick to the racks, but as it cooks and dries out, it will release.

If you still can't stop thinking about the cleaning involved, you could wrap the rack rods with foil, making sure the exposed areas between rods are still exposed so heat can circulate close to the meat. Meathead says you could spray racks with oil, but that can get a little messy when the oil drips.

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Sold now? Here are the details.

  • You’ll want to cook cuts with exterior bones (like your rib or crown roast) without its bones: Bones on the meat’s exterior act as a heat shield (much like a roasting pan does). They prevent heat from getting to the meat in an even fashion, and they don’t add enough flavor to make their presence worthwhile. A butcher can cut the bones off for you, or you can do it yourself. Stick those bones in that dripping pan!
  • By the same token, you want the roast to be as uniform in shape as possible because you want heat to travel from all sides at the same rate. Squish the meat into a cylinder and tie it with some twine if necessary.
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  • You’ll want to cook your roast low and slow so the heat has a chance to travel through. Say, 300° F or 325° F.
  • You will know when the meat’s done when the meat thermometer—not the clock—tells you so. This is so important that if you’re invited to Meathead’s Christmas, he might give you a meat thermometer. Cook time is determined by the thickness of your cut, not the weight, so only a thermometer can determine when heat has sufficiently traveled through your whole roast.
  • Because the meat is cooking at a low temperature, it might not develop the crust you want. No big deal! Once the roast is just about done, crank up the heat on your oven to reverse-sear it.

For more of Meathead's wisdom on roasts, check out his Facebook Live.

Tell us: What's your go-to holiday roast?