Roasting Meat 101 | Cook's Illustrated
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Roasting Meat 101

By Cook's Illustrated Published March 2008

A properly cooked roast is simple and satisfying. It is also a rarity. Here's how to make a great roast every time.

Choosing a roast can be a confusing endeavor, and once you've made a selection it's important to use the right roasting method. We've developed two categories of roasting that work best for different kinds and cuts of meat: fast and high and slow and low. Here is a list of our favorite cuts of beef, pork, and lamb, along with the best way to roast them.

Fast and High

Though lower oven temperatures generally guarantee more evenly cooked meat, small, narrow roasts like beef tenderloin and rack of lamb depend on a relatively quick cooking time to ensure juicy, tender meat. Roast these cuts at an oven temperature of 450 degrees.

Favorite Cuts for Fast and High: Beef

  • Tenderloin: The most tender cut of beef money can buy, but the flavor is mild.
  • Top Sirloin Roast: As flavorful and juicy (though not as tender) as the rib roast at a fraction of the cost.
Lamb
  • Rack of Lamb: The extreme tenderness of this mild-tasting cut commands a high price tag. It usually contains eight or nine ribs, depending on how the meat has been butchered.

Slow and Low

Heat takes a long time to penetrate into the center of large cuts of meat such as prime rib, leg of lamb, and rack of pork, making them susceptible to a thick outer swath of gray, overcooked meat. To prevent this problem, roast large cuts slowly at 250 degrees for beef and 325 degrees for pork.

Favorite Cuts for Slow and Low:

Beef

  • Rib Roast, First Cut: The standard for roast beef. This cut is extremely tender and flavorful, albeit on the expensive side.

Pork

  • Boneless Blade Roast: The most flavorful cut from the loin, with a fair amount of fat that allows it to remain juicy to roasted.
  • Center Rib Roast: Though not as juicy as blade roast, this lean roast is flavorful and widely available.

Lamb

  • Leg of Lamb: This cut is not as tender as the rack, but it boasts fuller flavor. It may be sold with the bones in but is more commonly found butterflied and boneless, making preparation easier.

Beef Tenderloin

Top Sirloin Roast

Rack of Lamb

Rib Roast, First Cut

Boneless Blade Pork Roast

Center Rib Pork Roast

Leg of Lamb