Roasting is a cooking method that uses dry heat, whether an open flame, oven, or other heat source. Roasting usually causes caramelization or Maillard browning of the surface of the food, which is considered a flavor enhancement. Roasting uses more indirect, diffused heat (as in a oven), and is suitable for slower cooking of meat in a larger, whole piece. Meats and most root and bulb vegetables can be roasted. Any piece of meat, especially red meat, that has been cooked in this fashion is called a roast. In addition, large uncooked cuts of meat are referred to as roasts. Roasting is a much slower method of cooking. A roast joint of meat can take one, two, even three hours to cook - the resulting meat is tender. Also, meats and vegetables prepared in this way are described as "roasted", e.g., roasted chicken or roasted squash.
For roasting, the food may be placed on a rack, in a roasting pan or, to ensure even application of heat, may be rotated on a spit or rotisserie. During oven roasting, hot air circulates around the meat, cooking all sides evenly. There are several theories for roasting meats correctly: low-temperature cooking, high-temperature cooking, and a combination of both. Each method can be suitable under appropriate circumstances.
- A low-temperature oven, 95 °C to 160 °C (200 °F to 325 °F), is best when cooking with large cuts of meat, turkey and whole chickens. This is not technically roasting temperature, but it is called slow-roasting. The benefit of slow-roasting an item is less moisture loss and a more tender product. At true roasting temperatures, 200 °C (400 °F) or more, the water inside the muscle is lost at a high rate.
- Cooking at high temperatures is beneficial if the cut is small enough—as in filet mignon or strip loin—to be finished cooking before the juices escape.
- The combination method uses high heat just at either the beginning or the end of the cooking process, with most of the cooking at a low temperature. This method produces the golden-brown texture and crust, but maintains more of the moisture than simply cooking at a high temperature, although the product will not be as moist as low-temperature cooking the whole time. Searing and then turning down to low is also beneficial when a dark crust and caramelized flavor is desired for the finished product. Note that searing in no way "locks in" moisture: moisture loss is simply a function of heat and time.
In general, in either case, the meat is removed from heat before it has finished cooking and left to sit for a few minutes, while the inside cooks further from the residual heat content, a phenomenon known as carry over cooking.
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