A showstopping roast makes any holiday meal memorable. Use these essential tips to prepare a delicious, stress-free roast that impresses your guests. Our advice will help you achieve the best possible results regardless of your chosen roast.
1. Plan ahead and start early.
You don't want to be stressed and hurried when you'd rather be spending time with guests. Whether you're marinating, brining or simply salting (which is pretty much a dry brine), season early for optimal flavor, even days in advance. Also, remember that roasting a large piece of meat can take longer than expected, so start cooking early so you don't feel any last-minute pressure to get the food on the table.
2. Get the right size roast for your party size.
Plan on purchasing 1 pound of uncooked roast per person. This should provide about 8 ounces of cooked meat per guest with some extra for leftovers. Adjust as needed for bone-in cuts.
3. Salt properly in advance.
Salt is the most important seasoning for enhancing flavor and tenderness. Generously salt roasts at least 1 full day before cooking so the seasoning fully penetrates the meat. Diamond Crystal Kosher salt is an excellent choice. Check out Salt 101 to go even deeper on the important subject. And learn how to convert measurements for different types of salt.
4. Temper the meat.
Bringing a large cut of meat up in temperature is important for cooking evenly so the outside doesn't cook before the inside is done. It doesn't necessarily have to come to "room temperature," but leaving it out on the counter for 1 to 2 hours is perfectly safe and will be enough to make a big difference.
5. Cook to temperature, not by time.
Sure, a recipe might say how long something will take to cook. While that's a good baseline, it's not going to be completely accurate because of all the variables involved, including your specific piece of meat and its starting temperature, the oven temperature, humidity, etc.
A good meat thermometer is absolutely essential, which is the only way to know for sure when it's done.
My favorite that I use every day is a Thermapen instant-read probe thermometer. The ChefAlarm is an invaluable cooking alarm that has a probe you leave in the meat and it will let you know when it reaches the desired temperature.
6. Be aware of the pull temperature vs the finished temperature.
When you want that perfect doneness, you have to pull the roast out of the oven before it reaches the "done" temperature. The desired finished internal temperature is different from the temperature at which the roast needs to be pulled out of the oven or smoker to account for carry-over cooking. Depending on the size of the meat and the temperature it is cooked at, the internal temperature can continue to rise 5 to 15 degrees after it is out of the heat source.
If the roast isn't removed at the "pull temperature," it will overcook beyond what you were shooting for.
7. Cook it outside.
Cooking your holiday roast in the smoker is an amazing way to switch things up, and you might never go back. It also frees up your oven for making sides and desserts.
8. Turn on your range exhaust fan.
Chances are your oven (especially a natural gas range) emits combustion gases that can harm your indoor air quality. The hood vents them outside (hopefully) so you don't breathe them in, and it helps keep smells and smoke out of your house.
9. Know your oven.
Just because your oven dial is set to a specific temperature, doesn't mean it's actually calibrated perfectly. Place an oven thermometer inside your oven so you know the actual temperature and can adjust accordingly. Also, keep that oven door closed as much as possible so heat doesn't escape.
10. Splurge on the meat.
11. Don't skip the rest.
Especially if you're in a hurry, there's a temptation to pull the roast out of the oven and carve right away. Don't. This Smoked Prime Rib is a good example: 30 minutes of rest gives it enough time to reabsorb the juices so they don't run out when slicing.
12. Slice to serve.
Slicing the entire roast before you serve it can lead to drying out and cooling too fast. Always slice against the grain and a sharp knife makes all the difference. A long Granton slicing knife is my favorite.
13. Plan a week of meals around the leftovers.
I really hope you and your loved ones enjoy your holiday roast as much as I enjoy helping you make it perfect. Knowing that people are having more fun cooking and eating with their loved ones is the best part of my job.
Essential Tools & Equipment
These are my favorite tools I use every time a roast is involved.
- Butcher twine
- Large cutting board
- Thermapen instant-read probe thermometer
- Remote thermometer
- Long slicing knife
- Diamond Crystal kosher salt