Tips for the Perfect Roast Dinner

Follow these handy tips and you too will be able to amaze your friends and family with a delicious roast dinner.  

Picking a roasting joint 

Your joint or whole bird for roasting should have a good layer of fat across the top or under the skin in the case of poultry.

Whatever you are planning to roast, get a joint that is at least double the size that you think you might need. Smaller joints just don't cook up as well - the smaller joints aren't as forgiving if you mess up on cooking times or temperature and they can end up dry and tough if you're not careful.

Cooking times

25 minutes/500 grams (1 pound) + 25 minutes

I follow the same cooking times for every roast, whether it be beef or lamb, pork or chicken. Different sites will faff* about with telling you to adjust oven temperatures and cooking times. I've used the same times for all my roasts for years with success and so can you.

If you are stuffing the joint be sure to weigh it after stuffing and use that weight for calculating the cooking time.

Following this guide, a 2.5kg chicken would get a cooking time of 25 minutes X 5 + 25, or 150 minutes (2 hours, 30 minutes)


*(faffing) To muck about, wasting time doing something not necessary.
 

Oven temperatures

I always set my oven temperature at Gas Mark 6 when roasting meat. 

Remember the basics of physics apply in the oven. Heat rises. So unless you have a fan that is blowing the air around inside your oven, the top 1/3 is going to be slightly hotter and the lower 1/3 is going to be slightly cooler than the middle 1/3. 

I use this to my advantage when cooking a roast. Roast potatoes and other root vegetables need to be cooked at gas mark 7 in order to crisp up and turn golden brown, so I put one rack at the very top of the oven for those. These can easily fit into the oven over the joint of meat.  

If I have something that needs cooking at Gas Mark 5, I put it on the floor of the oven or I move a rack to the lowest setting. 

How to tell when the roast is cooked 

Pork and chicken need to be cooked through completely, so this is really important. 

I don't mess about with thermometers or all that. I use my nose, eyes and fingers to judge when meat is cooked. 

How does it smell? When food is cooked, it will begin to smell cooked. 

How does it look? Insert a skewer into a meaty part of the joint and look at the juices that come out. When the meat is cooked, those juices will run clear or slightly coloured. They won't be red or pink. If you prefer your beef roast to be towards the rare side, look for a pink tinged beef juice

How does it feel? Cooked meat will be firm to the touch. The softer it is when pressed, the less cooked it is. If cooking a chicken, give one of the legs a twist. It will move easily and will possibly even come loose in your hand when the bird is cooked.

A lot of these judgements here will come only with practice. So if you discover that the meat isn't quite as cooked as you expected it to be don't fret. Just pop it back into the oven, after reheating it, for another 15 - 30 minutes. I certainly had to do that many times over the first few years.