One of the oldest and simplest cooking techniques, roasting is a dry-heat method of oven-cooking foods in an uncovered pan. Roasting need not be limited to a turkey or beef for a holiday dinner. Many other foods can also be roasted, including a wide variety of meats, poultry, fish and shellfish as well as fruits and vegetables. Because preparations for roasting are minimal—trussing, trimming, seasoning, stuffing, marinating—once the food is in the oven, your work is almost done.
Roasting works well for tender cuts of meat with plenty of marbled interior fat, for poultry with the skin on or for seafood, which is lean but cooks quickly enough that it will not dry out in the oven. Some vegetables and fruits, including potatoes and other root vegetables, apples and pears, also take well to roasting.
One of the most appealing qualities of roasted foods is the beautiful and delicious brown crusts that develop in the oven. Contact with heat causes the sugars and proteins in food to form compounds on the surface similar to caramel, forming a flavorful crust. Simultaneously, the steady oven heat slowly penetrates to the center of the food, which remains juicy. This irresistible counterpoint of caramelized crust and tender interior makes roasting a favorite cooking method. When the pan is deglazed after roasting, the caramelized drippings provide a flavorful foundation for a pan sauce or gravy.
For more information about roasting as well as recipes, click on the links at right.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Roasting, by Barbara Grunes (Simon & Schuster, 2002 ).