The Cheap-Ass Gourmet Cooking School: Roasting


Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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31 Responses

  1. Tod,

    These look like great recipes and I can’t wait to try them. (I realize you mean them to be more than just “recipes” and more a way to introduce roasting, but I’ll try them out first.)

    One suggestion: I have a one roasting recipe that I got from America’s Test Kitchen (a show I love). That recipe calls for fresh thyme and fresh rosemary. I used to get so frustrated chopping up the thyme and rosemary (and spending a lot of money on it), that I made the switch to dried versions, and the stress went away. In other words, in some cases, dried herbs might be better for some people, although it’s probably easier to go overboard.

    Also, what is your opinion on brining? (A brine, as I understand it, refers to soaking in salt water or perhaps pre-seasoning with salt, which supposedly somehow preserves moisture and flavors the meat….maybe it wouldn’t be good for those who need to cut salt intake.) As I said above, I’m a fan of test kitchen, and they’re big on brining.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      @pierre-corneille Oh, very good questions.

      Regarding fresh vs. dried herbs, in many cases I have no preferences. Dill and tarragon are things I’m happy to have fresh, but I use them so seldom and so sparingly that I never bother to get anything but dried. Like you, I personally avoid fresh tiny leaf fresh herbs unless I can use the entire sprig. For example, if I have fresh thyme or oregano I’ll throw the whole thing into the roasting pan where I’m doing lamb, chicken, turkey, or any other dish where I might be making gravy.

      The only two things that I never, ever buy dry any more are mint and basil. Dried mint just doesn’t pack the same punch that fresh does, and its large leafs are really easy to strip and chop. The same thing goes with basil, and I use basil’s stems a lot: muddled for cocktails, thrown into the pot when I’m making stock, and to make ice cream. Plus, fresh chopped basil added to things like pasta, salad, and stir fry is amazing in a way that can’t be duplicated by adding dried anything.

      As to the question about brining, you’re already ahead of the class. I wanted to keep today’s recipe’s as simple with as few steps as possible. We’ll actually be looking at brining later this week in one of the follow up posts.Report

      • Thanks, Tod. I look forward to the future posts. And in many ways I’m just a beginning cook, so these are all worthwhile.

        I agree that the fresh basil beats dried basil (I’m not a fan of mint, so I don’t use it). My main problem with fresh basil is that so far, I cook so rarely that buying it fresh at one go is just expensive because I usually only use part of it and throw the rest away. For that reason, I use dried most of the time

        Again, it’s great to read these posts, and I appreciate them.Report

  2. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    Do you have any suggestions if your cooking for one person? I generally like to cook at least one meal a week to keep my skills up. Its also a lot cheeper and healthier than take out. The problem is that a lot of recipes assume that your cooking for three or more people and I hate left overs. What does the single chef do?Report

    • Avatar NewDealer says:

      Think about it as saving more money if you cook dinner and it lasts two or three nights?Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Do you have an objection to eating leftovers?Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        The fact that they are usually much less palatable than a freshly cooked meal is a bad thing. Eating the same thing for a few days in a row is also not that great. I’m also at home for dinner inconsistently so I might make dinner one night and not get home till latter for the next two or three nights. That makes them really unappetizing.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Perhaps I ought to write a post on how to cook leftovers…?
        I’ve had food frozen for months, taken it out, microwaved it,
        and had it taste just as good — if not better, than the original.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        @leeesq I would argue that this is only partially correct. There are, in fact, three different categories of food when it comes to leftovers:

        Foods That Are Gross Reheated A Leftovers: For me, this includes burgers, hot sandwiches, white fish, shrimp.

        Foods That You Can Use to Make NEW New Foods: Meat from a roast chicken to make enchiladas, sliced steak for sandwiches, salmon in a salad.

        Foods That Are Actually BETTER The Next Day: Chili, enchilada casserole, most soups and stews, puttanesca.

        The trick is find out out which foods go into which categories for you, and to make the appropriate amount of each the first time.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Programmers Favorite: Cold Pizza.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        TodKelly, true that.

        Kim, cold or re-heated pizza is an afront to humanity. I have similar feelings about micro-wavable pizza but allow it as a necessary evil.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      FInd some friends in the same boat, and rotate who cooks for all of you.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      Another great question, and one that exposes a weakness of doing these as ongoing blog posts rather than a single book. As we continue the class, my hope is to use the skills we look at as a way to make food stretch.

      For example, if you are single even a single pork tenderloin is way more than one meal’s worth of food. And pork is notorious for drying out after that first meal. If you brine the pork first (which we’ll look at on Wed), though, the leftovers are still pretty moist.

      But there are other things you can do with that extra pork that we’ll look at down the road: When we look at stewing, we’ll look at how we can use part of that leftover tenderloin to make soups, stews, even chili. And all of those things can be portioned into single servings and put in the freezer, to be later microwaved for lunches and dinners. When I was single, I used leftover tenderloin in stir fry: I’d chop in up in cubes, and throw it in near the end, when I was adding the sauce.

      One of the things you’ll notice as we progress through the course is that you can find a way to use (and sometimes re-use) everything, even lots of things people mostly throw away as trash when making dinner.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        I marinade my pork tenderloins and roast them. Then I put them in salads, stir frys, etc. Just keep them covered in the the fridge and you’ll be fine.Report

    • Avatar Stella B. says:

      Omelets. Spaghetti carbonara. Steak and grilled vegetables. Stews, soups, chili and casseroles, portioned out and frozen (and labeled, trust me). Hunk of fish, some chopped vegetables wrapped in parchment paper and baked (“en papillote”). Frozen portion of fish roasted on a baking sheet with a big handful of olive oil drizzled asparagus next to it. Spaghetti sauce portioned into single servings and frozen. Chopped vegetables, pre-cut boneless chicken sauteed and finished with a slosh of coconut milk (freeze the rest in silicone muffin cups) and a scoop of curry paste. Chicken piccata. Weiner schnitzel.

      Take delicious leftovers for lunch the next day. Soon you will stop being a lonely single person.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Freeze, or find ways to love your leftovers.
      Make one tomato sauce, and then spice it up…
      Curry one day, Italian the next, Mexican the third.

      But I don’t understand hating leftovers. I find that’s
      mostly a question of finding something you REALLY like.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        You can’t argue that there is a difference between things just cooked and things reheated in microwave? The former is superior to the latter on all measures.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Oh, sure I can — ain’t you ever heard that chili tastes better the next day?
        ‘sides, if you want to cook it in a pot on low for 15 minutes, ain’t nothin’ stopping ya.

        Personally, I’ve done it both ways with chili, and I can’t really tell the difference. Maybe cooking on the stove dries it out a bit more…

        You do remember to stir frequently when you microwave, right??Report

  3. Avatar Kazzy says:

    There is a fairly idiot-proof approach to roasting meats that entails getting your oven to a very high initial temperature (500-550), cooking the meat at this temp for a certain amount of minutes per pound (depends on the type of meat), and then turning off the oven and letting the meat cook for a set period of time (usually 60-90 minutes, again depending on the type of meat) with the residual heat. The trick is that you absolutely cannot open the oven door at any point. If you do so, you lose the heat. I’ve done it with both a small pork loin in a large beef roast and both came out perfectly. I’ll see if I can dig up the calculations as they are a good way to really learn how to roast because of how much emphasis there is on, “Do nothing; let the heat do the work.” One of the biggest shortcomings of aspiring chefs are being busy bodies with their food.Report

    • @kazzy

      That’s probably a great way to roast. Unfortunately, I’m the type of person who’d always cave to temptation and open the door.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:


        That is what is so great about the method. If you peak, you’re going to end up with a giant slab of undercooked meat with little opportunity to recover it. It forces you to exercise self-control. I’m similar to you in that it was really hard for me to do but having pulled it off successfully a few times now, it’s much easier.

        It also has the added benefit of not needing any real monitoring. We did a giant beef roast for Christmas which I think needed 90 minutes with the residual heat. I left to go watch a movie and my mom was able to get a bunch of other things done and only had to pull out the roast when the timer went off.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        undercooked meat

        What the hell does that even mean?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        I’ll eat good beef basically raw and will take a quality pork product just to rare. But not everyone likes it that way and with bigger cuts (which this method is ideal for) you still need time to develop a good crust.Report

  4. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    A word on safety here, given some of the high temperatures. Teflon and chemically-similar synthetic non-stick surfaces will start to outgas fairly nasty stuff when heated above 400 °F or so. If you don’t know what the non-stick surface is, and can’t check the literature that came with the pan, don’t use it at those temps.Report

  5. Avatar Damon says:

    My Sis in law has an outstanding recipie for roasted root veggies. You choice, but can include, potatoes, carrots, parsnips,, sweet potatoes, basically any root veggie or all. Roast with your choice of spices or none but salt and pepper. They are….oustanding. Experimenting is encourages. 🙂

    Nice work Todd!Report

  6. Avatar Kim says:

    Barbacoa is one of the original cooking methods. And, if done in a pit, uses way less fuel than grilling (again, reflected heat and banked heat use less fuel).

    Every single village had a baker, so there was always banked bread, if not banked meat. But meat was for feast days, anyhow (about once a week).

    How much does your oven cost per use?Report

  7. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Todd, issue with your listing of temperatures for beef. I find that medium rare begins at 126°F, and medium 132. And so on, with the increments every 6° instead of the wider gradient you suggest. First time cookers should remember that texture of the changes as it pertains a higher temperature, but cooling it back down will not restore the texture of the meat. So if you take a piece of rare steak, keep its interior to a medium temperature, and then allow it to rest until the temperature once again is rare, it will look and feel like a medium state.

    Speaking of which, if you notice in Todd’s recipes for the pork tenderloin and chicken, he instructs the cook to allow the meat to sit after it is removed from the oven. Resting the meet after it has been roasted is an important part of the process. This is because the meet is still warm, and the warmth cooks to meet. Resting the meat allows this to dissipate and it brings the process of changing the texture of the meat to an end. Resist the temptation to slice into meat fresh out of the oven, because this will disrupt the resting process. Don’t worry, your meet will still be warm and delicious when you eat it.Report

  8. Avatar Miss Mary says:

    I’m really hungry now. Too early for lunch?

    Beets are sooooo yummy! 🙂Report

  9. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    Just got a chance to read this. Amazingly thorough Tod. My only issue is the roasted tomatoes. Not a fan. For some reason roasted tomatoes kind of gross me out. What is weird though is that I love them warm off the vine. I think maybe it is the too-hot juice that comes out or the way the skin wrinkles. Such a silly thing…

    I’ve been playing around with smoking a lot lately since I have a freezer full of wild game that needs to be honored appropriately. It’s been tough getting the cooking times right because the smoke really messes with the chemistry.Report