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Home Cooking

Another method: Classic roasting (at least for small cuts)

AlexRast | Dec 28, 2014 01:52 PM

Yesterday I decided to experiment with an entirely unconventional method for roasting. As some will know, in older times roasts were done before a fire, in the open. Some think the move to roasting in a closed oven has diminished the classic roast to a baked joint, and having had the open-fire method many times, I'll admit there is perhaps some truth in that.

However, I reasoned that a reasonable emulation might be achieved, by turning the oven on to high, and when at full temperature (225 C), switching it from oven to broiler, opening the oven door, and only then popping in the roast.

For the experiment I was using a whole beef fillet, one of the easier targets for such an experiment because its thin profile means it should cook fairly quickly anyway. To further the experience I made Yorkshire pudding as well. I started the Yorkshire in the closed oven at 225 and gave it just enough time to start puffing (about 10 minutes). Then I positioned the joint directly above it but still at some distance from the broiler (we're not broiling here; it should be "before" the broiler element but not right up against it) and left the oven door open.

As expected, the Yorkshire immediately collapsed and the house filled with smoke (I did have all the windows open and the fan on, though, to mitigate the problem) After cooking the fillet for 20 minutes with the broiler on the whole time at maximum, I took it out, reverted to oven and left the Yorkshire in. It's notable that even with the door open, the temperature hadn't dropped below 225 during the roasting phase.

I then made the gravy. There were considerably more drippings in the pan than what I would have got with a conventional closed-door method, indeed so much more that I was worried the joint might be overdone above the desired rare. (See separate discussion on my own problems with gravy, not strictly relevant here)

During the gravy-making interval, meanwhile, the Yorkshires completely re-puffed. So nothing lost there, and in fact the result was slightly better, with a crisper top but moister, more custardy centre, not dry. However the difference is marginal.

But the roast itself was spectacularly better than the usual method. It exactly recaptured the flavour I remember from roasts over a fire on the beach that my father used to do. Terrific, heavily browned external "crust", strongly meaty interior, and it wasn't overdone in spite of my concerns.

So at least for small roasts, if smoking the kitchen isn't a concern, this seems to be a viable technique. I suspect you need a limitless power budget if you're going to do a large, thick roast like a fore rib but if it's a small one I would say it's worth trying. I would certainly say it's the closest you'll get to the older before-the-fire method.

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