Roasting Meat & Poultry — Full Guide

Roasting is the cooking of good quality joints of meat, whole poultry and game by radiated heat in the oven using fat as a basting agent. The object is to retain the juices within the meat so that the result is moist, succulent and tender. The preparation of the joint or cut of meat and poultry is of vital importance. Substandard preparation results in a poorly roasted item with excess waste when carved whilst the problems encountered are often impossible to correct.

General application:
All items to be roasted should first be seasoned with salt and, if desired, pepper and a range of spices and herbs before being placed in the oven. A general guide is to allow 300 g prepared raw meat per portion to be cooked on the bone, or 150 g prepared raw meat per portion to be cooked with bones removed. Allow approximately 15 minutes per 500g plus an extra 15 minutes’ cooking time for most meats but refer to individual recipes for more precise information.

All items that do not have a natural coating of fat — with the exception of chicken and turkey – should first be either larded or barded. (Larding means inserting the meat with strips of speck or fat bacon; barding means slices of speck or fat bacon are wrapped over the exposed surface of the meat and tied into position but removed during the last period of cooking.)

Joints of meat are placed upon bones when roasted, poultry. items are not — see individual recipes for more precise detail.

Always select a roasting tray that is just large enough to hold the joint of meat comfortably – too large a tray will inevitably lead to the burning of the fat in the high temperatures attained during cooking.

Items of meat and poultry should be cooked at 220°C for the first 15-20 minutes. The heat should then be reduced to 180°C until the internal temperature of the joint reaches approximately 63-65°C for rare, 65-70°C and 80-85 °C for meat just cooked without traces of blood. It is usual to remove joints from the oven at 5°C below these figures as the meat continues to cook whilst resting on the hotplate prior to carving.

Once a roasted item is cooked it should be removed from the receptacle in which it was cooked as soon as possible. Joints should be retained in a tray, preferably on a wire grid, and the juices collected for future use in making the gravy.

(1) Roasted items should never be covered with a lid during cooking. However, large joints of meat and poultry may be loosely covered with foil or damp greaseproof paper to prevent burning during long roasting periods. This should be put on once initial coloration has taken place, generally after the first 15-20 minutes of roasting, but should be placed loosely so as to avoid sealing the meat completely.

(2) Some chefs quickly shallow fry joints of meat and poultry in an effort to seal in the juices before roasting. The effectiveness of this practice is not proven.

(3) Extensions to all roast joints may be achieved by using vegetables cut into various shapes and combinations of other garnishes to form colorful dishes with contrasting flavors and textures.

To test if cooked:
The requirements of the customer and the recipe being prepared and, to a certain extent, the individual characteristics of the meat in question itself are factors to be taken into consideration when judging whether a particular item is cooked to the required degree. It is possible to use a variety of criteria when judging whether meat is sufficiently cooked, e.g. the general appearance, the response of the meat to pressure, by the juices that emanate, or more accurately (especially for the inexperienced) by means of a thermoneedle or thermocouple which is pushed into the center of the joint and shows the internal temperature. The joint can then be removed from the oven cooked to the required degree thus ensuring there is no wastage from its being under- or overcooked.

Deciding whether an item is cooked by its appearance is a method which is far from ideal as there is no degree of accuracy in comparison with other methods of testing. For the experienced, however, it does give a reasonable indication and can generally be supported by a second test by one of the following methods.

When testing the meat by subjecting it to hand pressure a general rule is that the less resilience the meat has to pressure, the more well done it is.

When testing by thermopin or needle two methods may be adopted. The needle may be inserted into the thickest and fleshiest part of the joint to its centre to give a continuous reading whilst cooking.

Alternatively, the joint may be tested at the appropriate moment when it has been roasting for the prescribed time. The needle point should be inserted into the centre of the joint and left for a few moments until the needle stops at a constant reading. Joints that are cooked on the bone should be tested with the needle as close to the bone as possible to give an accurate reading.

Some roasting equipment have inbuilt thermocouples. The needle is inserted into the joint for the whole of the roasting process and gives a continuous temperature reading.

Piercing with a fork or trussing needle is an appropriate method for testing white meats such as lamb or veal. The fork or needle should be inserted into the centre of the thickest point and the juices that emanate should be clear when the joint is just cooked. (However, it should be remembered that lamb should be very slightly underdone therefore some traces of blood should be in evidence when tested.)
Poultry such as chicken and game items are usually tested with a fork or trussing needle. The centre of the leg joint should be pierced and the bird held in such a position that the juices can drip into a dish. If they are clear and free from all traces of blood then the bird is cooked. When testing turkey, the centre of the leg should be pierced with a fork to allow the juices to emanate; these
245 should be clear and free from all traces of blood.

The ease with which a fork or trussing needle penetrates is also an indication as to how well the meat is cooked; the less resistance to pressure the more it is cooked.

(1) Beef should be cooked until it is firm yet pink in color. The temperature reading at this point should be 63-65 °C.

(2) Both furred and feathered game should be kept underdone. If cooked thoroughly flavor will be lost and the flesh become stringy (see p. 264 for degree cooked).

(3) Lamb should be left with the flesh a slight pink color. The term used to describe this is rosé. The temperature reading at this point should be 63-65 °C.

(4) Veal and pork should be well cooked. The juices should be clear and free from traces of blood when the meat is cooked. The temperature reading at this point should be 80°C.

Assessment of items roasted
(1) The meat should be cooked to the correct degree. It should be moist and succulent, surrounded with a little clear roast gravy sufficient to cover the bottom of the dish. (This does not apply to roast joints of veal or turkey in which case the gravy should be slightly thickened.)

(2) The gravy should be clear, fairly brown in colour, free from fat or grease and seasoned. It should have the flavour of the meat it is served with.

(3) The garnish of picked watercress should be clean and fresh looking.


As a general rule all roast items require a clear unthickened gravy as given in 7.80 below, with the exception of turkey and veal which require a slightly thickened gravy. Brown veal stock is considered ideal as a basis for most roast gravies because its rather delicate flavor will blend with other flavors without predominating. However, brown stock made from turkey giblets and carcass bones is used as a basis for roast turkey gravy.

The flavor of the meat that the gravy is to be served with is derived mainly from the sediment of the roasting pan in which the item has been cooked. One liter of brown stock should yield” sufficient roast gravy for 10 portions. Some loss is experienced when making the stock into gravy because it is boiled and skimmed during the preparation and gives 6 dl of completed gravy. If served in a separate dish, however, then probably a little more will be required.

Roast Gravy
(1) Once the item roasted is cooked to the required degree remove it from the roasting tray and retain it in a warm place.

(2) Put the roasting tray on the stove and gently heat, allowing the sediment to settle.

(3) Drain off all the surplus fat allowing any sediment to remain in the tray.

(4) Add the brown stock and allow to simmer gently for a few minutes.

(5) Strain through a fine conical strainer into a deep pan. Reboil, skim off all traces of fat and other impurities that may come to the surface and season to taste.

(6) If necessary retain in a hot bain-marie for use as required.

(1) Some chefs insist on using either brown game or veal stock as a basis for roast gravy to be served with game.

(2) Roast gravy should be slightly brown in color, free from all traces of fat or grease and seasoned to taste.

(3) If the gravy is not brown enough then the color may be adjusted with a little gravy browning.


All joints of meat, poultry and game which are to be carved immediately once they are cooked should be allowed to stand for at least 10–20 minutes after removal from the oven. This allows the muscle to relax to make carving easier and so yield the maximum number of portions.
Roasted items that are to be carved and served cold should be allowed to cool completely before carving. For best results allow the item to cool in a cold larder at a temperature of 10°C and then carve. When cool they must be stored in a refrigerator at a temperature of 8°C on a tray standing on a wire grid to allow any juices to drain away. (If meat is refrigerated the muscle and fat will stiffen and the quality may suffer somewhat.)

Any string should be completely removed from the cooked meat before carving.

Beef is carved across the grain. Joints such as sirloin, ribs and topside are sliced thinly, and fillei slightly thicker. However, it is acceptable to carve sirloin of beef thickly and give each customer one thick slice rather than two thin ones.

The legs are carved to a thickness of approximately 3-4 mm starting at the knuckle end and working backwards to the thicker end of the joint at a 45° angle. As the slices increase in size due to the shape of the joint change direction of carving – slice from alternate sides of the joint thus yielding two smaller slices and continue by turning the joint to remove all meat from both sides.

Shoulder roasted on the bone should be carved to a thickness of 3-4 mm starting at the thickest part of the joint at an angle of 45°. Continue carving following the shape of the bones.

Shoulder boned and stuffed should be carved into slices 5 mm thick across the joint.

Saddle should be carved:
(a) lengthways either side of the backbone into slices approximately 5 mm in thickness or at an angle of 450 across the joint commencing carving at the neck end; or
(b) lengthways either side of the backbone releasing the joint from the saddle bone by cutting lengthways along the side of the joint just above the bone. Remove and carve into 5 mm slices across the meat at an angle of 45°, then replace and reform onto the saddle carcass.

The meat underneath the saddle can be removed and sliced and served with the slices from the top of the joint.

Loin boned and rolled should be carved across the joint at an angle of 45° to a thickness of 5 mm.
Best ends should be carved into cutlets between each rib bone. The end rib bone is usually unusable due to its smallness, therefore remove and discard before carving.

Remove the crackling from the joint and chop into 2 cm pieces.

Carve legs, leg joints, saddle, loin, breast and best ends in exactly the same way as for lamb into slices approximately 2–3 mm thick.

When carving chicken, duck, pheasants and guinea fowl:

(1) Remove the legs, cut into two, remove the bone from the drumstick and chop away the joint at the top of the thigh piece.

(2) Remove the winglets. Carve halfway up the side of the bird each side of the breast bone down to the wing joint, cutting through the wing joint to release the wing portions. Remove and discard any bone from underneath the portion and trim neatly.

(3) Remove the remaining breast from the carcass and cut in two lengthways. Remove any breast bone that may remain and neatly trim.

Turkey may be carved whole or the legs and breast may be removed from the carcass and carved on a cutting board.

If to be carved on the bone remove the legs and divide into drumstick and thigh. Remove bones and tendons and carve into slices on a slant 3-4 mm thick. Commence carving slices from the wing end towards the breast bone 3–4 mm thick — slices will inevitably become larger as one progresses.

If to be boned first and then carved remove the legs and divide into drumstick and thigh. Remove bones and tendons and carve into slices on a slant 3–4 mm thick. Remove the winglets. Remove the breast completely by cutting each side of the breast bone down towards the wing joint, cut through the joint by following the ball and socket joint and remove. Bone out the end wing bone and trim. Commence carving from the thick end towards the pointed thinner end on a slant of 45° 3-4mm thick.

Capon may be carved into portions as for chicken but may make six or more portions. Capon may also be carved as for turkey either whole or removed from its carcass.