Kitchen Tips

Chicken, beef, lamb or pork: here's how to cook the perfect roast dinner

If you struggle to emulate your mum’s famous roast, our food experts share all the tips to help you get it right every time.

How to cook the perfect roast

When it comes to family dinners, not many dishes can measure up to a good roast. They’re easy to cook when you know how. They’re hearty, filling, and a crowd-pleaser. They can be really budget-friendly depending on the cut of meat you choose. And most importantly, they allow you to eat as many potatoes as you can under the guise of ‘family time’!

To teach you the tricks and tips of roasting, we've enlisted our Test Kitchen experts, The Weekly's Fran Abdallaoui and Pamela Clark, to show you the ropes.

Tips for cooking the perfect roast

1. Invest in the perfect dish
Buy a heavy, flameproof baking dish, as it will give the best colour and flavour to the pan juices – important for a good gravy. Flameproof means it can go on the stovetop and under the grill as well as in the oven.

2. Seal it before you roast it
Brown small or lean roasts – such as beef eye fillet or lamb rump – all over in a little oil before roasting. As they are in the oven for a short time, it will help the colour and, therefore, the flavour, and seal in the juices.

3. Use a thermometer
To take the guesswork out of cooking times, use a meat thermometer. Remove the roast from the oven and insert a thermometer into the thickest part. The internal temperature should reach:
Beef and lamb: rare 60°C; medium 65°C to 70°C; well-done 75°C. Pork: 74°C to 76°C. Chicken:** 75°C.

**4. Small roast? Turn up the heat.
Smaller cuts of meat with less fat should be cooked at a higher temperature. Larger cuts of meat can be cooked at a lower temperature for longer.

Try our delicious Slow roast lamb shoulder with garlicky potatoes

Cuts of meat to roast

Beef: Eye fillet/tenderloin; rib eye/scotch fillet roast; standing rib roast; rump roast; sirloin roast; topside roast; short ribs/spare ribs.
Lamb: Leg; shoulder; rack; boned and rolled loin roast; topside mini roast; ribs.
Pork: Leg roast; rolled loin; loin rack; belly; spare ribs; forequarter roast; scotch fillet/neck roast.
Chicken: Whole; Marylands; thigh cutlets; breast on the bone.

Get to know your cuts - from chicken to lamb these are the best cuts of meat to use for your favourite dinner recipes

Do I cover or not cover a roast?

Traditional roasting is uncovered, but for long, slow cooking times, it’s best to cover the meat for at least half of the cooking time to retain the moisture and pan juices. You can use a baking dish with a lid, two layers of foil or an oven bag. Uncover the meat for the last 20-30 minutes of cooking to brown, if needed.

Should I use an oven bag when cooking a roast?

Oven bags make roasting faster and cleaner. They can be used in the oven up to 200°C or 180°C for fan-forced ovens. Roasts will cook quicker in an oven bag than roasting uncovered and it helps to keep the meat and poultry moist. Reserve the juices to add to a sauce or gravy.

Should I use a rack when making a roast?

Some cooks like to roast meat on a rack, some don’t. If you roast vegetables under or around the meat, a cradle or V-shaped rack works well. You can also just put the roast on thin wedges of onions – as a bonus, the pan juices will have extra flavour and colour. Whichever method you choose, add a cup or two of stock, wine and/or water to the dish to prevent the pan juices burning. Check during roasting and add a little more liquid if the pan juices are darkening too quickly.

Why do I need to rest a roast?

Once cooked, all meat should stand or “rest” in a warm place, loosely covered with foil or a lid, for 10-20 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to settle and gives a tender, moist result. Keep the juices that collect during resting and carving, and add them to the pan juices or gravy. Carve across the grain of the meat for the neatest and most tender slices.

How long do I need to cook a roast?

~ Beef: fillet, rib eye and rump:
Cook at 200°C (180°C fan-forced) for:
Rare 15-20 minutes per 500g
Medium 20-25 minutes per 500g
Well-done 25-30 minutes per 500g

~ Beef: blade, round and topside
Cook at 160°C (140°C fan-forced) for:
Rare 20-25 minutes per 500g
Medium 25-30 minutes per 500g
Well-done 30-35 minutes per 500g

~ Lamb: leg, loin, rack and mini roast
Cook at 180°C (160°C fan-forced) for:
Rare 20-25 minutes per 500g
Medium 25-30 minutes per 500g
Well-done 30-35 minutes per 500g

~ For super-tender slow-roast lamb shoulder, roast, covered at 160°C (140°C fan-forced) for 3-4 hours.

~ Pork with crackling: Score the rind at 1cm intervals. Rub a little oil and salt well into the scored rind and roast at 240°C (220°C fan-forced) for 25 minutes, then reduce to 180°C (160°C fan-forced) and cook roast for 20 minutes per 500g.

~ Pork: belly, shoulder and scotch fillet: Roast, covered at 160°C (140°C fan-forced) for 3-4 hours, or until the pork is fork-tender.

~ Poultry: Cook at 180°C (160°C fan-forced) for 30 minutes per 500g.

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