17 things we learned about roasting from Michael Ruhlman

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Michael Ruhlman, author of Ruhlman's How to Roast, talked about roasting on WNYC's The Leonard Lopate Show. (Find their full conversation here.)

1. The difference between roasting and baking is semantics.

Michael Ruhlman: Roasting originally meant over flame. It wasn't until the invention of the oven that roast and bake became the same thing. It's semantics, basically. I divide it like this: Baking is anything with flour or eggs; roasting is just about anything else -- usually protein or vegetables.

2. Broiling is not roasting.

MR: Broiling is broiling. It's from a single source. It's kind of a grill upside down, rather than roasting. It's a great technique, but it's not roasting.

3. Not all ovens are the same.

MR: When I was working on the Bouchon Bakery cookbook with Thomas Keller and his executive pastry chef, Sebastien Rouxel, one of the things Sebastien always said was, "Know your oven." All ovens are different, they behave differently, you need to pay attention to how your own oven behaves.

4. You can test your oven with Pillsbury biscuits.

MR: You can actually test it by buying Pillsbury biscuits and putting them on sheet trays and baking them for exactly the right time that the instructions say. Those recipes have been heavily tested. If they are underdone, your temperature is a little low. If they are overdone, your temperature is a little high. Put the biscuits throughout the sheet pan and you see where the hotspots are.

5. Convection ovens are great for roasting.

MR: I do like convection ovens, especially for roasting. For roasting a chicken you want to dehydrate the skin so that it becomes crispy. To do that you need the steam that is lifting off the chicken as it roasts to be pushed away so that you get a really crisp chicken skin.

6. Every kitchen should have a stainless steel or cast-iron pan you can put in the oven.

MR: I usually use a cast-iron pan for roasting.

7. Salt everything before it goes into the oven.

MR: I salt before it goes into the oven; I salt everything before I start cooking it.

8. Add red wine vinegar to roasted vegetables to offset their sweetness.

MR: Vegetables often tend to be sweet when they are roasted. Use red wine to season them to offset the sweetness, especially when you are using beets.

9. You can roast bread in a cast-iron enamel pot.

MR: When I roast bread, I roast it in a big cast-iron enamel pot, covered. That keeps the steam in. Then you remove the top from the pot so the crust gets crispy. It's the perfect way to bake bread.

10. Your kids will eat Brussels sprouts roasted in bacon fat, guaranteed.

MR: My children will not eat boiled Brussels sprouts. But if you roast Brussels sprouts in bacon fat, I guarantee your kids will eat the Brussels sprouts. (A low-sided pan will keep the air circulating around. You want the vegetables to brown; they won't brown if there is too much moisture.)

11. If the pan is not hot enough before you put meat on it, the meat will stick.

MR: The sticking issue, which people worry about, is a matter of getting your pan hot enough before you put the meat in. Then, importantly, not moving that meat around because you are afraid the meat is going to stick. It needs to caramelize on the bottom, and then it will release from the bottom of the pan.

12. It is not hard to roast a chicken.

MR: You salt it. You put something in the cavity or tie its legs together. You put it in a 425-degree oven for an hour and that's it.

13. Stick a lemon or an onion in the cavity of a chicken to prevent overcooking.

MR: About the cavity, it's important that you truss the bird or you stick a lemon or an onion in there, because the hot air that circulates within the cavity overcooks the breast. That's why breasts are so often overcooked when we roast a chicken.

14. Basting will help the skin of a roasted chicken get crispy.

MR: I like to baste it because the hot fat delivers heat to the skin and helps get that really crispy crust. If you add some thyme and garlic to that fat and then baste the chicken, it will add more flavor.

15. To check if your chicken is done, you don't need a meat thermometer.

MR: Pull the pan out of the oven. Using a flat-edge wooden spoon or some sort of implement, tilt the chicken so the juices run out. If they're really bloody, it's not done. When they are clear, it's completely done.

16. Let your chicken rest; it finishes cooking outside the oven.

MR: It's very important to let the bird rest at least for 15 minutes. It will stay hot inside for 30 minutes; don't worry about it cooling down. The bird actually finishes cooking outside the oven; the juices redistribute, the heat evens out throughout the chicken, it makes it a finished, perfect bird.

17. Save the chicken carcass for stock.

MR: It keeps on giving.

From This Episode: 
Bulletproof Recipes
Published: 
January 30th, 2015

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