Buying a Roast

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Thanks to mothers who really knew how to cook, food services, time constraints, and our own lack of self belief, many of us get really confused when we have to remove ourselves from our comfort zone and go out and buy something new, as food goes. Buying a roast can be an intimidating experience for someone who has never done it before. For some of us, the process of buying meats can be tricky. We just don’t really get it.

The first time I ever went to the market for a roast, I stood there in a frozen and somewhat catatonic state while I tried desperately to figure out what it was that I was trying to accomplish. These relatively unappealing large chunks of meat come with various levels of fat, various shapes and sizes, and of course, various brands. Did it matter? Couldn’t you just pick out a slab of meat and take it home with you?

Apparently not. Apparently if you’re looking to slow cook a fabulous roast, you need to figure out a few things while you’re standing in front of the meat counter. I did find out that the butcher can be a seriously fabulous resource. If I told him I wanted a roast for five people and that I intended to cook it all day in a crock pot, he knew exactly what I needed and how to go about giving me the perfect roast for the occasion. And I had my doubts. After all, I am not a chef by any stretch of the imagination, but I have the one power that makes it easier for me to leap off of new cliffs with relative ease. I have the ability and the desire to learn.

So one day, when looking at the massive roast I was handed for serving four people, I asked him what the difference between the roast he had handed me and the considerably cheaper one on the end. Naturally, people like to sell the most expensive item possible as that’s how profits were made. However, he explained that there simply wasn’t enough fat to meat ratio on the cheaper roast. Huh? Fat? Fat is bad. I like nice lean meat without all that marbled fat. I know that the marbled fat makes for a better taste in the opinion of many, but it’s also bad for you. Apparently, as roasts go, because they are slowly cooked for a long period of time, there needs to be a certain amount of fat accompanying the meat. Too much fat and your guests are likely to end up with an unchewable wad in their mouth, and we all know how pleasant that can be. Too little fat will cause the roast to dry out during the slow cooking process.

Meats with little fat are best for searing or a high temperature broiling. This is because fats help retain moisture. So if you’re selecting a roast with very little fat content because you don’t want to eat the fat, it would seem like you’re making a smart choice. However, you will more than likely be serving a rather dried out roast later. While it can be difficult to scrape away the majority of fat before serving, if it’s at all possible, this should be done. A well cooked roast will end up with a loose layer of fat along the bottom that becomes jelly-like upon removal. Nobody wants to eat that. If you can’t get it all, just cut away what you can before the meal hits the table.

Storing a roast for a long period of time, freezing it, or allowing it to sit on the counter for an extended period of time before cooking it may alter the final outcome. Roasts are not the most sensitive meats, but they are pretty high up there on the list of sensitive foods. You might not ruin it, but you are rather likely to alter the taste.

It’s best to buy your roast directly from the butcher, supermarket, or wherever you purchase all your meat items the day that you are planning to cook it, and bring it straight home to the crock pot.

You don’t have to use a crock pot for a roast. Plenty of people have been able to successfully prepare a delicious roast using a roasting pan and their oven. Some people like this idea better because you can keep a closer eye on the meat. A traditional crock pot usually hides the meat under the potatoes and veggies you have simmering in there with it.

Despite the fact that you are cooking a roast for a long period of time, you do need to make sure it hits the optimal temperature for cooking. Neglecting to do this can cause unsafe eating hazards, like bacteria and other invisible hazards.

When you try your first roast, you might want to start small. It’s not so hard to cook a three pound roast the first time around and increase in size as your skill improves. Almost everyone I’ve ever known messed up their roast the first time at least a little bit. It’s an area of cooking that many of us, even the more accomplished among us, don’t really know a lot about. Be gracious with yourself and set up time to practice before simply hauling out the roast for your first holiday dinner.

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