Making the perfect roast

By on November 14, 2016

English roast meat by fire with flames, traditionally eaten with yorkshire pudding, macro, close up with copy space

As the weather cools down, one of the most common questions I get is how to select a roast. There is something about roasting that confuses a lot of people, including me. My mother always made chuck roasts in the pressure cooker; she’d throw in some onions, some carrots, a little salt and pepper, and we’d eat that Sunday dinner for supper all week long.  It turns out that a roast is both a cut and a cooking method so you can roast a roast or cook that roast some other way, and you’ll still have trouble explaining what it is that you’ve got set out on the table.

Roast when used to refer to a cut of meat can mean just about anything bigger than a steak. You’ve got your chuck roasts, your rump roasts, your rib roasts; in some places they even call these things joints, and if you’ve got the proper implements, you can even smoke them. But it’s how you plan on cooking the roast that will determine what type you should select.

Roast as a cooking method usually just refers to some method that uses dry heat, so you can roast in the oven on a rack or on your grill with the heat on one side and the meat on the other.  If you are roasting hot and fast, you need to select a cut that is already tender, like a ribeye or a sirloin. If you are going to slow roast, you need something with a fair bit of fat like a brisket, or you might end up with meat that’s kind of leathery. Roasting off a cut from the loin might only take 45 minutes in the oven; slow smoking a brisket might take 8 hours or more.  Preparation is not complex. Just rub on some spice for flavor and put the meat in the hot spot.

You don’t actually have to roast your roast.  What my mother used to make was a pot roast, and for that you need a pot and a stove, and time. Slow cooking a pot roast, or speeding up the process in a pressure cooker, is a way to use moist heat to do the heavy tenderizing.  If you want to be a bit fancier you can even call this braising, but that might be a dirty word in some locations. What braising does is break down the connective tissue called collagen in the meat, making it tender, then with heat and time it transforms that collagen into gelatin which the meat absorbs to get juicy.  It involves a bit of magic, so if you’ve a wand to wave in the general vicinity of your meat, it certainly wouldn’t hurt.  You can braise any cut, but you will get the most flavor out of pieces with a lot of collagen. Look for pieces from the chuck (shoulder) or the round (other end).  You’ll have a prettier roast if you brown all sides in a skillet before braising.

There are only a couple of tricks to cooking a big ol’ hunk-a-meat, but if you fail, you will fail tragically. The first trick is to not overcook an already tender cut.  If you spent good money on a nice block of tenderloin, don’t, under any circumstances, try to slow cook it or bring it past medium on the doneness scale. When roasting a high end cut, you are not trying to impart flavor or increase tenderness. You’ve already got that, so you are just trying to give it a little color and make sure it doesn’t walk off your plate.  Watch it closely and take it off the grill or out of the oven when it ceases to wobble.


Your roasting adventures don’t have to be confined to beef. You can roast or braise a piece of pork, chicken, lamb – whatever floats your gravy boat.

The Meat Guy is a legendary expert on meat. He knows more about meat than anyone should ever know.  He lives and breathes meat. He never shuts up about meat. He even sells it online at


About Jason P. Morgan