Whether low and slow or hot and fast, roasting builds big flavor in meats and vegetables. This comprehensive guide delivers tips, tricks, and recipes for mastering the art of roasting.
1. Classic Roast: Best for Crispy Skin and Juicy Meat
Roasting is one of a handful of ways to cook with dry heat. Baking is, too, but technically baking is for foods that lack structure until the cooking process is complete (think: batters, doughs). Roasting involves foods that have a solid structure from the start, and roast turkey is a signature example. We start this traditional technique at a high temperature (500°F) then drop down (350°F) for the rest of the cook time. That initial blast of high heat promotes a crisp exterior, while switching to low and slow ensures a moist interior. If you maintained that scorching heat, the turkey’s muscle fibers would contract and expel their moisture, leaving you with dry, tough meat.
View Recipe: Lemon-Herb Turkey
2. Slow Roast: Best for Concentrating Flavors
Slow-roasting is how the pros liven up out-of-season produce. It draws out moisture and concentrates flavors while slowly
caramelizing the natural sugars for a sweeter bite. We tried slow-roasting tomatoes at 200°F in a convection oven and a conventional oven. Convection was faster—after 3 hours and 30 minutes the tomatoes were comparable to the conventional ones at the 5-hour mark. But convection ones (pictured at top) were drier and more chewy, while conventional ones (below) retained a pop of moisture with their concentrated sweetness.
View Recipe: Aglio e Olio with Roasted Tomatoes
3. Pan Roast: Best for High-Moisture Foods
Pan-roasting is ideal for high-moisture foods like mushrooms and scallops. On the stovetop, you get the direct heat needed for quicker browning and less steaming. It’s crucial to preheat your skillet so that the moisture starts to evaporate the moment your ingredients hit the pan. Another key tip: Work in small batches so each piece of food is in direct contact with the hot skillet. If you overcrowd your pan, all the moisture that seeps out will end up steaming the ingredients. And remember, no stirring! With pan-roasting, you have to allow time for browning (also known as the Maillard reaction) to take place.
View Recipe: Mushroom and Marsala-Onion Tartine
4. Reverse Sear: Best for a Perfect Medium-Rare Roast
This method takes longer than the traditional sear-then-cook approach, but it makes achieving a perfectly cooked piece of red meat foolproof. Roasting first at a low temp cooks the meat more evenly, yielding a cut that’s medium-rare from end to end. Also, the internal temp rises more slowly, so you’re less likely to miss your target temp and overcook the meat. At the end, crank up the oven briefly to get a nice crust on the exterior (for smaller cuts, use a very hot cast-iron skillet). We let the roast rest before the final high-heat sear so the internal temp doesn’t rise too much in the last step.
View Recipe: Peppercorn-and-Coriander-Crusted Roast
5. Salt Crust: To Lock In Moisture
Salt-crusting pulls double duty by locking in moisture while thoroughly seasoning. The crust insulates the vegetable or protein inside, slowing evaporation and cooking the food gently and evenly. It’s also healthier than you might think; only a small amount of sodium is absorbed into the food. Use this method with other root veggies like rutabaga, carrots, parsnips, and turnips, as well as with whole fish and chicken.
View Recipe: Beet and Citrus Salad with Almond Gremolata
6. Coal Roast: Best for Bold, Smoky Flavor
This is a fairly hands-off approach to roasting. It also requires less oil than oven-roasting or sautéing. Use natural lump charcoal (no chemicals), because your food is cooked straight in the embers. Coal-roasting works well with vegetables that have a protective outer layer that can be peeled off, such as russet and sweet potatoes, beets, eggplant (if you’re only using the scooped-out flesh), corn (in the husk), and onions. If you want to tone down the smoke flavor, wrap the food in aluminum foil before roasting.
View Recipe: Cabbage Wedge Salad
7. High Heat: Best for Subtle Smoke Flavor
We love how high-heat roasting—from 425°F and up—imparts a hint of smokiness to foods. A blasting hot oven can perfectly char thin-cut pork chops or—in these particular recipes—yield blistered, but not mushy, peppers. Plus, you can usually get away with far less oil (or none at all) when cranking the heat, saving you a step and a few calories.
View Recipe: Romesco
Bonus: The Healthiest Way to Cook Bacon
When you start bacon in a cold skillet it renders more fat, yielding leaner slices, but we love to oven-roast bacon because it has less cleanup than stovetop cooking. So we decided to try the “cold-start” technique in the oven: We put bacon in a cold oven that then was heated up to 350°F. We also slid a rimmed baking sheet with bacon straight into an oven preheated to 350°F. Both batches took virtually the same amount of time to cook (30 to 35 minutes). However, the cold-start slices rendered nearly 55% more fat.