The holidays are upon us and what better time to enjoy those delicious celebratory meals with friends and family. We often step out of our comfort zone to cook recipes like Prime Rib Roast, Pepper Crusted Whole Tenderloin, Maple Glazed Spiral Ham, Spiced Crispy Duck, Rosemary Crusted Leg of Lamb… who’s hungry? But the problem is that these recipes always require a significant investment in time, effort and pocketbook. You want these meals to be absolutely perfect.
As a former restaurant owner and chef, friends and family tend to come to me for cooking advice. I love offering opinions (it may be one of my favorite things, actually). But one question that I get time and time again is unfortunately not that easy to answer; the all-important question of “How do I know when my meat is done?” I really do wish that there was a straight-forward formula or answer. However, the truth is that no matter what kind of cooking method you choose (oven, grill, stove top or of course the Ronco Rotisserie ), there are always variables that affect the cooking time necessary for food to come to a safe and desirable internal temperature.
Yes, there are some weight/time guidelines that are meant to be helpful but do not address all the factors when cooking. Some key factors might be the starting temperature of the meat, the bone to meat ratio, the actual cooking temperature, the preheating time, the width of the meat, the weather, the altitude, the meat’s muscle density, proximity to the heat source, fat content of your cut of meat, water content, etc. It’s easy to see why cooking can be daunting sometimes.
The most important factor that affects the cooking time is the width of the cut meat. The width is actually much more of a factor than the weight in relation to cooking times. Why? Because the amount of time that the heat needs to travel from the outside of the meat to the center of the cut is proportionate to the width of your cut. In other words, a 6 inch thick, 3 pound roast will take much longer to cook at the center than a 3 inch thick, 3 pound roast.
As you can see, the answer is far from straight forward. And when you invest in a nice cut of meat, the last thing you want is an overdone or under done dinner to present at your holiday table.
So what is the answer? Well, you can spend years in the kitchen honing your cooking skills and senses, or simply invest in an inexpensive meat thermometer. I know it sounds too easy, but sometimes the simplest answers are often times the best answer. Many of the best chef’s I know rely almost solely on a meat thermometer for those thicker, expensive cuts of meat.
There are so many brands and varieties of meat thermometers available, you can choose between a $1.19 variety and a $300.00 super fancy one. (Be sure you are not purchasing a candy or oven thermometer.)
The most important thing when working with a meat thermometer is, of course, making sure that it is accurate. Personally, I like to have two or three, $7 or $8 dollar thermometers on hand. I compare the readings occasionally to make sure everyone agrees. Another way to test your thermometer is to submerge it in a bowl of ice to see if it reads 32F or 0C.
Using a meat thermometer is really easy. Simply insert it at the thickest point of the meat. Measure the temperature a couple of times to get an accurate read. Avoid measuring temperature directly on any bones… you will not get a good temperature reading. Instead, if the bone is at the thickest part of the cut of meat, pull the thermometer ¼ off the bone to get the most accurate reading.
I suggest turning your Rotisserie to NO HEAT ROTATE when the meat is 5º F to 10ºF degrees below the target temperature and allow it to rest and rotate for 10-15 minutes. This allows the juices to seal in and the meat to cook those final degrees.
I found a great temperature chart from author Linda Stradley, at the web site What’s Cooking America. She has done an incredible job describing methods for inserting a meat thermometer and visual descriptions. Check out her website as she goes into safe cooking temperatures for things like casseroles and seafood. Here is a printable PDF for the meat portion of her chart: Temerature Chart for Meat.
Between a reliable meat thermometer and your Ronco Rotisserie, your holiday meals are sure to dazzle this holiday season.
Happy Holidays from all of us here at Ronco!
Chef Paja-Dejur Sanchez