You're bound to host and/or attend a handful of parties between now and the new year, and there's no more classic or show-stopping a dish to serve than a big, gloriously meaty holiday roast. We've compiled our best tips and kitchen wisdom for putting an elegant, succulent, and cooked-to-perfection centerpiece entree on your holiday table.
The holidays are on, and the merry-making is in full swing. And while we love the appetizers, cocktails, and desserts that are sure to show up at holiday parties the next couple of weeks, the classic holiday roast will always stand out on a holiday table as the showstopping centerpiece and beacon of juicy, melt-in-your-mouth perfection. A classic hunk of roasted meat is no last-minute, throw-together dish; and while it's certainly a labor of love, you can achieve a glorious roast that will be the envy of your friends and family by learning from the pros. So whether you're cooking beef or pork, these tips will serve you well all season long (and well beyond) as you learn to master the art of the classic holiday roast.
1. Choose your meat
The starting point to creating your glorious holiday roast is, of course, choosing your meat. You'll want to buy at least 1/2 lb. of meat per person. Traditional holiday cuts include the standing rib roast (prime rib), rack of pork, and beef tenderloin. For a more budget-friendly cut, go with beef eye of round or pork loin. For extra-elegant affairs, beef tenderloin and standing rib roasts are the best cuts for splurging.
I can't stress the importance enough of developing a relationship with the butcher at your local grocery store or specialty butcher shop. Finding a butcher you can trust and asking them questions about the quality, sourcing, and preparation of the meat will go a long way to ensuring you're consistently getting the best bang for your buck. Not only do your questions hold the butcher accountable to know their stuff, but they develop loyalty. The butcher will remember you the next time you come around and will likely reward you for your curiosity.
At home, keep in mind that preparing and cooking roasts can take some time, so don't wait until the day of your event to select your recipe. We suggest pre-seasoning the meat the the day before you plan to cook it by sprinkling generously with salt and pepper (or the spice rub/herb paste of your choice). Then, arrange the roast on a metal rack set inside of a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Transfer it to the refrigerator to rest (uncovered) overnight so the surface dries, allowing the the salt to penetrate the meat. An hour before you plan to cook it, take the roast out of the fridge and allow it to sit at room temperature.
You can roast your meat one of two ways, it's really just a matter of preference. First, place the baking pan, rack, and roast set-up on the middle rack of your oven, and then either:
#1. Start cooking the meat at a high heat (450 to 500 degrees) for 20 minutes to get a head start on forming the crust, and then turn it down to 325 degrees to finish roasting the interior at a gentler pace.
#2. Start at low heat (300 degrees) to cook the inside of the meat and then finish it off at a high heat (450 to 500 degrees) to create that perfect, golden-brown crust.
Take the roast out of the oven and let it rest at room temperature. Thinner roasts like pork or beef tenderloin should rest for 10 to 15 minutes on a cutting board. Thicker roasts like standing rib roast or pork need to rest for 20 minutes. This allows time for the juices to settle and re-distribute throughout the meat so that they won't seep out on the cutting board when you start slicing--yielding dry, chewy meat. When carving, use a cutting board with a moat to catch any juices and always cut against the grain. Transfer the sliced meat to a serving platter (spooning any excess juices over top, if desired) and devour/enjoy.