Roasting Rules

You select the main dish or side dish, and we'll help you roast it! Learn how to prepare tender turkey, rich pot roast, scrumptious roast salmon, and more using these helpful cooking tips and temperature guides.

Roasting Basics

Roasting is one of our favorite set-and-forget cooking methods. As an added bonus to the rich, slow-cooked flavors, roasting fills your house with warm and delicious aromas.

Roasting is a dry-heat method of cooking that's well-suited to large cuts of meat, poultry, and fish. It can also be used to caramelize the natural sugars in fruits and vegetables to make even picky eaters fall in love with the flavors.

Food is usually roasted in an uncovered pan in the oven. Because roasted foods are cooked at a high heat with little―if any―added moisture, they take on a crusty, browned exterior and a moist interior. When choosing a roasting pan, search for the "Goldilocks" fit—not too big and not too small. No part of the food should hang out of the pan, but if the pan is too small, any juices that are released will likely burn. The food should fit comfortably, with no more than an inch or two of space between it and the sides of the pan. If you like to use the drippings from a roast or chicken to make gravy, invest in a heavy aluminum pan that can be placed directly over a flame or electric burner.

A roasting rack helps elevate the food out of any juices it releases so that it truly roasts and does not stew or steam, ensuring the delicious crust and crispy skin that is part of the appeal of roasted foods.

How to Use a Meat Thermometer

A meat thermometer helps you roast perfectly cooked meat every time. To be sure you get an accurate reading, insert the thermometer into the center of the largest muscle or thickest portion of the meat. The thermometer should not touch any fat or bone. When the meat reaches the desired doneness, push in the thermometer a little farther. If the temperature drops, continue cooking. If it stays the same, remove the meat. Cover the meat, and let it stand about 15 minutes before carving. (It will continue to cook while standing.)

How to Roast

Place meat, fat side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. For ham, if desired, score the top in a diamond pattern. Insert a meat thermometer. Do not add water or liquid, and do not cover. Roast in a 325°F oven, unless chart or recipe says otherwise, for the time given and until the thermometer registers 5 degrees below the specified temperature. Remove the roast from the oven; cover with foil and let it stand 15 minutes.The meat's temperature will rise 5 degrees during the time it stands.

Follow the roasting tips below for poultry. Since birds vary in size, shape, and tenderness, adjust accordingly using our handy roasting temperature chart as a guide.

  1. Rinse a whole bird thoroughly on the outside as well as inside the body and neck cavities. Pat dry. If desired, rub the inside of the body cavity with salt.
  2. For an unstuffed bird, if desired, place quartered onions and celery in body cavity. Pull neck skin to back and fasten with a skewer. If a band of skin crosses the tail, tuck drumsticks under the band. If there is no band, tie drumsticks to tail. Twist wing tips under the back. For a stuffed bird, just before cooking, spoon stuffing loosely into the neck cavity; fasten neck skin as for an unstuffed bird. Lightly spoon stuffing into body cavity. Secure drumsticks and wings.
  3. Place bird, breast side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan; brush with cooking oil and, if desired, sprinkle with a crushed dried herb such as thyme or oregano. (When cooking a domestic duckling or goose, prick skin well all over and omit cooking oil.) For large birds, insert a meat thermometer into center of one of the inside thigh muscles. The bulb should not touch the bone.
  4. Cover Cornish game hen, quail, squab, and turkey with foil, leaving air space between bird and foil. Press foil lightly at ends of drumsticks and neck. Leave all other types of poultry uncovered.
  5. Roast in an uncovered pan. Baste occasionally with pan drippings. When bird is two-thirds done, cut band of skin or string between drumsticks. Uncover bird for last 45 minutes of cooking (leave quail covered for entire cooking time). Continue roasting until the meat thermometer registers 180°F (check temperature of thigh in several places) or until drumsticks move easily in their sockets and juices run clear. Center of stuffing should register at least 165°F. (In a whole or half turkey breast, thermometer should register 170°F.) Remove bird from oven and cover it with foil. Let large birds stand 15 to 20 minutes before carving.

Get Cooking


Be the first to comment!

Better Homes & Gardens may receive compensation when you click through and purchase from links contained on this website.