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New Contributor II

SLOWLY COOKED ROASTS & HANDED-DOWN KITCHEN PRACTICES

I'm a holdout.  Most speed scratch cooking methods leave too much to be desired.  There is no way to mimic the outcome for roast that has been cooked slowly, for hours at lower temperatures.  The flavors are marvelous.  But, I have a burning question:  When a chef, or your Mom, tells you that searing the roast "seals the juices in", is that based mainly on historical belief, or is the cook always right?

It's one of those repeated pieces of information that sounds like it has myth potential.  For example, today I started cooking a rump roast.  This is a thick piece of meat, from any dimension measured.  Searing the surfaces would do two things that would account for improved flavor:  1)  It would produce some Maillard browning, and the flavors that result from this.  2)  It could also deter the active growth of bacteria, which will probably be in higher numbers on the surfaces.  When you put a thick piece of roast into a container and cook it slowly, the slow change in temperature gradient could allow several generations of bacterial growth to progress.  It may also have some effect on enzymatic change.  But how can the process of searing effectively "seal in the juices"?  And if it does that to some extent, does that really matter in the overall flavor development?

D. Zink

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7 Replies
New Contributor II

Re: SLOWLY COOKED ROASTS & HANDED-DOWN KITCHEN PRACTICES

Slow cooking will generate very desirable texture and therefore contribute to the overall flavor/experience.

As for searing - that will produce flavor compounds from the Maillard reaction products.

The sealing in juices is a long standing (and debunked) myth.

See for example

http://steakperfection.blogspot.com/2011/05/steak-myth-1-searing-seals-in-juices.html

http://www.goodeatsfanpage.com/season8/myths/myth_smashers.htm

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Previous Community Member
Not applicable

Re: SLOWLY COOKED ROASTS & HANDED-DOWN KITCHEN PRACTICES

I'm also a religious searer/slow roaster, and I have no illusions about "sealing in juices." After all, I cook the roast in a covered cast-iron pan immersed halfway in stock - so there is plenty of exchange of juices between the meat and liquid.

One thing I've noticed lately - we've always cooked rump roasts this way, which we cook at around 250F for several hours. When we recently started getting grass-fed roasts, they seem to take a lot longer (four hours or more) to get tender. Has anyone noticed this? Is it because those cows are more muscular. Just wondering.

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New Contributor

Re: SLOWLY COOKED ROASTS & HANDED-DOWN KITCHEN PRACTICES

Taking longer to get tender sounds like perhaps it has more connective tissue, collagen. I would think that the grass-fed cattle may have to move around more to eat. Using the muscles more generally makes the meat tougher. This is why the rump roast has to be cooked longer than say a ribeye or filet for it to get tender.

***********************************************

Jeff Hansen

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

DePauw University

602 S. College Ave.

Greencastle, IN 46135

jhansen@depauw.edu

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New Contributor

Re: SLOWLY COOKED ROASTS & HANDED-DOWN KITCHEN PRACTICES

'grass-fed roasts' I didn't know roasts would eat grass.

Sorry. I just couldn't resist the tease.

Meat from grass-fed animals will be much more lean, i.e. less fat (marbling). It's the fat that makes meat 'tender'. That's why most farmers will keep their animals on grass and then switch to grain before sending them to market.

Gotta love that fat.

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Contributor III

Re: SLOWLY COOKED ROASTS & HANDED-DOWN KITCHEN PRACTICES

For the last six months, I have been cooking my roasts using the following technique:

Heat oven to 500 degrees

Reduce heat to 475 degrees and place the roast in the oven

Cook at 475 for 7 minutes per pound (e.g,. 3lb roast = 21 minutes)

Turn off oven (do not open until done) and let roast cook for 2 hours using the residual heat in the oven.

The roast comes out perfect every time, nice and brown on the outside and tender inside. 

So, where's the chemistry here?   How does high heat and then a gradual decrease in cooking temperature over a long cook time impact the roast?  Also, any concerns about bacteria and food safety, in general using this approach?

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New Contributor

Re: SLOWLY COOKED ROASTS & HANDED-DOWN KITCHEN PRACTICES

This is a great method for cooking a roast depending on what kind of roast. Roasts that are tougher cuts like shoulder (chuck) or rump roasts probably won't fair too well with this method but something like a rib roast that is a more tender cut of meat to begin with will come out great when cooked this way. As yo said, it gets a nice crust on the outside with lots of flavor and comes out nice and juicy on the inside - probably medium rare. I don't think safety should be too much of a concern. In terms of killing any bacteria present, that is a function of temperature and time. Most bacteria will be on the exterior of the meat and you are certainly going to be more than hot enough there to kill them. On the inside, as long as you bring the internal temperature up to a nice medium rare (maybe 140 ºF) and keep it there for awhile bacteria should be held pretty much in check. Obviously people eat rare beef all the time so this cooking method should be no worse than that and probably better.

With this method you are benefitting from bringing the internal temperature of the roast up more slowly due to the declining temperature of the oven. And since the oven temperature is going down the meat is less likely to reach a temperature that is too high. With meat it is all about temperature control. If that nice, tender, juicy cut reaches too high a temperature, the proteins begin to denature and as they do so they contract and essentially squeeze out whatever moisture (water and fat) is present. The hotter the temperature of the meat the more moisture it will squeeze out. The high heat that you apply at the beginning is giving the browning that provides the nice crust on the outside. However, it takes time for that heat to penetrate the meat by conduction from the outside to the inside. By the time the inside starts to heat up your oven is cooling off so it doesn't get too hot. t would recommend inserting a meat thermometer and letting the temperature at the center of the roast get to 135-140 ºF then always let it rest for a good 10 minutes after you remove it from the oven before you serve it.

***********************************************

Jeff Hansen

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

DePauw University

602 S. College Ave.

Greencastle, IN 46135

jhansen@depauw.edu

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New Contributor II

Re: SLOWLY COOKED ROASTS & HANDED-DOWN KITCHEN PRACTICES

I've heard people who use a similar process for baking a turkey talk about how much better the flavor and texture are.  I would be more comfortable trying this with a roast than with a turkey.  Do you also braise or sear first using that method?

We are using grass-fed beef, and you do have to be careful to not dehydrate the meat while it's cooking.  The connective tissue softens with the slow-roasting approach, but the muscle tissue easily can lose too much moisture, even with added water in the container to provide steam heat.  Lower temperatures and longer cooking times work much better.  A little coffee is a nice flavor addition, and a good way to add extra water.  With any method, I find that it is still at its best after reheating the second day.

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