Roasting is a cooking method that uses dry heat where hot air covers the food, cooking it evenly on all sides with temperatures of at least 150 └C (300 └F) from an open flame, oven, or other heat source. Roasting can enhance the flavor through caramelization and Maillard browning on the surface of the food. Roasting uses indirect, diffused heat (as in an oven), and is suitable for slower cooking of meat in a larger, whole piece. Meats and most root and bulb vegetables can be roasted. Any piece of meat, especially red meat, that has been cooked in this fashion is called a roast. Meats and vegetables prepared in this way are described as "roasted", e.g., roasted chicken or roasted squash.
For roasting, the food may be placed on a rack, in a roasting pan or, to ensure even application of heat, may be rotated on a spit or rotisserie. If a pan is used, the juice can be retained for use in gravy, Yorkshire pudding, etc. During oven roasting, hot air circulates around the meat, cooking all sides evenly. There are several plans for roasting meat: low-temperature cooking, high-temperature cooking, and a combination of both. Each method can be suitable, depending on the food and the tastes of the people.
Cooking at high temperatures is beneficial if the cut is tender enough┤as in filet mignon or strip loin┤to be finished cooking before the juices escape. A reason for high temperature roasting is to brown the outside of the food, similar to browning food in a pan before pot roasting or stewing it. Fast cooking gives more variety of flavor, because the outside is brown while the center is much less done.
The objective in any case is to retain as much moisture as possible, while providing the texture and color. As meat cooks, the structure and especially the collagen breaks down, allowing juice to come out of the meat. So meat is juiciest at about medium rare while the juice is coming out. During roasting, meats and vegetables are frequently basted on the surface with butter, lard, or oil to reduce the loss of moisture by evaporation. In recent times, plastic oven bags have become popular for roasts. These cut cooking times and reduce the loss of moisture during roasting, but reduce flavor development from Maillard browning, somewhat more like (boiled or steamed) stew or pot roast. They are particularly popular for turkeys.
Traditionally recognized roasting methods consist only of baking and cooking over or near an open fire. Grilling is normally not technically a roast, since a grill (gridiron) is used. Barbecuing and smoking differ from roasting because of the lower temperature and controlled smoke application. Grilling can be considered as a low-fat food preparation, as it allows any fat in the food to drip away.
Roasting can be applied to a wide variety of meat. In general, it works best for cooking whole chickens, turkey, and leaner cuts of lamb, pork, and beef. The aim is to highlight the flavor of the meat itself rather than a sauce or stew, as it is done in braising or other moist-heat methods. Many roasts are tied with string prior to roasting, often using the reef knot or the packer's knot. Tying holds them together during roasting, keeping any stuffing inside, and keeps the roast in a round profile, which promotes even cooking.
Some vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, eggplants/aubergines, zucchini/courgette, pumpkin, turnips, rutabagas/swedes, parsnips, cauliflower, asparagus, squash, peppers, yam and plantain lend themselves to roasting as well. Roasted chestnuts are also a popular snack in winter.