Buying the correct roasting dish can make a huge difference in producing a perfect roast that is evenly cooked all the way through. Careful selection of a good quality dish and then the proper care of this dish can help any cook produce great roast dishes for many years.
History of Roasting
Roasting was one of the earliest cooking methods with stone age people improving on the basic method of cooking (holding food over a flame) by covering it with leaves or clay before the cooking process. This helped to keep the water and juices inside the meat, thereby making it taste better. The creation of pottery allowed a sort of clay covering for cooking foods that could be reused; this was closely followed by metal versions of the pots, although these were expensive, so clay was still common. Cooking methods did not change much after this for many hundreds of years; cooking was still done over an open fire with a variety of metal and pottery containers to hold the food or liquid as it was heated.
Methods of Roasting
Roasting is a method of cooking meat that may involve a rack, spit, or, more usually, a roasting pan which is then placed in an oven. Hot air circulates around the meat during roasting, which means that it cooks evenly, and as the process is generally slow, the moisture is retained inside the joint. Slow roasting means that the meat becomes tenderer, and the lower heat causes less evaporation maintaining the tender juicy flesh, which is, after all, the aim of roasting a joint. Faster roasting at higher temperatures is used for cuts of meat such as a fillet mignon, which is tender initially and so does not benefit especially from a longer cooking time. Some roasting methods use a high heat for a short amount of time at the beginning of the process to seal the meat and then lower heat for a longer time to slowly cook the centre of the joint; this makes the most of both methods by sealing in the juices and slow cooking the meat in one process. Red meats are often roasted to be ‘rare’ meaning that the centre of the meat is still pink once cooked; this is thought to be the tastiest way to prepare joints of beef, lamb, and some game such as venison.
The carving of a joint of roast meat is in some ways as important as its cooking; the history and traditions go back many hundreds of years. A carving knife and fork specifically designed for the job are used to slice the joint thinly; the knife needs to be very sharp to do this job well.
Types of Roasting Pan
Although each roast will taste just that little bit different, there is a finite list of types of roasting pan.
This is a traditional way of roasting meat that is not used very often now, although it was previously popular due to the slow and even spread of heat across the pan. That made the roasting container that much hotter than the surrounding air so helping the meat cook evenly from all sides. This type of cast iron roasting tray can also be used to brown or seal the meat on a hob before it is placed in the oven
This is a disposable roasting tray and so can generally not be used more than once. This type of tray is not very sturdy, but is great for cooks producing a one-off meal for a large dinner party or possibly at Christmas, or another special occasion to feed all of the family. It conducts heat well, and can be used with an aluminium foil covering to keep in juices for leaner joints that may become dry if they are roasted uncovered.
This is a common material for roasting pans; it often has a non-stick coating to make it easier to clean after the roasting process. Non-stick pans need extra care when cleaning and storing in order to avoid damage to the coating; they should not be used with metal utensils and should be cleaned and stored carefully to avoid damage to the non-stick surface.
Glass or Pyrex
This is not a traditional material for roasting trays as many people feel that glass is not suitable for prolonged periods at temperature, but it is actually very effective for roasting meats and vegetables as the oven heat for roasting is not generally too hot and these dishes are designed to withstand this kind of heat. The main danger with glass cooking dishes is a fast change in temperature, such as dropping a hot dish straight from the oven into cold water; they should always be allowed to cool at least partly first. This material is easy to clean and is dishwasher and microwave safe, although for carving, the roast meat should always be transferred to an appropriate carving board.
This is a new type of material for baking trays in general, and although not originally designed for roasting, it can create good roast joints if used correctly. The material can be flimsy so is best placed on a baking tray to maintain rigidity, but it is easy to clean and well suited to long periods of oven cooking at the lower range of temperatures. Take care not to use sharp implements that will damage the silicone, and always check the manufacturer’s recommendations for maximum temperatures.
These are wire trays that fit inside the roasting pan and allow the meat to sit clear of any juices that it may produce; roasting racks are generally used with poultry to create a crispy skin, but this is not currently a common practice in the UK.
To Cover or not to Cover?
Whether a cook decides to cover a roasting joint or not depends largely on the type of meat and how long it will be cooked for, as well as whether extra juices have been added or not. A meat that has a high fat content, such as goose, will not need to be covered, whereas leaner meats or cuts of meat, such as a good beef joint, will need to be covered. Large turkeys cooked at Christmas are often covered for the first few hours whilst the meat is cooked through, and then uncovered for the last portion of roasting to allow the skin to crisp. Pork will generally be cooked uncovered in a shallow roasting tray to allow the best crackling to be produced. The decision comes down to the individual cook in the end, as well as the cut of meat that they are roasting and the end result they are aiming for.
Buying Roasting Dishes on eBay
The actual choice of roasting dish is an individual one; different meats benefit from a different style of dish. Pork will have the best crackling in a dish with lower sides so the heat can circulate around all of the skin to crisp it up nicely. Lean cuts of lamb will do best in a covered roasting dish whilst the fattier duck or goose will release more of its fat in an uncovered roasting dish. A simple search for a roasting tray on eBay is bound to come up with many hundreds of results, so potential buyers should narrow this down by adding specific materials as key words, and then filtering by size to find the roasting trays that suit them best. The cheapest dishes are great for a one off large dinner party, but for durability and a lasting container that will stand up to the task of many roast dinners, it is worth spending a little more; buyers should bear in mind ease of cleaning and storage as well as the cost and durability of a roasting tray.
How to Find Roasting Dishes on eBay
To find roasting dishes on eBay, simply click on the Home & Garden on the left panel of the eBay homepage. On the next page, hover over Furniture & Living, then click on Cookware, Dining & Bar located in the dropdown panel that appears. Next, click on Bakingware & Ovenware and finally on Baking/Roasting Dishes. Alternatively, it is possible to find roasting dishes by merely entering a search term into the eBay search bar at the top of any eBay page. This will produce of a list of all results matching the entry.
It may seem that roasting trays are much the same, but there are many things to consider before buying one. It is possible to find one high quality tray that will roast any size joint; but for those that only cook a large roast once or twice a year it is probably best to go for a smaller, high quality dish that will take up less space and last many years, then just buying a large disposable tin foil tray for the turkey at Christmas will suffice.