Roasting in a covered dish
I always remember my mum roasting meat with the lid on, I tend to do mine with the lid off. Apart from keeping the oven clean, what difference does keeping the lid on make?
Funnily enough, this runs on from last week’s question about cooking corned beef in which I pointed out that chewy collagen will only turn to gelatine in the presence of water, which is what roasting with a lid on achieves.
The steam is trapped in the closed dish, slowly working at tenderising your meat. If you’re roasting beef fillet you wouldn’t need to use a lid as little, if any, collagen is present, but a pork shoulder or leg of lamb will benefit from being cooked in a covered dish — at least initially. In the same way as you might roast your Christmas turkey with foil over the breast, a lid will help prevent it drying out, but there aren’t many roasting dishes I’ve seen with a lid large enough to cover an actual turkey.
I remember my Gran Molly had a great roasting dish, oval and wide, made from yellowish dimpled enamel. The lid was almost the same depth and tucked in snugly. She’d manage to fit in a leg of lamb and vegetables and swore that it made her meat all the more tender.
I have to say she was a great cook so she obviously knew it worked even if perhaps she didn’t understand the science behind it. If you do think about it though, cooking in an environment where the "steam’’ and moisture can’t escape will mean the meat stays more moist and plump — which is great. Take the lid off when the meat is three-quarters cooked and you’ll still get the meat golden.
If you’re roasting fat chunks of pumpkin, potatoes or carrots, or whole peeled onions, you won’t need to add any moisture to the dish as they’ll give off plenty, but if it’s just the meat in the roasting dish you could add a few tablespoons of water or wine as well to help it get started.
As to keeping the oven clean — that had never occurred to me but of course it makes perfect sense. So I guess if there are benefits, in plumpness of meat, and cleanliness of oven, then it’s definitely worth trying. At home if I’m cooking just for one or two, I often cook in a covered pan — I use it like a Dutch oven.
I have a favourite heavy based, 4cm deep, non-stick pan and can rustle up a full meal on the hobs without turning on the oven — another case where a sealed-in vessel works a treat. If I’m cooking a thick chunk of fish with potatoes and greens this is what I do. Saute thickly sliced potatoes over medium heat in a little olive oil and butter, along with some sliced garlic. Cook with the lid on but stirring from time to time until almost cooked then remove to a bowl.
Place a few chunks of fish in, skin side down and drizzle with a little more olive oil and cook with the lid on until the skin is crispy and the fish is half-cooked. Turn the fish over and add a handful or so of trimmed green beans, peas, broad beans, broccoli florets etc to the pan along with three tablespoons of water. Cook with the lid on until the greens are cooked—make sure the fish doesn’t overcook though.
Return the potatoes to the pan and toss to warm them through then serve straight from the pan. By cooking with the lid on you’ve kept the fish moist, the greens are “steamed’’ rather than boiled, and the whole dish has been made with barely any dishes being dirtied. Plus the stove top won’t be splattered with oil and the likes — all in all a good technique to have up your sleeve!
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