Cooking the perfect roast dinner will definitely impress your guests. The best thing about serving one is that while it looks complicated, there really isn’t much technique involved – as long as you get your timings right, this is one crowd-pleaser that shouldn’t be too tricky to master.
Start the countdown…
2 hours + to go
Meat in first
This generally applies whatever you’re cooking. Larger birds or cuts will need a longer period of time, often upwards of two hours. Add chopped onion, garlic and herbs to bring in some flavour. Check the packaging carefully for timings to make sure you’re cooking for as long as you need to, especially with poultry.
The perfect roast potato takes longer than you think
The spuds will need to be boiled for 10-15 minutes on the hob before they go into the oven. They definitely need to be peeled. Put the oil/fat for the potatoes into the oven for 5-10 minutes before adding the potatoes to get them really nice and crisp. They should be in the oven for upwards of an hour in total.
Prep and chop
This is a good time to get everything else ready. Chop your carrots and parsnips and arrange on a tray with some oil and herbs ready to go in. Make your stuffing balls and your Yorkshire pudding mix.
45 minutes to go
Give the potatoes some attention
Take your spuds out after around 30-40 minutes and squash slightly with a potato masher – this increases their surface area and makes them really crispy. Back in the oven for at least another 30 minutes, and add some flavours such as garlic, rosemary or even marmite.
How’s the meat looking?
Your joint or bird should be sizzling away nicely by now. Spoon up some of its juices and pour back over the meat for added flavour and moisture.
30 minutes to go
Now’s the time to put your roasted vegetables and stuffing in the oven – both generally need around 25-30 minutes of cooking time.
The hard bit: Yorkshire puddings
This is probably the most crucial thing you’ll need to know: You must not open the oven while the Yorkshire puddings are baking.
The blast of cool air will flatten them and they’ll be more like pancakes. Timing is clearly really important here – Yorkshire puddings take around 20-25 minutes to rise if baking from batter (ready-made only take a few minutes to heat up) so you must make sure that anything else in the oven can remain in there for this amount of time and won’t burn.
5-10 minutes to go
Meat out/hob on
The meat’s come out of the oven so now is the time to start heating your hob-based veggies and pop your ready-made Yorkshire Puddings in if you’re not cooking from batter. If you’re really organised, you’ll get your peas going while you carve the meat.
By now you should have a nice combination of meat and veg juices to make a gravy. Add some flour or some gravy granules to thicken and flavour.
Anything left in the oven (you might like your roasts nice and crisp) can come out at the final moment and be put onto plates or serving dishes.
General tips and tricks
- Write your timings down at the beginning, noting when a dish goes into the oven and when it comes out again. Cross them off as you go to really feel like you’re making progress.
- If you have a small oven, double up on trays – roasted veg can sit alongside the meat.
- Check your temperatures as well as your timing. The stuffing balls might need a hotter oven than your carrots. Find a sensible middle ground and keep an eye on things.
- Clean up as you go along – you’ll need some room for all the trays and plates once they come out of the oven.
This is a practical guide to timing your roast dinner, but you can find some excellent recipes here to improve your flavours and mix up your ingredients.