Roasting, which is quite the favourite mode of dressing meat in this country, and one in which the English are thought to excel, requires unremitting attention on the part of the cook rather than any great exertion of skill. Large kitchens are usually fitted with a smoke-jack, by means of which several spits if needful can be kept turning at the same time; but in small establishments, a roaster which allows of some economy in point of fuel is more commonly used. That shown in the print is of very advantageous construction in this respect, as a joint may be cooked in it with a comparatively small fire, the heat being strongly reflected from the screen upon the meat: in consequence of this, it should never be placed very close to the grate, as the surface of the joint would then become dry and hard.
A more convenient form of roaster, with a spit placed horizontally, and turned by means of a wheel and chain, of which the movement is regulated by a spring contained in a box at the top, is of the same economical order as the one above; but eaters of very delicate taste urge, as an objection to this apparatus, as well as to that shown above, that the meat cooked in either, derives from the tin by which it is closely surrounded, the flavour of baked meat. The bottle-jack, with a common roasting-screen containing shelves for warming plates and dishes, and other purposes, is not liable to the same objection. To roast well with it (or with a smoke-jack), make up a fire proportioned in width and height to the joint which is to be roasted, and which it should surpass in dimensions every way, by two or three inches. Place some moderate-sized lumps of coal on the top; let it be free from smoke and ashes in front; and so compactly arranged that it will neither require to be disturbed, nor supplied with fresh fuel, for some considerable time after the meat is laid down. Spit or suspend the joint, and place it very far from the fire at first; keep it constantly basted, and when it is two parts done, move it nearer to the fire that it may be properly browned; but guard carefully against its being burned. A few minutes before it is taken from the spit, sprinkle a little fine salt over it, baste it thoroughly with its own dripping, or with butter, and dredge it with flour: as soon as the froth is well risen, dish, and serve the meat. Or, to avoid the necessity of the frothing which is often greatly objected to on account of the raw taste retained by the flour, dredge the roast liberally soon after it is first laid to the fire; the flour will then form a savoury incrustation upon it, and assist to prevent the escape of its juices. When meat or poultry is wrapped in buttered paper it must not be floured until this is removed, which should be fifteen or twenty minutes before either is served.
* The bottle-jack is wound up like a watch, by means of a key, and turns very regularly until it has run down.
Baron Liebeg, whom we have already so often quoted, says, that roasting should be conducted on the same principle as boiling; and that sufficient heat should be applied to the surface of the meat at once, to contract the pores and prevent the escape of its juices; and that the remainder of the process should be slow, When a joint is first laid to the fire, therefore, it should be placed for twenty minutes or half an hour sufficiently near to effect this, without any part, and the fat especially, being allowed to acquire more than the slightest colour, and then drawn back and finished by the directions at the end of this section.
When meat is very lean, a slice of butter, or a small quantity of clarified dripping, should be melted in the pan to baste it with at first; though the use of the latter should be scrupulously avoided for poultry, or any delicate meats, as the flavour it imparts is to many persons peculiarly objectionable. Let the spit be kept bright and clean, and wipe it before the meat is put on; balance the joint well upon it, that it may turn steadily, and if needful secure it with screw-skewers. A cradle spit, which is so constructed that it contains the meat in a sort of framework, instead of passing through it, may be often very advantageously used instead of an ordinary one, as the perforation of the meat by this last must always occasion some escape of the juices; and it is, moreover, particularly to be objected to in roasting joints or poultry which have been boned and filled with forcemeat. The cradle spit (for which see “Turkey Boned and Forced,”) is much better suited to these, as well as to a sucking pig, sturgeon, salmon, and other large fish; but it is not very commonly to be found in our kitchens, many of which exhibit a singular scantiness of the conveniences which assist the labours of the cook.
For heavy and substantial joints, a quarter of an hour is generally allowed for every pound of meat; and with a sound fire and frequent basting, will be found sufficient when the process is conducted in the usual manner; but by the slow method, as we shall designate it, almost double the time will be required. Pork, veal, and lamb, should always be well roasted; but many eaters prefer mutton and beef rather under-dressed, though some persons have a strong objection to the sight even of any meat that is not thoroughly cooked.
When to preserve the succulence of the meat is more an object than to economise fuel, beef and mutton should be laid at twice the usual distance from the fire, after the surface has been thoroughly heated, as directed by Liebeg, and allowed to remain so until they are perfectly heated through; the roasting, so managed, will of course be slow; and from three hours and a half to four hours will be necessary to cook by this method a leg of mutton of ordinary size, for which two hours would amply suffice in a common way; but the flesh will be remarkably tender, and the flow of gravy from it most abundant. It should not be drawn near the fire until within the last half or three quarters of an hour, and should then be placed only so close as to brown it properly. No kind of roast indeed should at any time be allowed to take colour too quickly; it should be heated gradually, and kept at least at a moderate distance from the fire until it is nearly done, or the outside will be dry and hard, if not burned, while the inside will be only half cooked.