Cookbook Profile


by Georges Auguste Escoffier

Escoffier: Le Guide Culinaire, Revised


In any comparison between the two normal methods of roasting, that on a spit will be found superior to that done in an oven; this is because of the big differences between the two methods and has nothing to do with the kind of fuel that is used.

This fact is easily explained, for regardless of all the care taken with roasting in a closed oven it is not possible to avoid producing steam when carrying out the process. The effect of this steam is so much the worse the more delicate the flavour of the item being roasted and the more easy it is to ruin its quality.

As against this, spit roasting is carried out in a dry open atmosphere which enables the joint to retain its own particular flavour. This shows the superiority of spit roasting over oven roasting more especially so when concerning small game birds.

In some establishments and under certain conditions, no choice of method is possible and for better or worse roasting has to be carried out in the oven but at least every effort should be made to avoid the effects of the steam referred to above.

3882 The Barding of Items for Roasting

In general, poultry and game for roasting should be partly covered with thin slices of salt pork (barder), the exception to this being those game birds which are larded with thin strips of salt pork fat.

The purpose of this covering is not just to protect the breast from the heat of the oven but to avoid it from getting dry whilst the legs are being cooked, as these require more time for the heat to penetrate than do the breasts. The slices of fat should therefore cover the breast entirely and be kept in place by tying lightly with string.

In certain circumstances joints of meat for roasting are covered with fairly thick slices of beef or veal suet for the same reasons.

3883 Spit Roasting

The theory of spit roasting can be summarized in this statement: 'regulate the degree of intensity of heat according to the kind of meat, its size, its inherent qualities and how long it has been hung'. Experience is the surest guide in all matters concerning spit roasting for no matter how detailed the theory of roasting may have been given it cannot do more than outline the basic principles—it cannot replace the telling glance and the know-how which come only from long practice.

Brillat-Savarin's saying that a man is born a roast cook is not necessarily true but the fact remains that it is impossible to become one without a lot of experience and a certain amount of dedication.

The rules governing the theory of spit roasting are:

1) Succulent red meat must be quickly sealed on the outside and then submitted to the action of a sufficient degree of heat so that it penetrates to the centre of the joint of whatever size with very little or no flames present.

2) the heat of the fire for white meats, which must be well done, should be such that the cooking and the colouring of the joint take place at one and the same time.

3) the best form of fuel to use for the roasting of small game birds is wood but whatever fuel is used the bed of the fire should be so regulated that it gives more flames than glowing heat.

Note: Avoid using woods which are resinous.

3884 Oven Roasting

The degree of heat of the oven for roasting must be regulated according to the kind of meat and its size in exactly the same way as is necessary for spit roasting.

When roasting in the oven the elementary precaution must always be taken of placing the item on a trivet with sufficient space between it and the bottom of the tray thus preventing the item from coming in contact with the fat and juice which falls to the bottom. If a trivet is not available the item should be lifted by means of a skewer with its ends resting on the edges of the roasting tray.

It is useless to add any kind of liquid to the roasting tray either gravy or water; this is harmful in the sense that as it evaporates the steam will surround the roast and destroy the brown crust so changing it from a roast to a stewed one. Nevertheless, whether cooked on a spit or in the oven, a roast must be basted frequently with fat and not with a liquid.

3885 Roast Gravies

Real roast gravy is made by deglazing the roasting tray or the dripping tray; the most natural of all is that made with water because the essential part of gravy comes from the juices which fall from the meat into the tray during the cooking process. Nevertheless, in order to obtain the right result neither the tray nor the juices must be allowed to burn; these should only be allowed to caramelize on the bottom of the tray or pan and this is why, if a roast is being cooked in a very hot oven, it must be placed in a tray just large enough to hold it and thus preventing the fat from burning.

The deglazing of the roasting tray will in any case yield only a small quantity of gravy and for this reason when much more is required, the solution is to prepare some stock in advance using bones and trimmings of the same meat, in the following way: place the bones and trimmings in a tray with a little fat and roast them until brown; place in a pan, cover with lukewarm lightly salted water and add the deglazed juices from the tray. Bring to the boil, skim and allow to simmer for 2-4 hours according to the type of bones being used then skim off any fat, pass through a fine strainer and use for deglazing.

To deglaze a roasting tray: remove the roast and pour off some of the fat from the tray; add the required quantity of prepared stock, reduce by half, pass through a fine strainer and remove almost all of the remaining fat.

It is incorrect to remove all the fat and to clarify a roast gravy; although such a gravy may appear more clear and pleasing in appearance, it will have lost a considerable amount of flavour. It should not be forgotten that a roast gravy is not a clear Consomme.

To make gravy for game birds the pan is deglazed with water and a little brandy which are just right to give the gravy a pure game flavour. It may be made with veal stock since this has a neutral flavour which will not alter the particular taste of the caramelized juice in the roasting tray. Alternatively, stock previously made from the bones and trimmings of the same kind of game bird can be used for deglazing the pan.


Buy Escoffier: Le Guide Culinaire, Revised


Escoffier: Le Guide Culinaire, Revised


This page created October 2011