Strong opinions, weakly held

Cooking a roast (and why Food TV sucks)

This weekend we got a rolled rib roast on sale at Whole Foods. Since I wanted it to be good, I decided to do some research before we cooked it. I looked up the cooking method in the Doubleday Cookbook (a great reference cookbook), the Joy of Cooking, and On Food and Cooking. I also found a pointer to the article on standing rib roast at Cooking for Engineers.

When it comes to roasting meat, you set the oven to the proper temperature and take the roast out when it reaches the desired internal temperature. Some people make it fancy and start the oven out at a high temperature to sear the outside of the roast initially and then let the temperature fall to the roasting temperature. The one trick is that the larger the roast is, the lower your roasting temperature should be. For a large rib roast, the guy at Cooking for Engineers recommends 200 degrees. For our roast, we went with 325 degrees, the temperature recommended by Doubleday if you want a nice crusty exterior.

In the end, we rubbed the roast with salt and pepper, preheated the oven to 325 degrees, and then cooked the roast for about two hours and fifteen minutes until it reached an internal temperature of 125 degrees. We made sure to let it come to room temperature before putting it in the oven, and let it rest for 30 minutes before slicing it. The roast came out perfect using this approach.

The reason I did so much homework this time is that the last time we made an oven roast, we used a recipe from a show on Food TV. This recipe included potatoes in the pan, a sauce on the roast, cooking for fifteen minutes at 500 degrees before lowering the temperature, and plenty of other steps as well. Anyway, the roast didn’t come out good. Part of the problem was the recipe and part of the problem was that we bought a round roast at Costco rather than a nice grass feed rib roast from Whole Foods.

My issue with Food TV is that they are biased in favor of novelty. Demonstrating the proper basic technique for making a roast is apparently too boring for them to feature it on any of their shows. The roast we made tasted as good as any roast I’ve ever had, and there was nothing fancy about it.

Back in the day, Food TV had any number of shows that taught basic recipes and techniques. Cooking Live, How to Boil Water, and others centered on teaching people the basics. Now we live in the era of the dreck that is 30 Minute Meals. The idea behind that show is that it provides approachable recipes for home cooks, but the 30 minute concept precludes any number of delicious, simple recipes. Beyond that, the show is is about featuring “original” (often terrible looking) recipes rather demonstrating useful techniques that everybody should know.

I don’t think I ever realized until this weekend just how little the executives at Food TV care about teaching people to cook these days.


  1. I can’t agree with you more. Instead of FoodTV check out some of the public access cooking shows and ones that get syndicated on PBS.

    The only thing FoodTV has going for it in my mind is Alton Brown & Good Eats.

    Oh, and the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook is a great reference for classic American recipes, conversions, general prep and cooking advice for just about anything.


  2. I agree. I love to cook and find almost nothing useful on FoodTV.

    I can, however, heartily recommend Cook’s Illustrated: http://www.cooksillustrated.com/

    It’s the Consumer Reports of cooking, and perfect if you are interested in the science of the kitchen.

    For example – the roast you cooked? Enzymes in the meat tenderized it, and the slower you cook it, the longer those enzymes have to work. But only until the temperature reaches 122 degrees – after that, the enzymes break down and tenderizing stops.

  3. Rafe, you should check the article “TV Dinners” from the New Yorker on how the Food Network evolved from a world of real cooking and trained chefs to charismatic TV personalities.

  4. You should really check out Good Eats on food network, it exactly bucks the trend you are talking about. You may need to wait for the roast episode to cycle around, or figure out what is on youtube, like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9QN0eFm_ps

  5. I actually have read that article in the past, and I think it pretty much nails it. We were watching Sara Moulton’s relatively new show on PBS today, it was a great reminder of everything that the network is lacking these days.

    I do think Alton Brown remains one of the few exceptions to the lack of useful content that plagues Food TV these days.

  6. I agree heartily with everything written above. We do loves us some Alton Brown. One cooking book we have enjoyed in the recent past is “Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home” by Julia Child and Jacques Pepin. YMMV, but it catalyzed our return to ‘peasant food.’ So perhaps the book is more useful as a personal demarcation point of returning. We do still leaf through it occasionally…

  7. I have two words for you (and the only saving grace of the food network: Alton. Brown.

    I have a man crush on him (plus, everyone says I look like him!)

  8. I was so glad to find this site. My wife and I are both excellent cooks in our kitchen and have special dishes we make. We have tried several recipes from the Food Network and frankly NONE of them have been worth the time or large sums of money it often takes for their dishes.

    A couple of the recipes we’ve tried from different shows include a green bean casserole that was terrible. Stick with the traditional if you like that. We also tried aA pork chop dish with apples slices, ginger and a lot of other foofy stuff that was also terrible. I actually tried this one twice because I was sure I had to have done something wrong. Nope, the recipe simply sucks, Which pretty much sums things up in my opinion.

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