How To Cook A Sunday Roast Like A Pro Chef
Glenarm Estate sirloin with Yorkshire pudding. Photograph by Mr Joe Woodhouse. Courtesy of HIX Oyster & Chop House
Along with perhaps tea, apologising and Mr Bean, there are few more clichéd symbols of British culture than the Sunday roast – a hallowed meal in these parts, and the pinnacle of the comfort-and-satisfaction-first approach to some of our more traditional fare. It’s less of a meal, mind, more of a momentous occasion that brings friends and family together over huge slabs of meat, roasted vegetables, and gravy. It is a tradition that has been around since the late 1700s, and for this reason, many of its elements are up for debate.
Let’s start with the name. Is it a Sunday roast? Sunday dinner? Sunday lunch? Sunday… joint? And what type of meat should one serve? Chicken, lamb, beef – everyone has their (incredibly) personal favourite. Some even like a “nut roast” (but the less said about that, the better). There are various ways to cook the all-important potatoes, too, and many different accompaniments to debate. Are Yorkshire puddings essential or de trop? Friendships have been lost, and indeed galvanised, on such matters. The only thing we can perhaps all agree on is that the Sunday roast must be eaten on a Sunday. To do otherwise would be sacrilege.
To help settle matters, and maybe introduce something new to our time-honoured roast routines, we asked three renowned chefs who know their way around a Sunday dinner as well as anyone to give us their personal preferences and expert tips.
Mr Tom Kerridge
Chef patron at the two-Michelin-starred pub The Hand and Flowers in Marlow
Go for simple cuts…
“For me, the perfect Sunday roast is about trying to make it easy. Look for a cut of meat that can be slow-cooked – something that works beautifully when it is well done. The stress levels of trying to cook something medium/medium rare is not what you want if you’re trying to have an easy Sunday. Shoulder of lamb is always my go-to cut, or belly of pork. They are the sort of things that you can just put in the oven at around about 150ºC and leave for four or five hours, until the meat can just flake away and the outside is nice and crispy for texture. Because of the slightly higher fat content, the meat will still be incredibly succulent.”
Mr Mark Hix
Renowned chef and owner of seven restaurants, including HIX Oyster & Chop House and Tramshed
Dry-age your sirloin…
“My preference is for roast beef, sirloin if possible. I get mine from Mr Peter Hannan (of Hannan Meats) who does a splendid Glenarm Shorthorn, aged for 28 days in his Himalayan salt chamber. The dry-aging removes moisture and concentrates the flavour of the meat. Yorkshire puddings are another important element. If you’re making roast beef, put some of the roasting fat into your pudding trays. This adds more flavour and will make them crisp up nicely. For perfect roast potatoes choose King Edwards, Maris Piper or Désirée. And make sure you pre-boil them to the point where they’re nearly cooked, drain them, return them to the pan, put the lid on and give them a good shake so that the edges get roughed up. Then, put them in hot beef dripping, goose or duck fat or lard that has been heated up in an oven at 200ºC. Cook these for about an hour or until crisp. Last, but certainly not least, is to choose a wine to match. Tradition states that Claret is an appropriate match. However, I’ve always been a fan of Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the southern Rhône. I’d recommend a nicely aged Château de Beaucastel if your budget allows.”
Mr Michel Roux Jr
Chef, restaurateur at the two-Michelin-starred Le Gavroche
Cook it on the bone…
“The perfect Sunday roast for me is about conviviality and sharing; big bowls are brought to the table and everyone is encouraged to roll up their sleeves and dive in! Whatever your choice of meat, it should, in my view, be cooked on the bone. Firstly, this improves texture and taste no end, and secondly, you then of course have the bones to gnarl over. When cooking, start early so as to give ample time for whatever meat you are preparing to rest. The larger the piece of meat, the better. For a great alternative try goat. Treat it like lamb and it works beautifully with aromatic spices. Cook the roast potatoes in duck fat with whole cloves of garlic and sprigs of rosemary for a French touch.”