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Cooking Two Roasts at the Same Time: A Guide

Feeding a hungry crowd? Here’s how to have two roasts cooking away without compromising on the end result.

Cooking up a simple and straightforward Sunday roast for the family is one thing. Roasting two hunks of meat for a gathering of family and friends—and having both of them come out fabulous—another.

Matters are complicated further by the fact that all household ovens, regardless of make and model, are not very spacious and heat unevenly. Repeatedly, tests have shown that the temperature indicated on the dial does not accurately reflect what’s really going on inside.

So, when the task at hand is to cook two roasts simultaneously so that both of them are cook to perfection by the time your guests arrive, what’s the best way to proceed?

Slather the roasts with olive oil and rub them with salt and spices. Put the roasts fat-side-up in roasting pans and slide them in a 425°F (220°C) oven with convection. After 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 375°F (190°C) and cook for about 1 hour or till done. Before carving, rest for 30 minutes.

This technique sounds simple, and in some ways it is. Under the surface, however, several things are happening.

The olive oil doesn’t just help the salt and spices adhere to the hunks of meat by being a binder. It helps to cook the meat more evenly by acting as a medium of heat transfer from the hot air in your oven to the exterior of the protein.

The roasting takes place in two stages. At relatively high 425°F (220°C) heat, the first stage hastens the Maillard reaction for a crispy, golden-brown, deeply flavorsome crust. At moderate 375°F (190°C) heat, the second stage allows the hunks of meat to cook fully through.

The convection fan blows hot air over and around the meat, greatly importing the distribution of heat inside the oven. This feature comes in particularly handy when you’re roasting on multiple racks. Without it, hot air will rise to the top and cold air will sink to the bottom. But the roasting pans’ lack of aerodynamics will hinder airflow to the hunks of meat.

Last but not least, the resting time. Thanks to carryover cooking, the roasts will continue to cook for ¼ of an hour in their residual heat. Then, their temperature will slowly but surely start to drop, the juices will settle in their rightful place, and the roasts will be ready for carving.

For best results, never carve your roasts prematurely.

Tips for the Most Fabulous Roasts

Roasting is a game of patience: Hot air heats meat slower than water and oil do. On top of that, you ought to use a gentler temperature when roasting large cuts of meat so that they cook fully on the inside without burning up on the outside.

Buy good meat. Whether we’re talking about beef, pork, or lamb, a fabulous roast requires a high-quality cut of meat; there is no going around this.

For beef roasts, buy USDA Prime or USDA Choice if you can afford them; the most succulent roasts come from meat with rich marbling. You can hardly go wrong with prime rib, bone-in or boneless, tenderloin, and New York strip.

For pork roasts, pork loin, bone-in or boneless, and pork shoulder are both classic cuts for roasting. For lamb roasts, the quintessential cut is leg of lamb.

Position the racks properly. To prevent the roasts from burning, you want to position each of them as further away from the top and bottom heating panels as possible. And yet, you want to leave out some space between them to promote airflow.

A Goldilocks dilemma, I know. But if your oven is too small to allow this, fret not: there is a solution. Swap the roasts halfway through cooking. If you know that one roast may overcook on the top and the other on the bottom, swapping the two roasts is the most effective way to counteract this.

You can also keep the top roast from burning by loosely covering it with aluminum foil. The foil deflects some of the heat away from the top element, allowing the meat to cook more gently. The lower roast needs no such protection—this function is already performed by the roasting pan.

Preheat the oven. Always preheat your oven for 30 minutes before popping the roasts in. You want the air hot and the metal walls radiating heat. Even on brand new ovens, a 15-minute preheating time is far from enough.

Consider buying a few oven steels. These thick metal slabs hold on to heat and radiate it during cooking, evening out the thermal fluctuations that take place in your oven as the thermostat cycles the heating panels on and off to maintain temperature.

Mind the time. Although the internal temperature of the meat taken with an instant-read thermometer is the most accurate way to determine doneness, most recipes give you the cooking time in minutes per pound.

Despite lore to the contrary, the cooking time doesn’t double when you’re roasting two hunks of meat in the oven. Chances are one roast will be smaller than the other, so approximate the cooking time based on its weight and start testing it for doneness when the kitchen thermometer rings.

Whereas you can always let the bigger roast cook for another 10-15 minutes, you can’t fix the smaller roast if it overcooks. And the good Lord knows a roast that’s crusty and chewy is one that’s left over.

Use a thermometer. When you suspect the first roast is done, check its internal temperature with a meat thermometer. Beef, pork, and lamb are safe for consumption when the internal temperature is at 145°F (63°C) or above; poultry at 165°F (74°C) or above.

To use an instant-read meat thermometer, open the oven, slide out the roast, and insert the probe into the thickest section, not hitting bone or gristle. Wait for 2-3 seconds for an accurate reading.

A leave-in meat thermometer is easier to use and doesn’t require you to open the oven, which interrupts the cooking process. However, the good ones don’t come cheap, and you will need a pair of thermometers (or one with more than one probe) for two roasts.

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Written by

Jim is the former editor of Home Cook World. He is a career food writer who's been cooking and baking at home ever since he could see over the counter and put a chair by the stove.