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A Shortcut to Successful Cooking of Small, Tender Pork or Beef Roasts

February 11, 1988|DIANA WILLIAMS HANSEN | Hansen is a Louisville-based cooking consultant specializing in microwaving

Large meat roasts should be cooked conventionally in the oven. Even the best microwaves with the most even cooking patterns usually aren't suggested for microwaving beef roasts larger than eight pounds and pork roasts larger than six pounds.

Because of their size, large cuts of meat must be cooked slowly so the heat leisurely penetrates the outer layers of the meat, then conducts to the innermost parts.

Dense Foods

Meat is one of the most dense foods; and the denser the food, the harder it is to conduct heat through it, regardless of the way you apply the heat. If you microwave a large roast, the center won't be cooked before the outside is done. That will happen because the center, which is shielded by outer layers of meat, must rely on conduction alone for the cooking. Conduction is notoriously slow. To evenly cook a large roast, it must be cooked at a rate slow enough on the outside that it matches the rate of cooking on the inside. This means conventional roasting.

Yet small tender roasts can be microwaved. The National Livestock and Meat Board recommends microwaving roasts no greater than three or four inches in diameter. At that size, conduction to the center is possible and can occur while the outer surfaces are microwaving.

The National Livestock and Meat Board also suggests the following cooking times for several varieties of tender beef roasts. Always choose roasts of two to three pounds and cook at Medium-Low (30% power).

Cook beef-eye round roast about 14 to 16 minutes per pound.

Cook beef top loin 16 to 18 minutes per pound.

Cook rib-eye roast 16 to 20 minutes per pound.

Place roasts fat side down (if fat is present), on rack in microwave dish. Add no water. If desired, rub roast with herb seasoning made by combining 2 tablespoons flour, 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning (crushed), 1 tablespoon salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika and 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper. (You will need only about 1 tablespoon of this mixture for a small roast.)

Cover the roast with wax paper and microwave, rotating the dish one-quarter turn and turning the roast over after half of cooking time. You can use small pieces of aluminum foil if your oven manufacturer recommends it to shield any areas that appear to be dark brown and hard.

Tent With Foil

According to the National Livestock and Meat Board, a beef roast should be 140 degrees after standing for rare, 160 degrees after standing for medium and 170 degrees after standing for well done. roast. Remove from microwave when it is underdone by 5 to 10 degrees. It will continue cooking, tented with aluminum foil, if allowed to stand for 10 minutes before carving. Beef roasts from the round should be cooked only to rare or medium rare for most juiciness and tenderness.

A pork-loin roast, however, should be cooked to well done. In a microwave, you can ensure an evenly done pork roast by covering the roast while it's microwaving. The cover will trap the natural steam and keep the outer layers hot while microwaves penetrate to the inside. The National Livestock and Meat Board recommends microwaving boneless or bone-in long pork roasts no larger than 3 1/2 pounds.

A roast this size will fit into a 10x16-inch cooking bag, which works well for microwaving. When closing the bag, tie the end loosely (using microwaveable tie or kitchen string) to leave a hole for steam to escape.

Traditional cooking bag techniques usually recommend venting the steam through holes punched or slashed in the bag itself. But, with all cuts of pork, it is necessary to turn over the meat after half the cooking time. An unbroken bag, vented through the end, can be picked up by the open end--carefully avoiding any steam--and turned over easily with no messy escape of juices. After cooking, you might want to rub the roast with paprika for color, since its surrounding steam prevents much browning from occurring.

Check Directions

Set the bag inside an oblong microwave dish but do not add water. Microwave at medium-low (30% power) for 20 to 22 minutes per pound. If your microwave is a small, low-wattage type, check manufacturer's directions for pork roast. Some microwave experts don't recommend cooking pork in this type of oven.

When choosing a bone-in pork roast, ask the butcher to crack the chine bone. This separates it from the ribs, so you can carve the roast easily. Remember that the number of ribs in the roast will dictate the number of servings you will get.

The recipes that follow for a colorful fruit combination and a savory onion casserole are delicious accompaniments to roasts whether they are microwaved or conventionally roasted.

RAINBOW OF FRUITS IN GINGERED SYRUP

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup white wine or water

1/3 cup crystallized ginger or 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

4 large kiwi, peeled and sliced

3 medium oranges, peeled, seeded and sectioned

1 pound red seedless grapes, halved

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