Holiday ordering brings up a lot of questions. Based on your questions over the years, the main thing people are concerned about is making sure they have enough meat to serve their guests. We get it.
Our main tip, which we have written on our holiday ordering form, and will always share with you over the phone or in person if that’s how you choose to order, is this: To nail the right amount of meat every time, estimate ¾ to 1 pound of protein per person if the cut you’re cooking is bone-in, and ½ pound per person if boneless.
We have other ways of ensuring you and yours get the right amount of meat. We always ask a few standard questions. First we want to know if your headcount includes kids. Young children (well, most of them) won’t eat as much as an adult, so knowing this helps us adjust suggested quantities. We also need to know if you like second helpings and/or leftovers. If yes, you’ll want to factor this in to the total weight you’re ordering per person.
Oh, and, for you standing rib roast lovers, we suggest when ordering that you estimate one rib per two people.
Sometimes you have questions beyond our standard tips and tricks. Here are a few of your questions we’re having Josh Applestone answer for this holiday season. Do you have a question for Josh? Let us know.
Q: I’m hosting this year and don’t even know where to begin with menu planning. Help me narrow down my options!
It’s about: How much money do you want to spend. We’re not asking you to spend a ton, but this helps you decide what to make. You can do a few roast chickens and be fancy with the sides. I like doing all of the spices and flavors.
As far as meat is concerned, who is coming over? Do people like fat or not? Some people have health issues and some people just don’t like fat. So if you pick a chuck roast or a ribeye or a rib roast, make sure your company is correct. And don’t forget about religious preferences. Some people don’t like pork. That should narrow things down.
Q: It’s the first year we’re having everyone at our new home. We have some budget restrictions when it comes to holiday ordering and still want to serve a great meal to our parents. Any ideas for stretching our dollars?
A traditional holiday rib roast is a presentation. And it will cost you. If you want to do something with bones on a budget, short ribs are a great option for holiday ordering. You can get them long-cut, this is also called a dinosaur cut, and then you cook them the same way. You slow roast and cook until they fall apart. Then you still have a bone presentation. Carve it off the bone.
If you’re not looking for a big presentation and want a higher end cut, sirloin top roasts are a bargain and are absolutely fantastic. For affordable beef roasts, there’s bottom round, top round, eye round, and chuck. For lamb, try sirloin roast, and for pork there’s bone-in and boneless loin roast.
Q: Every time I cook a roast in my oven, the result is different. Sometimes it falls apart and sometimes it’s something I serve in slices. What am I doing wrong? Is there a “right” mix of internal temperature plus amount of time cooked to make my roast more consistent?
When it comes to cook-throughs like a pot roast vs. something tempable like an eye round roast, time and temperature can only get you so far. The difference between sliced and something you pull apart is a very small amount of time. Something you slice still has integrity. If you wind up with something sliceable and you want it to fall apart, you need to cook it for longer.
No Exact Timing, Let Sit
Let’s say you put a Boston butt in the oven at 275. Do 8 hours if you want to slice it and 10 to 12 hours if you want it to fall apart. There is no exact time and it depends on how big the cut is. Then you need to let it sit. Rest takes so much longer than you think it does, always. Sometimes I lower the heat to 200 degrees when I’m done cooking briskets and let them sit for another 4 to 5 hours. They really need the rest time for sinew and cartilage to break down and be edible and creamy.
There are other variables to consider besides the size—there is the cut, the fat content (bottom rounds and pork legs are leaner than pork butt), and even your oven. Is it calibrated? Don’t forget about moisture. Humidity helps meat to cook at a proper rate and to not dry out. To add more moisture when cooking a cut of meat uncovered low and slow in your oven, here’s a tip: Take a pan of water and put it in the bottom of the oven. This creates a wet bulb effect and you won’t have to worry about hot spots. You can do this for a cut you want to slice or something you want to shred.
Also, when you’re cooking low and slow, a chef taught me something a long time ago: Don’t touch it! The problem is people don’t let things cook. You want to know how to cook a roast until it falls apart? Stop messing with it. Don’t open the oven to peek. Don’t flip it in the pan. Leave it alone.
You can let your thermometer tell you what’s up. But once you’ve been doing this a long time, you may wind up not even using a thermometer anymore. As with anything, what you’re working on depends on your knowledge. It’s logic after a while. I’m not the brightest man in the world. It’s like, Oh, now I got it.