The Tyranny of Resturant Cooking
Why is it that recipes always call for the same set of oven temperatures? Why does the 350° (Fahrenheit) temperature (plus or minus 25°) show up in so many recipes?
Cooking is a minor hobby, and lately I have been trying various approaches to cooking meat -- of late specifically roasting meat.
I have experimented with higher temperatures. Sometimes the results are decent or interesting, but less than inspiring. Of late I am trying lower temperatures, and it seems the lower the oven temperature the better the results. Naturally the cooking times are longer, and to hit the desired internal temperature a temperature monitor (with alarm) is essential. I have done several small cuts of beef aiming first for 130° (good results), then 140° (better results). The flavor is rather nice, and the longer times the seem to make the meat tender.
Understand that I hate the taste of overcooked beef, so this meat is coming out nicely done.
Watching a cooking show I suddenly understand why so many recipes call for the same temperatures. Many recipes originate with resturants. Resturants need to perform their cooking in the shortest possible time. Resturants also leave their ovens on all the time, so they really need all their food to cook at the same temperature (though they might have more than one oven, each set at different temperatures). Naturally resturants will use the highest temperatures that deliver decent results, and will only use one or two different oven temperatures in their recipes.
Duh. Of course....
I have a 12 pound beef roast (the market had a half-price deal during the holidays) in with the oven set at 220° and the alarm set to 140°. Doubtless the cooking time will be long for this heavy piece of meat -- but then I am not in any hurry.
I am tempted to try even lower temperatures. The digital control on my oven goes down to 170°. What I do not know about is safety. If the temperature is too low in the oven, will the meat spend too much time at temperatures where bacteria can multiply?
While writing this a possible answer came to mind: Use a higher 220° oven temperature until the internal temperature reaches 130° (at which point I believe we are safe from bacteria) then lower the oven temperature for the remainder of the cooking time.
When the internal temperature reached 130° I dropped the oven temperature to 190° to prolong the cooking time. Shut off the oven when the internal temperature reached 140°. With the oven off the temperature stayed at 140° for about another hour.
Result is decent. Going to have to buy more meat....