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How long do you cook food? Until it's ready, of course. But how do you know when that is, and how do you plan? For roast meat, you measure the temperature somewhere, but you still need some kind of rule of thumb to know roughly when the dish will be ready. Read cookbooks and you'll get an amazing variety of methods, many of them so different that you can't rely on any of them. On this page I'm collecting observations. It will grow, and I'll almost certainly adjust these numbers as I gain more experience.

This page refers to conventional cooking. In June 2014 we bought a sous-vide cooker, and I'm still trying to understand it.

Caveat coquus: much of this is specific to my ingredients and my equipment.



On hot plate of barbecue, 7 minutes.

Roast beef

I believe that roast beef should be very rare in the middle, and that's what I'm basing these times on. I've had a lot of difficulty deciding the times. There's more in the roast beef recipe, but currently it boils down to: cook in a fan oven at 180° for 45 to 50 minutes per kg, and take out when the temperature in the middle is about 53°.

Roast chicken

These instructions are current; they have been different in the past. The reflect my own experience on the one hand and a change in oven on the other.

This is based on a chicken of about 2 kg. Cover the breast with aluminium foil and place on the back in a fan oven at 170°. Cook for 35 to 40 minutes per kg and measure the temperature in the middle of the breast, with the temperature probe touching the breastbone. Take out when the temperature is 80°. Leave for at least 30 minutes before serving; during this time the leg joints finish cooking. Serve it too early and they're bloody.

Many people measure at the top joint of the leg, where the temperature will be much lower, but I've found this to be unreliable: it's very easy to misplace the sensor, and that results in over or (usually) undercooking.

For some reason the breast temperature of an unstuffed chicken rises quickly at the start, and then slows down. The last 5° can take 15 to 20 minutes.

Since 18 May 2015 I have been recording the results. Here's a summary which shows how things have changed.

                  Oven       Meat
Date       Weight       Time       temperature       temperature
18 May 2015       2.2 kg       125       180°       80°       with foil over breast
20 June 2015       2.222 kg       110       180/170°       88°       with foil over breast
21 January 2017       2.225 kg       110       170°       85°       partially foil over breast
16 July 2017       2.075 kg       118       180°       82°       with foil, deep cooking dish
24 June 2018       2.1 kg       94       180°       80°       with foil, deep cooking dish, less cooked
2 February 2019       2.0 kg       80       180°       82°       with foil, breast marginally overcooked
3 August 2019       1.7 kg       75       180°       80°       no foil, breast marginally overcooked
next time                   180°       78°

In the past my guideline was to cook at 180° until the breast was at 82°, but gradually I've been reducing it. Next time it should be 78°.

Roast turkey

I have more information about turkey.

Similar considerations as for chicken. To ensure that the breast doesn't overcook, I cover it in aluminium foil. 4.2 kg stuffed turkey take about 180 minutes at 175° to reach a breast temperature of 80°. Allow to rest for at least 20 minutes before serving. During this time, it seems, any rawness in the thigh joints goes away.

On 28 March 2015 we cooked a 3.8 kg turkey at 180°, and the breast reached 78° in 125 minutes. I think that's still too hot; the breast meat was good, but a little on the dry side. I planned to 76° next time.

Next time was on 24 December 2016, and in the end I tried it differently: a 4 kg turkey at 175°, which took 110 minutes to reach 74°. This is a better temperature; I left it standing in the oven for an hour, during which the breast temperature rose to a relatively constant 78°. And it tasted “right”: neither half-raw nor too dry. The only thing I need to add is to remove the foil from the breast after 80 minutes.

Rack of lamb

Cook to 55° in a 200° fan-forced oven, about 30 minutes.

Leg of lamb

I'm pretty sure that 63° is the right temperature, but last time I tried it was with a deboned leg in a net, and I suspect I put the temperature probe into an air pocket: at any rate, it took nearly two hours and was overcooked. For next time I'll still guess 50 minutes per kg at 180°.

Where do you put the thermometer? In the middle, theoretically. But we seldom get through a whole leg at once, so it might make more sense to put the probe in the area we're going to eat. If the middle is then underdone, that's a problem we can address when we prepare the rest.

On 29 March 2018 I tried again, somewhat hampered by the incredible weight of the joint—2.6 kg! So I cut it in two. Result: cooking time about 75 minutes, and maybe 63° is too warm after all. Next time I'll try 60°.

Roast pork

We don't eat much roast pork, and it has taken me a while to come to any conclusions on how to cook it. In previous revisions, I had written:

Conventional wisdom is that pork should be cooked to 80° to 85°, though Stephanie Alexander recommends 65° to 71°. Clearly there's not much consensus. Depending on the cut 75° to 78° is probably most appropriate.

Cooking times are equally uncertain. Stephanie Alexander suggests (after conversion) 60 minutes per kilogram, and “Joy of Cooking” suggests (after conversion) 55 to 77 minutes per kg. For a large roast, like the 2.7 kg loin that we cooked on 4 June 2016, 45 minutes per kg seem to be enough. Smaller cuts will need longer. On 19 February 2011 I roasted a piece of meat weighing 500 g, and it took nearly an hour. This was in a compact oven without recirculation, so I raised the temperature to 200°, but it still surprised me. More investigation needed. Given my experience with Kassler (below), 80 minutes per kg might be better for smaller cuts.

On 16 June 2014 I cooked a relatively thin pork loin roast weighing 600 g, and it took 45 minutes. That's still close to the 80 minutes per kg, but how much difference does the shape make? In addition, this roast suggested that conventional wisdom isn't that inaccurate after all: at 78°, there was still a hint that it could have been cooked longer.

On 28 April 2018 I tried again with a shoulder roast weighing 1.71 kg. Based on that experience, I'd say for the next attempt: oven at 210°, cook for about 50 minutes per kilogram until the meat temperature is 68°.

Kassler and ham

Kassler and ham have already been processed, and the general recommendation seems to be to cook them less hot than fresh meat. 74° seems to be the right internal temperature. Cooking at 180° without fan forcing, I have

Date       Weight       Start       Time       Time/kg
            Temperature       (minutes)       (minutes)
5 August 2012       880 g             66       75
14 March 2015       280 g             28       100
26 June 2015       510 g             50       98
13 January 2018       506 g             55       109

It didn't occur to me to measure the start temperature for the first three times, and it's also possible that they were done with the fan on. I'll wait for more data points before trying to fit a curve.

Thawing times

Ayam lemak

Microwave oven 300 W. Remove from container and put into porcelain bowl after 1 minute to avoid melting it. Total 6 minutes.

Hamburger patties

For two patties (240 g): 5 minutes at 220 W, rest a minute or two, 5 minutes at 110 W.

Hamburger buns

For two buns (175 g): 40 seconds at 1100 W.

Other cooking times

Roast peanuts

Try at 130° for 40 minutes.

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