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Roasting Meat

John and Nichola Fletcher have a venison farm at Auchtermuchty, Fife in Scotland. John is a vet, Nichola is an author, a member of the Guild of Food Writers and an expert on cooking venison, game and all kinds of meat. She has written this really useful article about roasting meat for Squidbeak.

For roasting venison or any other meat come to that, I always recommend people to use an ordinary a cheap meat thermometer, the sort that looks like a clock dial. Obviously when you are familiar with cooking a certain size of meat you don’t need a thermometer, but with anything out of the ordinary, and especially if I were cooking a large expensive cut, I’d use one. You should insert it into the thickest part of the meat, and avoid the probe touching the bone. Leave it in the meat all the time it cooks so you can easily check what is happening.

The thing about cooking meat pink (and even more so with venison) is that it is not the weight of the meat that counts, but its thickness. Other things affect the cooking time as well of course: weight – if it’s a large joint – temperature of the meat when it goes in the oven; efficiency of the oven (a very small oven may burn the outside too quickly), and accuracy (no two ovens run at the same temperature whatever they say). So no matter what instructions are given, a meat thermometer is the only sure fire way of telling what is going on. You can judge how quickly it goes from one temperature to another to see how it is getting on, and speed up or slow down if wished.

For any meat that is to be served pink, I recommend undercooking it (to about 45-50C or half-past six on the thermometer) and then resting it; with about half the cooking time spent roasting and the other half resting in a sufficiently warm place so that it doesn’t go cold. That is far less likely to overcook. And it spreads the pinkness much better too so the meat tastes better. And it’s more tender too.

The other thing is that everyone’s idea of ‘perfectly pink’ is different. I would give the following serving temperatures for venison & beef: 55C (130) is very rare, 60C (140F) is rare, 65C (150F) is medium, and 70 is overdone; you don’t want to go there, or at least I don’t. Remember that the temperature continues to rise during the resting process.

A note on ‘official safe temperatures’: SO LONG AS THE OUTSIDE OF THE MEAT IS CLEAN, and SO LONG AS IT IS AN UNBROKEN SINGLE MUSCLE, then the inside of beef and venison is quite safe to eat as pink or as raw as you like; or in scientific terms: the risk from eating it is negligible. So if you prepare the meat on scrupulously clean surfaces, and/or brown all of the outside, which will kill any bacteria, you can eat the meat as pink as you like. The same goes for steak.

When I was writing Ultimate Venison Cookery, I checked this out with the scientists at The Moredun Research Centre. What they said about lamb, goat meat and pork is that the usual suspects of pregnant mums and the immunologically compromised should avoid pink lamb just in case of toxoplasmosis. In healthy people, toxoplasmosis if it is present at all, would at worst give mild flu-like symptoms. . However… the story is different as soon as you start to roll, chop and (even more so) mince meat, because the surface is enlarged and there is more likelihood of bacteria getting mixed in. So the above advice is for unbroken muscle meat only.

Read more about Nichola Fletcher and about Fletcher’s of Auchtermuchty