low-temperature cooking 

various dates

I'm not very good at cooking roasts @ 350 ºF and above. I always find it a bit of a hit or miss, and more often than not, I get the miss. The outside third is overcooked, the middle third is about right and the inner third remains raw. I call that the donut effect, nothing in the center. The higher the oven temperature, the worse that donut gets. I avoid that problem with low-temp cooking. 

Low-temperature cooking—as low as 132 ºF—is my preferred method for thicker cuts if I want really red and juicy meat. I do that in combination with searing before and after the low-temp cooking for roasts and steaks. The initial searing sterilizes the meat surface and sears it to adds extra color and flavor. The finishing searing crisps the outer crust and adds more color and flavor.

The prolonged low-temperature cooking ensures that the meat is cooked and pasteurized evenly throughout but avoids the loss of color and moisture that is seen with high-temperature cooking. In other words: the meat remains pink and juicy as long as the temperature is kept low enough.


Pic1: sous-vide beef roast
Pic2: low-temp pork roast


The FDA Food Code contains charts to show the time and temperature relationship for safely cooking various foods. See also the FDA Food Code Chapter 3-401.11 and 2017 updates.


Large-screen users:
To see the 2 charts full-screen underneath each other instead of side by side, zoom in to enlarge until the screen layout changes.

Pic3: minimum safety chart to show the time and temperature relationship for cooking whole meat roasts (beef, corned beef, lamb, pork, and cured pork such as hams)
Pic4: Other basic minimum cooking temperatures (*)


1. Sous-vide

Sous-vide (= ‘under vacuum’) is easy.

There are some very expensive systems for sale, but you really don’t have to spend that much money. You may already have everything you need: a./ a deep fryer or table oven with adjustable thermostat, the larger the better b./ a food thermometer and optionally c./ a vacuum-sealing machine.

The sous-vide method produces a very juicy roast that is evenly cooked throughout like no traditional cooking method can. You can cook a roast in the entire range from super-rare to way overdone by using progressively higher temperatures and / or longer cooking times.

The bright red color of the meat is typical for low-temperature cooking. Don’t worry about it not being cooked. The roast is thoroughly cooked through and steaming.


Deep-fryer / table oven method
A table grill with adjustable thermostat and a small cooking pot that fits on top may work as well.

The stovetop method:
You can even do sous-vide even without the deep-fryer and vacuum-sealer, but I do consider a reliable food thermometer essential to maintain the correct temperature.


2. Faking Sous-vide

Faking sous-vide with Mexican Chocolate Mole Sauce is one of my experiments that worked out very well. Instead of sous-vide, you can use a mole marinade (Pic2+3) au bain-marie = ‘in a water bath.’ This is a less technological method than Sous-vide Cooking, but it works just as good.

The mole sauce covers and seals the meat just like the plastic bag does and also qualizes heat distribution during the cooking. Unlike sous-vide, you can check the internal temperature of the meat.

You could also do this stovetop (Pic4) over lowest heat as long as the roast doesn't touch the bottom of the cooking pot. A few spoons underneath the roast should do the trick.

Take note that the finished roast has the same bright red color throughout.  Unlike an oven roast, this roast has no dry or overcooked edges. The bright red color is normal for low-temperature cooking, but rest assured that the meat is fully cooked.

Chocolate mole has the advantages that it has the correct brown color for a roast; and that it does not overpower the meat flavor. I assume you can do the same with other sauces, but I have not tried any specifically for this purpose.


Sous-vide: no mole necessary, see Sous-vide Cooking

Au bain-marie:


3. Low-temp oven baking

Directions for a 4+ lbs. roast

Don't forget:

170 ºF conventional—the lowest my oven will go—is still too high to forget a roast in the oven. It will be shoe leather if you do not monitor internal temperature and remove it from the heat in time.

Use Sous-vide Cooking at 132ºF to go overnight and even longer without ever overcooking the meat.