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Barbara Kafka's Roasting Book

Libby_'s picture

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I purchased Barbara Kafka's Roasting Cookbook, and am perplexed.

Her theory is that one can cook anything in a super hot oven for a short period of time and it is better.

Chicken: She recommends a 500 degree temperature. Heck, the only thing I've ever cooked at that temperature was a Pizza. Have you ever seen a chicken at 500 degrees, the fat pops and splatters all over the oven, and eventually smokes and burns.

Vegis: She recomends a 475 degree oven which burns most squashes, carrots and the like.

I have a lot of respect for her, but I haven't got a single recipe to work out at those temperatures. Is she wrong, or am I just nuts.

Burning up,

Libby

Chiffonade_'s picture

(post #60331, reply #1 of 24)

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You are not nuts. The high temperature method has been in use in restaurants for years, but she has adapted it for the home kitchen. I remember when that book came out and she was on
i Good Morning America.
It was right around Thanksgiving so she did a turkey (quite a large one) and promised it would be done when the show was over (2 hours). Apparently it worked.

I can understand your concern about spatters and such, but have you tried any of her recipes and logic? I don't have the book and generally just cook things at regular temperatures. Also, I think spatters would be more of a concern in an electric oven because the heat elements are exposed.

I'd love to know how you make out... :)

MEAN_CHEF's picture

(post #60331, reply #2 of 24)

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I don't have her book, but I can imagine the mess you would have in your oven.
High heat roasting does work though.
I usually roast vegetables at 475. Of course you have to like a little char on them. Chicken at 425 or 450 in my oven is way too messy. But again it does work.

Carolina's picture

(post #60331, reply #3 of 24)

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I remember reading Julia Child's comments on the book. She called it "utter nonsense" or something similar. I've got "Roasting", but have no intentions of wasting a good chicken by cooking it at 500 degrees. On the flip side, her book "Party Food" is very good. Makes me wonder how much testing she did on her recipes in "Roasting".

Sandra_'s picture

(post #60331, reply #4 of 24)

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I have Barbara Kafka's microwave cookbook (funny how that's right on top of my mind today! coincidence? I think not!)Anyhow, some of her recipes and ideas are terrific (i.e., the microwave jams & chutneys,) others are downright dangerous. For instance, she recommends heating oil for deep frying potatoes in the reactor. Not in my kitchen!

In short, take her suggestions with a very large grain of salt.

Rebecca's picture

(post #60331, reply #5 of 24)

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The book got a poor review by Cook's Ill. Here are some bits from it:

"Her premise is that high-heat roasting is both simple & universal in application." Basic roast recipes for swordfish, prime rib, lamb, & chicken were not successful. Pan sizes & cooking times were often inaccurate. Some side dish recipes were very good (Melting Potatoes) & the "Perfect Beef Stew" recipe was "excellent".

"A combination of high- and low-heat roasting often gives you the best of both worlds: a caramelized exterior & even cooking. In my experience, roasting is anything but a simple art."

"All in all, cooking from this book is like driving a Maserati. It's stylish (Kafka is a good writer) & it's interesting (some of the recipes were relevetory), but the mechanics are flawed."

It sounds like Sandra has good advice.

NLM's picture

(post #60331, reply #6 of 24)

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I have "Roasting", and have also been afraid to try the meat recipes, though the veggies were good, as were many of the side dishes, and the book was a good read. Does anyone have her soup book? I was considering purchasing it.

Chiffonade_'s picture

(post #60331, reply #7 of 24)

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Did Christopher Kimball review the
i Roasting
Book? If so, be careful. When he wrote his cookbooks, I felt he should be relieved of his reviewing duties. They seem kind of
i slanted.
In all other respects,
i Cook's Illustrated
is stellar.

Rebecca's picture

(post #60331, reply #8 of 24)

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Yes, Mr. Kimball did the review - it was 9/96. He prob. was writing his own books by that time. I like your point about the slant. Personally, I think he should also be relieved of his editorial essay duty. I nearly cried (in pain) when that page was expanded. Anyway, I'll be paying more attention to who writes the reviews. On the Kafka's Roasting book, he did admit, "This loyalty (of Kafka's) to a high-heat technique seems particularly dangerous to me since I start out with a bias, based on months of testing, towards low-heat roasting for many meats & poultry. To avoid prejudice, I asked some of the Cook's Illustrated editorial staff to assist in the recipe testing." He himself made only one recipe. The book sounds like a "mixed bag" as he also states.

FlavourGirl_'s picture

(post #60331, reply #9 of 24)

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LOL, Rebecca - Good to know I'm not the only one who dislikes his editorials.

Chiffonade_'s picture

(post #60331, reply #10 of 24)

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I don't really mind his writing style, I like the "humanity" injected in it. I said in another thread long ago, most recipes start with "2 eggs beaten, 1 pinch salt." Christopher Kimball's recipes start with "there was a lady who lived down the road from us in a red house." I like the homey picture painted - and sort of expect it when I read one of his editorials.

Once he became a cookbook author, I felt that as a "paid recommender" of books, his opinion might be a little biased. Why would he recommend buying someone else's book when there's one with his name on it in direct competition?

Jeff_'s picture

(post #60331, reply #11 of 24)

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I don't know what planet all of the people who are
dissing Kafka's Roasting book are from. I have
the book. I use the book. No failures so far.
Her basic roasted chicken is fast. The bird comes
out juicy. I agree, it does make a mess. That's
why god created self-cleaning ovens.

Chiffonade_'s picture

(post #60331, reply #12 of 24)

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c Earth

MEAN_CHEF's picture

(post #60331, reply #13 of 24)

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Maybe they use low heat roasting on Mars. Never been there.

kai_'s picture

(post #60331, reply #14 of 24)

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Hi Libby,

I first heard of the high-temp technique via Adele Davis, but she only recommended it (if I recall) for the first 20 minutes or so (on oiled meat, so it would form a seal and keep the juices in). Since then, at least a few people have told me this is a fallacy. Nonetheless, I tried it, and it did seem that less juice escaped into the pan, but the meat may or may not have been more juicy--depending on the cut, etc.--I no longer remember.

But, I don't understand why anyone would want to use such a high temp for the entire cooking time--unless they want a really thick and crisp crust (or, as someone mentioned, a charred appearance and taste).

Food science fascinates me. I'm just too busy at work with work science to get around to experiment the way I would like to. And, because I'm fearless, I will try things for the heck of it, but I wouldn't try high heat on an expensive cut of meat. In fact, one thing I do cook regularly is beef jerky (flank steak is not cheap), and I cook that for EVER on VERY low heat.

MEAN_CHEF's picture

(post #60331, reply #15 of 24)

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When you are referring to meat eg. prime rib, very slow roasting will result in a fairly uniform internal color. High heat, or high heat and turn it down will yield some outside char and progressively rarer toward the center. It is a matter of preference. I happen to like the latter.

Practical_Visionary's picture

(post #60331, reply #16 of 24)

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I have "Roasting" as well though I haven't read it yet. I'm a little behind in my reading. I did hear great reviews for her book from any number of sources including Fine Cooking. Also, in an issue of Fine Cooking last year (not by Barbara Kafka) they had a recipe for roasted vegetables at 450F. I tried the sweet potatoes with herbs and olive oil for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter and got rave reviews (not to mention requests to make it again later this year for the holidays.) I also understand from Sara Moulton, of Cooking Live and Gourmet magazine, that high roasting of meats does leave a large mess in your oven (her recipe for Oven Blasted Chicken is amazing!)and she warned her viewers of this when she did it on her show. Hope this helps!

SLEWIS's picture

(post #60331, reply #17 of 24)

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One of the key sentences in general text of Ms. Kafka's book was that the oven must be clean to avoid smoke....Once I got a selfcleaning oven I used her recipes more often and have found most of them very good...I do tend to turn down the heat on meats after the first 20 minutes. Her roasted tomato sauce is outstanding...I have also found all the vegetable recipes to be very good.....remember cook books can be used as "spring boards for cooking ideas" it is ok to play with recipes.

Carolina's picture

(post #60331, reply #18 of 24)

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Is the tomato sauce recipe you are referring to, the
i Roasted Plum Tomato Sauce
on page 419? If so, which tomatoes did you use?

Also, which vegetable recipes did you think were good?

SLEWIS's picture

(post #60331, reply #19 of 24)

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Yes, the recipe I use from her book is Plum Tomato Sauce, I am not sure on the page however, the title seems correct.......what do I use? My farmers market always has a box or two of "cosmetically challenged" tomatoes....I also often add a head of garlic or two and roast it with the tomatoes.

As far as what vegetables do I like, I use the section that speaks to timing of vegetables and use what I have on hand....I will buy parsnips just for roasting they are great roasted....

Carolina's picture

(post #60331, reply #20 of 24)

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slewis: The reason I ask is because the recipe calls for using one of two kinds of tomatoes. If the recipe turned out well for you, I wanted to make sure I used the same kind of tomatoes you did.

Grattan's picture

(post #60331, reply #21 of 24)

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I cook butterflied chicken at 450 to 500 all the time. Side of roasted veg and it's great. The maid cleans the oven on thursdays.

SLEWIS's picture

(post #60331, reply #22 of 24)

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If this message is a repeat, please bear with me folks I am still getting this e-mail thing down...I think I deleted it....
Carolina: When I first saw your question my initial response to what kind of tomatoes do you use was "red"...however, in review of the recipe I see that it lists both fresh and canned....I only use fresh...it seems somewhat unethical to use canned for some reason. Now as far as the vegetables are concerned I just raid the crisper and review page 315 for timing....

smom420's picture

high heat roast turkey (post #60331, reply #23 of 24)

I have used her high heat method for roasting turkey for quite a few years now & would't do it any other way. many times i have to bring a full holiday dinner up to massachussetts from LI, NY & this method enables me to leave at a reasonable hour on thurs am, get there by 10am, & do a 22 lb  fresh turkey in 3 - 3 1/2 hrs. i also use a remote sensor thermometer set to 160 for the breast & since the legs are at back of the oven, they usually come up to 180  if covered in foil (just the legs). the skin is evenly browned & seals in those savory juices, just make sure to cover areas w/foil that seem to be getting too dark. the real trick is to make sure you move the bird around every 15 mins, at the beginning, so it doesn't stick to the pan. if the legs need further cooking, you can remove them from the bird & roast a little longer to your liking. so far i haven't had to do that. also,  let the bird rest at least 25-30 mins to reabsorb its juices before you slice.

as far as doing vegetables that way, i steam them so it wouldn't apply. seems like way too much heat for delicate vegs, but i have yet to try it.

Bon apetit!

Gretchen8's picture

Probably good advice but 12 (post #60331, reply #24 of 24)

Probably good advice but 12 years late.

I prefer to do a turkey at 350* personally. I know the high heat method is still around, so it's probably still OK