A roast makes a simple and flavorful building block for a family meal. Many people think of roasts as special occasion or Sunday meals, but as long as you are at home while the roast cooks, you can prepare one anytime. The slow-cooking method works well with relatively inexpensive cuts of meat, although the best roasts come from high-quality types and cuts of meat.
The most common type of meat to use for a roast is beef. A cut of beef labeled "choice" is high-grade meat that you can dry roast because it is tender and marbled with fat. Beef labeled "select" is better cooked as a pot roast with liquid to keep it moist. The top tier of beef is labeled "prime," but it is rarely available to home cooks. The best cuts of beef for a roast are the tenderloin, rolled rib roast and standing rib roast. Other cuts that roast well include the strip loin, top loin, bottom sirloin, eye round, top round and sirloin tip.
The simplest type of pork roast to make is a pork loin. This roast cooks quickly, usually in just 30 minutes per pound. Stuff the pork loin with fruit, nuts and spices, or season it easily with a salad dressing mix, to make it more flavorful. For an even faster roast, use a pork tenderloin, which is usually about 3/4 pounds and will cook in 20 minutes at 500 degrees Fahrenheit. For a larger pork roast, use the pork shoulder, which is often separated into the Boston butt and the picnic shoulder, both of which roast well.
For a special-occasion roast, turn to lamb. The hearty meat needs little seasoning beyond salt and pepper. Include garlic, rosemary or mint if you want a stronger flavor. Roast a whole lamb leg, rib rack or loin. When preparing a lamb roast, cook it only to 135 to 155 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on whether you want it medium-rare or medium. The temperature will rise another 5 degrees after you remove it from the oven. The meat is too tough if you cook it longer. A whole leg takes only an hour and a half, whereas a rack of ribs or loin are done in about 25 minutes.
Roasted vegetables are a reliable side dish to roasted meats. Just cut a variety of fresh vegetables into chunks, spread them on a baking sheet and roast them for about an hour in the oven next to or on a rack above or below the meat. A garden salad, served with the family's favorite dressings, also complements the flavor of a roast well. For a starch, mashed potatoes are a classic choice, especially if you make some gravy to pour over them and the meat.