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Cooking time concept eludes me. Please help one more time

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I know we've gone over this before but I seem to have a mental block about it. If you have a 4 lb roast and cut it in half, do you cook it as though it's 4 lbs or 2 lbs (half the time for a 4 pounder)?

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  1. Half the time.

    1. It also depends on the thickness of the meat.

      1. Use the 2 lb timing as a guide, but it might take a bit longer, depending upon the size of the oven. i.e., adding 4 lbs of room temp (or cooler) product to the oven/bbq will reduce the overall temperature by more than adding a single 2 lb piece.

        1. Use a thermometer, not a clock. Regardless of the size.

          10 Replies
          1. re: rjbh20

            But thermometers lack predictive powers - they won't tell you if your meat will be ready at approximately the time you want to eat, or too early, or too late.

            1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

              That's where experience and confidence in your experience comes in.

              1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                I agree. We always cook by time, not thermometer. It's how our cookbooks are usually written.

                1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                  Gonna say this one more time. You cook meat until it's DONE to the temp you want, including the 5-10 degree rise from resting.

                  Get thermometers, they're cheap. Using time/lbs is a recipe for disaster. Learn to hold your food and don't be dumb when you toss it in the oven.

                  Recipe books that use time per lbs are wrong. Toss them.

                  Recipe books that use volumetric measurements for everything instead of weight are also wrong. Toss those as well.

                  1. re: Zalbar

                    If I tossed those of our collection of around 75 books which use time per weight, then I would have nothing left in my collection.

                    1. re: Zalbar

                      If I have no concept of how long i will be testing every five minutes. Plus there is no way to plan what time I want to eat or when to cook everything else. Yes I am going use the thermometer to be sure it is done the way I want but I am not going to check every minute to see this.

                      1. re: melpy

                        It's easy to cook to temp when you have a flexible dinner time, within limits, and cook the sides to temp while resting the main item.

                        1. re: melpy

                          They come with timers and alarms these days. Bell goes off, pull it from the oven, set to rest. All done.

                      2. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                        So what? Most roasts stay warm for quite awhile in a warm place or covered with foil. Meat tastes better served warm than it does hot. Experience will teach you how to roast. I've been cooking for a long time both professionally and @ home so I can usually tell by looking, touching & smelling a roast when it's time to pull it from the oven, providing I know the oven temperature . Carmelization, touch, aroma, shrinkage all factor into this. Buy a thermometer and check frequently during to cooking process. I started cooking before the instant read thermometers were commonplace so we just ran a skewer through the meat, wiped it clean, then ran it under our noses (a very sensitive area) to test for doneness. This gave you a complete picture on how th meat was cooking from surface to center and how much carry over cooking to anticipate. Don't be a slave to time/temperature charts they only offer a less than accurate guideline.

                      3. re: rjbh20

                        When cooking for others, I like the predictive element of estimated cooking time. At the very least, I can make a plan, and also make a plan for holding the finished roasted meat until meal time.

                      4. Depends on the shape of the meat and the cut to a degree.

                        If you cut a log (eg a roast) of meat in half it would be about half the time....perhaps a little more than half

                        But if its a slab, eg a brisket, the cooking time would be the same since the thinnest dimension hasn't changed.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: sal_acid

                          Some clarification may be in order. I think in the first instance, you meant if the log is cut lengthwise, so as to halve the thickness. Cut crosswise, there's the same overall thickness in one direction, but half in the latter. Those pieces will take longer than a "log" halved lengthwise.

                          1. re: greygarious

                            I meant if the log is cut in the middle, preserving the maximal thickness in both halves.

                        2. Are you asking about cooking both halves at the same time?

                          1. Let me clarify the situation. I had 2 2lb 'round' roasts for a total of 4 pounds of meat. Do I cook it as if it was one 4 pound piece of meat or one 2 pounder? It just doesn't seem right to be able to cook 4 lbs of meat in the same amount of time it takes to cook 2 lbs.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: mucho gordo

                              Well, it sort of does. Imagine two separate ovens. You could clearly cook four pounds in the time it takes to cook two pounds that way, right? Well, a second roast in the same oven is similar, but it will take a bit longer for the oven to recover its temp with two roasts. If you let the roasts get to room temp before cooking, and if you cook low and slow, the impact of the second roast should be minimal, however.

                              I do recommend a thermometer, though. All cuts of meat are different (as we've heard here on Chow frequently), not to mention starting temp, meat moisture, etc. so going by time is not necessarily very accurate.

                              1. re: travelerjjm

                                Good example and explanation!