Cook's Illustrated

Roast Beef and Potatoes for Company

Roasting beef with potatoes, a hallowed British tradition, sounds like it will produce the ideal holiday spread. While the meat cooks, the spuds sitting underneath or around it soak up the drippings and transform into a flavor-saturated side dish that impresses just as much as (if not more than) the roast itself. But as smart and serendipitous as that sounds, it’s folklore. In my experience, cooking the meat and potatoes together rarely produces the best version of either one; in fact, it pits the two components against one another.

The problem is partly due to a lack of space. Most roasting pans can’t accommodate a piece of meat large enough to feed a crowd plus enough potatoes to go alongside. So the options are to cram the potatoes into the pan, which causes them to steam, thwarting flavorful browning, or to include only enough to feed a few guests.

The more fundamental issue is that the two components require radically different cooking methods. Low-and-slow heat is the best way to ensure that a large roast cooks evenly and stays juicy, but it also makes

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