Few things say holiday like a big roast beast. The secret to any Christmas roast is to be sure you have a working meat thermometer so you can pull it out at exactly the right time. (Cooking the holiday roast is no time for guessing when it’s done!).
1. Roast Pork
For a crown roast of pork, which serves at least 12 people, a pork loin roast gets tied into a circle so the bones look like a crown. It’s regal and expensive and worth making once a year (or, at least, once in your life). You can rub it with a spicy harissa to create an incredible crust or treat it more simply, with salt and pepper. For a smaller crowd, make a standing rib roast, which is the same cut but with fewer ribs.
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2. Cured Ham
For some families, Christmas is not complete without a ham. The best part about this roast is that it easily feeds people for days and can be worked into all kinds of dishes, like salads, sandwiches and breakfasts. Since ham is already cured, all you really need is to bake it until it’s heated through (this takes a while) and make a flavorful glaze. A spiced bourbon glaze is incredibly festive.
3. Fresh Ham
A fresh ham is the same cut of meat as a cured ham, but it’s more of a blank slate for the cook. It usually should be brined for at least 24 hours, so plan ahead.
4. Prime Rib
Prime rib is the beef equivalent of the standing rib roast: It’s expensive and a showpiece. Because beef is so rich on its own, it’s best prepped simply and cooked no more than medium. A three-ingredient coffee crust brings out the delicious flavor of the beef. Or go with more classic flavors, like horseradish and herbs.
This leaner, melt-in-the-mouth beef roast (which is also known as filet mignon) is best cooked so it has a rosy center. Crust it with Parmesan bread crumbs or glaze it with honey, soy sauce and curry powder.
6. Leg of Lamb
While lamb is less commonly served in the U.S. at Christmas, it still makes for a festive roast. Rub it with rosemary (which has a scent reminiscent of Christmas trees!).
This big bird isn’t just for Thanksgiving. Because they serve so many people, turkeys are great for the holiday buffet table, especially for people who don’t eat red meat. Skip the usual herbs and either season it very simply, with nothing more than salt and pepper or rub the bird with a warming spice rub that tastes like Christmas.
Kristin Donnelly is a former Food & Wine editor and author of The Modern Potluck (Clarkson Potter, 2016) and the blog Eat Better, Drink Better. She is also the cofounder of Stewart & Claire, an all-natural line of lip balms made in Brooklyn.