Since You Asked: Don't be afraid of the heat when roasting

My favorite Food Network chef, Ina Garten, loves to roast. Recently, she roasted tomatoes at 450 F. Sometimes she goes as high as 500 F. That's a little scary to me! Is it possible to roast at a lower temperature for a longer time and have similar results?

— Julia G., Medford

There's more than one approach to roasting. The one to use depends on the effect you're after.

High-heat roasting got a lot of attention when Barbara Kafka published her book "Roasting" in 1995, and it has returned recently as a popular method for turkey. The advantage to high-heat roasting, particularly with meat and poultry, is that it can crisp the skin, promote browning and keep in a lot of moisture. It also speeds up cooking and saves time.

In slower roasting at a lower temperature, food has more time to dry out. That can be bad for something such as roast poultry, but it can be good for things such as roasted vegetables. It intensifies flavors and allows more caramelization. In his book "Think Like a Chef," New York chef (and "Top Chef" host) Tom Colicchio advocates the slower approach as a way to build flavor.

Then there's a middle path, combining both high and low heat. That's an approach useful with meat and poultry: Start at a high temperature to crisp the skin and start releasing juices, then reduce the temperature to let the food finish more slowly.

If you decide to go with the high-heat method, there's no reason to be afraid. Ovens are built to handle heat. But make sure your oven is clean and use your exhaust fan. It also helps to put the food on a rack and make sure there's some water in the bottom of the pan. Otherwise, you'll find yourself running to turn off the smoke detector.

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