A major problem people have with large roasts like this is the “black and blue” effect, where the outside is well browned and pretty, but the center is raw, the outer layers gray and sad. The answer is to reverse sear the roast, either in an oven or, better yet, a smoker.
Keep in mind that this is not simply an elk roast recipe, it is a recipe and method for all large, red meat roasts. So beef, moose, deer, oryx, nilgai, large sheep (wild or farmed), caribou, musk ox, etc.
As you can see from the smoke ring on the meat in the photo, I used a smoker. This recipe is different from my recipe for a fully smoked venison roast in that this is salted shortly before you start cooking, and the smoking only takes you part of the way towards doneness. And of course you need not smoke your roast at all. An oven works fine.
The finish here is in an oven set as high as it will go, ideally 550°F. That gets you a nice crust on the outside.
To pull off this recipe, you need a probe thermometer. The Traeger I use comes with one, but you will want a thermometer that gives you a constant read of the temperature at the thickest part of the roast. You pull the meat when it hits your target.
That target temperature should be way lower than what you want when you eat your elk roast, because a) you are going to sear the meat, and b) large roasts have major carryover heat.
Roasts are the ultimate vehicle for carryover heat because they are often very large — this elk roast was more than 6 pounds — and they are kinda-sorta spherical: The closer an object is to a sphere, the more profound its carryover heat will be.
Temperature is another major factor. You don’t really get a lot of carryover heat when you cook at low temperatures; the “stall” in barbecue is related to this. That means that by reverse searing your elk roast, you avoid drastic carryover until the end, which is good because it limits the really serious “gray ring” at the outside of a roast.
If you were to cook a roast at only high temperatures, the outside would be blasted to hell by the time the center was rare, even if you let the roast come to room temperature for more than an hour.
With this recipe, exactly when you take your elk roast out of the fridge depends on how you are going to cook it. If you are smoking it, you will want to go right from the fridge to the smoker. This extends the smoking time, and helps develop a better smoke ring, which you can see in some of these pictures.
You won’t get a smoke ring in the oven, so in that case it’s best to salt the roast and let it sit on a cutting board for an hour before starting.
I also coat my roasts in a little olive oil and then a sprinkling of cracked black pepper and cumin and/or coriander before they hit the smoker or oven. Just a little added flavor pop.
No matter how you are doing the slow roast, when the thickest part of your meat hits about 110°F, take it out of the smoker or oven. Jack your oven up as high as it will go, at least 500°F. If your oven won’t do that, maybe your grill will. Even 600°F isn’t too high here, so a pizza oven is a great idea.
Once your high heat is ready, return the roast to the fire and blast it for just about 10 to 15 minutes, a little less if you’ve got that pizza oven. All you want is a pretty crust on the outside.
Then, you wait. At least 10 minutes, and 30 isn’t too long, although 15 minutes is enough.
This rest period allows heat to redistribute throughout the roast, resulting in a more even cook that, when you slice it, won’t release a gusher of juice — although even with a 15-minute rest you will lose some; just add that to the pan sauce.
Cook time: 2 1/4 hours
Slice and serve.
The 5 pounds for the roast is just as an example. See the headnotes for guidance on timing.
Keys to Success:
Cooking large roasts is an art, not a science, because there are so many variables in terms of size, temperature and time. If you don’t have a probe thermometer, err on undercooking your roast. You can always cook it a bit more.
If time is not an issue, you can drop the smoker temperature to 200°F or lower and get a really nice smoke on the roast before finishing. It’s up to you.
The spices I use are just what I like. Use what you want, or skip everything but the salt. You need the salt.
Leftovers make great sandwiches, and are good in steak salads and chopped in tacos, burritos or enchiladas.