11/04/2011 10:04 am ET Updated Aug 31, 2012

How To Truss A Roast

The reason you truss a roast is to help the meat keep its shape and to hold in the juices during cooking, explains chef Mark Elia of The Culinary Institute of America. Whether you're working with pork, beef, or lamb, the technique is the same. He begins with a long piece of standard butcher's twine, which is available at most retail stores. Chef Elia suggests keeping it draped over your shoulders as you work with it to keep it off of the floor.

The ties themselves are a series of three knots. Starting with the feed side in your left hand if you're right handed, slide the string under the roast to the point where you want to make a tie. (Chef Elia begins in the middle, then works toward each side in 2- to 3-inch increments.) Bring the string up and around to the top of the roast, forming the letter 'A' with the string being the cross, then pull gently but firmly. Slowly wrap the string around the feed side again to make another tie, then pull the string, holding your fingers against the knots to tighten lightly -- you want an indentation, but the meat should not be squished. To finish the tie, make the letter c, pulling the end of the string through to make another knot. Repeat this process every few inches along the roast.

A word of caution from Chef Elia: Don't try to tie regular knots in the string. It won't work, since you won't get enough tension on the roast. When the meat cooks, it's going to shrink. If the knots are already loose, it's going to be even looser when the roast is done.

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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Chef Mark Elia from the Culinary Institute of America, and I'm now going to show you this kitchen basic: how to truss or tie a roast.

We can truss or tie a pork roast, a beef roast, a lamb roast - the tying procedure is really all the same. It's quite simple. Taking our standard butcher's twine, which is 16-ply and can be purchased in any retail store or even at your local butcher's shop, you'd start with a piece that is fairly long. I like to drape it over my neck so that I won't lose it. Starting with the feed side in your left hand (for those of you that are right-handed), slide the string underneath the roast. The reason we tie the roast is to hold the juices in and help it hold its form during cooking, as well as give it a really nice appearance.

Starting in the middle, we bring the shorter end of the string over the top of the roast and using our right index finger and middle finger, we form the letter A (with the short end of the string being our crosspiece). With the letter A we'll cross our feed side, and using our thumb and our index finger we'll slowly wrap the string around the feed string, pull down once and hold. Coming back up a second time with the same letter A, we cross, bringing the feed side around again, and now this time bringing the knot down only until they just touch. If you pull too tight at this point you'll lock the knot and we'll have to start all over again. You can now switch hands, fingers behind the knot - don't pull on the knot or squeeze the knot, always hold your fingers behind the knot - and pull the string through your fingers to the point where it just starts to make an indentation, and just begins to tear the meat a little tiny bit. Making a letter C with your left hand, drop it down over the top of the string, wrap the string around your two fingers, reach down and pull the loose side up through, tying it down and locking it in.

We start in the middle and use even spacing going out towards the ends, to give us a nice perfect shape. Again we go underneath, come up through, making the A with your fingers, wrap it around the feed side one time, pull it down and hold. Come up with another A, cross, wrap it around a second time, and just gently touch the two knots together. Switching hands and sliding the string through your fingers, tighten just enough to make a nice indentation. Again with the locking procedure, we make the letter C with our hand, drop it down over the top of our string, around two fingers, reach down and pull it through.

Now what a lot of home cooks will do is come around from underneath with the string, bring it up, and tie it like they're tying their shoes - and they think they have a trussed roast beef. Nothing could be further from the truth. You'll never get enough tension on this knot to hold the roast in place where you need it to be. You have to remember that when this roast cooks, it's going to shrink. If the knots are already loose, it's going to be even looser when the roast is done.

This is how we tie or truss a roast beef.