Let’s face it — most people agree that roasting a chicken can be intimidating. That golden chicken coming out of the oven can be scary to think about and may need encouragement to attempt to make. Take the bird out too soon, and you risk undercooked meat, but returning the bird to the oven for a longer cook time could result in dry breast meat that requires copious amounts of ketchup. The skin is just as seemingly tricky to master.
When you have selected the perfect roasting chicken from your local butcher, you want to ensure you cook it to perfection. No one wants to waste food. There are some incredible recipes for the perfect chicken, but you can’t go wrong with a back to basics recipe that will result in a delicious chicken with just the right crisp on the skin and a delicious taste. Now to the good stuff, how do you make a mouth-watering dinner from this tricky bird?
Preparation is Key
From the famous bon appétit to The New York Times — the experts agree that brining your chicken and thoroughly drying it is the key to a correctly done, juicy roasted bird with crisp skin.
Brine the chicken for a minimum of one hour. If you have the time, let it brine the full day.
Once brined, you must thoroughly dry the bird. Leaving it uncovered in the refrigerator for 24 hours is the best way to accomplish this, but if you are in a hurry, you can pat it dry. Just make sure it is as dry as possible to ensure a crispy skin.
Now let the bird sit and come to room temperature. Which accomplishes two things — more even cooking and quicker cook time.
Salt and Fat
Samin Nosrat helped America understand the importance of utilizing salt, fat, acid, and heat with both her cookbook and original Netflix series adequately named Salt Fat Acid Heat, and roasting a chicken requires all four of these crucial elements.
Your brine should contain salt and some sort of acid like lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, or buttermilk. Simply salting the chicken with coarse sea salt once is not going to give it the intense flavor and crispy skin you are looking for on your dinner table. You’ll want to give it a good dose just before putting it in the oven.
First, rub the skin with olive oil, avocado oil, or room temperature butter. Then, generously season with salt, pepper, and other herbs. Use more salt than you think is necessary because the oil or butter will melt off, taking some of the seasonings with it. Kosher salt is the recommendation as regular table salt can create a metal-like taste.
High Heat Equals Crispy Skin
How long you cook a chicken depends on the size, but cooking on high heat will yield the best results. Start at a temperature of 450-475 degrees Fahrenheit for the first 30 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 300 degrees Fahrenheit for the remaining time. You will know when it is finished once you see the juice is running clear or when it reaches an internal thigh temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit — the temperature recommended by FoodSafety.gov.
It is recommended that the chicken roasts uncovered. Covering the chicken will create steam, which will result in soggy skin. Face the legs to the back of the stove. No matter what oven you are using, its back will always be hotter than the front. Facing breast meat toward the door will help to ensure juicier meat in the end.
Remember to let the chicken rest after removing it from the oven. The last step is essential for all meat, but especially for chicken if you want to avoid dryness. Resting allows the juices to redistribute. A little patience can go a long way to improving taste.
Using these tips the next time you bring home a chicken will create the wow factor you have been looking for when preparing the famous Sunday meal favorite.
Spatchcock or Truss?
The choice is up to you as the experts are divided.
Spatchcock is just another fancy way of saying the butterfly cut. The benefit of doing this is crispier skin and quicker cook time.
To spatchcock, use a sharp pair of kitchen shears to remove the spine by carefully cutting along either side of it. You can choose to lay the bird flat by spreading it open and laying it bone-side down. Place your hand on the breastbone and push down until you hear a pop. If you decide to spatchcock the bird, make sure to roast the backbone to add more flavor to the stock. Just roast it alongside the chicken.
You can still truss a bird after spatchcocking it, but if all of that seems too intimidating, stick with only trussing it. Seasoning the chicken ahead of time helps the flavors to penetrate the flesh even down to the bone. Be sure to stuff the bird with fresh herbs like rosemary or parsley, garlic, and lemon, then tie the legs tightly with kitchen twine.
No matter how you prep your bird, take the time to do it right, and you’ll be able to enjoy a delicious roasted chicken.