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Roasting a Chicken

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A parent at my school has a partner who's away right now and she wants to make him a fine rosemary roast chicken when he returns tomorrow night. She told me to presume no understanding of meat preparation. Here's what I emailed her:

  • 1. Get a good chicken: Today, get a really, really good whole chicken (Bell & Evans, Empire kosher, free range, whatever). They're cheap and a mediocre chicken won't be good no matter what you do. (I'm not including brining directions since you don't have time.)
    2. Dry the skin: Bring the chicken home and wash it with very cold water. Toss anything that you don't want and clean out the cavity as well. Towel off the whole thing with paper towels and put the chicken in the fridge overnight so that the skin will dry out.
    3. Soften the butter: If you keep your butter in the fridge, put a stick out overnight so it's soft when you want to rub it on the chicken.
    4. Bring it to room temperature: A couple of hours before you're going to cook it, take it out of the fridge. You want the chicken at room temp when it goes into the oven.
    5. Rub it with your flavorings: Coat the chicken inside and out with whatever you want to flavor it with and at least 3-4 T of the butter, kosher (not table; there's stuff in there you don't want and it's got a lousy texture) salt, cracked pepper, and the minced rosemary you said you wanted to use. If you want to crush a clove or two of garlic and toss that and a sprig of rosemary into the cavity, go right ahead, but do not stuff it. You want air in there.
    6. Truss it: If you know how, truss it with linen or cotton twine. The idea is to draw the wings against the breast meat and the legs in toward the body, evening out the cooking of all parts. If you don't know how, fuggedaboudit. It's a pain in the ass and it'll take more time than it's worth.
    7. Preheat the oven for at least 30 minutes: People fetishize temperature but it's not such a big deal; if you over- or undercook it, it won't matter what else you did. I like to start the oven at 450F and turn it down immediately to 375-400F. Part of the issue here is smoke: you're going to fill the house if the oven isn't clean and you turn up the oven too high. 450F down to 375F should keep things more or less smoke-free.
    8. Cut up vegetables: Roughly chop an onion, a couple of carrots, maybe a stalk of celery, and toss them with a little of the butter.
    9. Prep your rack and pan: Put the chicken on a rack that gives it at least 1" clearance on the bottom. Something is better than nothing: scrunch up aluminum foil and use that as a "rack" if you have nothing else. Use a thick pan in the hopes of saving the brown stuff (fond) at the bottom; if it's thin it'll burn.
    10. Put it into the oven: Toss the vegetables around the chicken and stick the entire thing into the oven. Rotate it every 20-30 minutes and push those vegetables around as you do. No need to put it in upside down but you can baste it as you want. NO MOISTURE: you're roasting -- dry heat -- so resist the temptation to toss in white wine or whatever. That comes later.
    11. Check the temp: It should take a typical roaster about 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 hours, but the key issue here is temperature, and it's a bit tricky. You want to hit the thick meaty part of the thigh, near the thigh bone but not touching it. To make the USDA happy and to insure no pink at the bones, aim for 160F; to have it on the moist side (which I'd rather), aim for 155F. It will continue to cook once you take it out of the oven and should reach 160F or more even if you take it out at 155F.
    12. Let it rest while you make a simple jus: When the temp is right, take out the bird and very loosely tent it with tin foil. You worked hard to get crispy skin so don't steam it now. Meanwhile, spoon off most of the butter (or spoon it over the potatoes you made) and put the pan on medium heat with the vegetables, which should be browned. All that brown stuff is extremely flavorful; that's what you want to simmer into a jus with some stock, white wine, or water. So add the liquid you're using (maybe 1/2-1 cup) scrape, stir, and then when you've got the fond dissolved into the sauce, strain it into a serving dish or whatever. Toss the vegetables.
    13. Cut it up: Lots of ways to do this, tableside or kitchen, so I won't go into that. Keep that skin in mind: you don't want to stack pieces and soggify the skin.
    14. Eat it.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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There are a million ways to roast a chicken. In my experience the only really good ways are ones that address the different cooking temperatures of light and dark meat.

I put together a recipe (more a of a tutorial, really) for my friends who wanted to know how to duplicate the chickens I fed them. Similar to chrisamirault's.

Anyone interested can download it here: www.paulraphaelson.com/downloads/roast_chicken.pdf


Notes from the underbelly

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Seeking help from all the cooks here that way surpass me in both imagination and skill heh. I am making a nice dinner for my grandmother, making a roast chicken for her. What is a totally delicious and successful recipe for an out of this world roast chicken that wont have me crying in a corner from the complexity of it? I also have some fresh green beans, and some small new red potatos to go with it. Help!! please! :blink:

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Insert herb butter under the skin. You'll need one stick of unsalted butter with 2 oz. finely chopped fresh herbs (your choice, based on grandma's preference) blended with a fork. Add up to 2 T minced garlic. Loosen the skin with your fingers between skin and breast, thighs, back, and as far into the legs as possible, then apply a layer of herb butter under the skin. Truss the bird if desired, sprinkle lightly with kosher salt, and roast breast side up in a cast iron pan , 425 F for an hour. The lightly scrubbed potatoes can go right in with the chicken.

While the bird is resting on a carving platter, you can make a simple pan sauce or gravy with wine-deglazed pan drippings, and stock, thickened with Wondra. This recipe was inspired by Richard Olney's capon version, but his was somewhat different.


Edited by jayt90 (log)

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I also like to put some fresh herbs (thyme, oregano, rosemary, parsley) inside the bird along with a lemon cut in two or three pieces.

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I almost always roast chicken in a modified Heston Blumenthal manner. I like the results of his roast chicken in his In Search of Perfection book except that I prefer my chicken a little more browned on the outside and slightly more done on the inside than he does. so I sacrifice a bit of the ultimate juiciness for a higher temp in the oven to get a nicely browned and crisp skin. I've done it both ways and once the chicken-infused butter is injected I don't notice much difference in the end result as far as juiciness goes.


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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The Cook's Illustrated method for high-temp, butterflied chicken results in a very crispy skin. It's fast and easy. You can watch the test kitchen preparing the recipe

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How big is your bird?

If it's nearing turkey-like proportions I'd definitely consider the butterfly/spatchcock/frog approach. Much easier to get perfect light and dark meat, plus the surgery is fun.


Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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Thom Keller's Simple Roast Chicken is a no-fail recipe. You could add the potatoes to the pan to roast in the pan juices. For the beans, blanch them, refresh under cold water and dry, the saute in butter with pine nuts. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

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Ok now I am drooling lol. I think the bird is about 3 pounds. Im going to give the Keller method a try, it seems the simplest that has less chance of me screwing it up! Thanks for all the suggestions, will post my results on Wednesday heh.

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Trust Julia. She did not fall off of the cabbage truck.

I do this all of the time (as recently as last night) and, really, it's just about as good as it gets. It was, in fact, her favorite thing to eat. And, given that it's Julia Child, that's really saying something.

I am "associated" with a woman who can roast chicken as well as anyone on Earth, but i can't do it like she can with her method, no matter how many times I try (I guess those Beard Award things might actually mean something besides good pr, but I still have my doubting moments), but this methodology is dead simple and delicious.

A chicken. It ain't nuttin but a bird.


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Basic roast chicken.

1 Very Good Quality Chicken

Take 6oz of butter and spread all over the chicken

Loads of salt and pepper

Squeeze the juice from 1 lemon over the top.

Take the halves of lemon from the above, 1 medium onion quartered with a couple of cloves of smashed garlic and stuff them up it's bottom.

Roast and baste occasionally.

Take chicken out to rest fo 10 mins.

Meanwhile take the juices and chuck into a blender (a pinch of lethicin is good to help emulsify the gravy) then add a little bit of fresh taragon. Keep warm till chicken has rested.

Top Tip:- If using a cheap chicken then blend some strong spices e.g. Tom Yum Gung paste or Curry past with the butter and smear all over. (Skip the Taragon for the gravy if you do this).

Also as the cook - you get to eat the oysters.

And when usinh what's left for stock take out the lemon or your stock will be very bitter.


Edited by ermintrude (log)

Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.

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About the keller method:

he says that in the end you baste the chicken before serving it. But that beats the purpose of keeping the skin crispy, no?

I go for a variation of the heston method (6 hours in 60C). My gas oven cannot go as low as 60C, so I use gas mark 1, which is about 110C. I usually brine the chicken in a 8% solution (80grams of salt for a litre of water, usually use 3 litres) with 4% sugar. I rub oil and salt pepper. I take good care to season the inside of the chicken very well.

Then cook until the thigh is 65C.

For a 4 pound chicken this takes about 1.30 hours. At this point the skin is very pale and not crispy at all. I take the chicken out, and put the oven at full whack, close to 250C and also turn on the broiler at full temperature as well. I oil and salt the chicken again, then pop it in for about 15 mins until the skin is crisp.

This method creates amazingly succulent flesh, and very crisp skin.

alternatively, when I am in a hurry, I turn the oven in full wack, 250C and pop the chicken in for 40, plus 10 mins under the broiler for extra crispy skin. The flesh will not be as succulent, but still pretty damn good chickin!


Edited by RedRum (log)

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I've switched over to doing beer can chicken for all my roast chickens. Essentially, you get a can half filled with some liquid (I keep a couple of empty soda cans around for this) and shove it in the cavity to form a tripod.

Season the chicken well and place it on a small sheet pan and put it in the fridge with the can and let it air dry for a day. Let it come to room temperature and then throw a bunch of paper thin sliced onions on the sheet pan (a few whole garlic cloves and herbs wouldn't hurt at this point either). Roast it at 350 until done. Take the can out, empty the contents onto the pan and then let the chicken rest, with the empty can back in. Meanwhile, strain the liquid, degrease and then put the onions back in and puree it a blender, then strain again. The onions will thicken up the sauce and give you a intense, slightly sweet gravy which goes amazingly with the chicken.

edit: The hour and a half the chicken takes to cook is exactly enough time to make up a small batch of crackling stock from the trimmings of the chicken which amps up the flavour of the gravy even more. To help it go faster, I puree the fat in the blender with a tiny bit of water.


Edited by Shalmanese (log)

PS: I am a guy.

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I can only mirror the earlier admiration for Thomas Keller's "Poulet Roti," Bouchon recipe - faultless.

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Thom Keller's Simple Roast Chicken is a no-fail recipe.  You could add the potatoes to the pan to roast in the pan juices.  For the beans, blanch them, refresh under cold water and dry, the saute in butter with pine nuts.  Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

This is the only method I use now, and it's absolutely incredible. It's my go to dish for company or just me. I swear, I've been known to eat close to the whole thing standing up at the counter...

I've turned a number of friends onto this method as well and they all swear by it too.


There's nothing so bad in this life that pork fat can't make better.

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Thom Keller's Simple Roast Chicken is a no-fail recipe.  You could add the potatoes to the pan to roast in the pan juices.  For the beans, blanch them, refresh under cold water and dry, the saute in butter with pine nuts.  Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

This is the only method I use now, and it's absolutely incredible. It's my go to dish for company or just me. I swear, I've been known to eat close to the whole thing standing up at the counter...

I've turned a number of friends onto this method as well and they all swear by it too.

Absolutely. I've turned what could have been an awkward weekend with the girlfriend's parents into a much more comfortable occasion with Keller's Roast Chicken. Unfailingly delicious.

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next time I cook a whole chicken, I am going to have to give TK's version a whirl. My mormal go-to method is to brine it, spatchcock it, dry it in the fridge overnight, then high heat roast it.


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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Just curious- why do you dry it overnight? If you pat it with some paper towels, you can get some nice crispy skin...

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I don't know. I've gotten great results with paper towels, and it seems like a whole lot of time to wait for what little improvement could come of it. Not even Thomas Keller advocates drying like that!

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That Keller. He's such a slacker.

Seriously, if you've got the time and a serious chicken skin jones like mine, it's the way to go. If not, use the paper towels. It's not going to destroy the dish.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I've experimented a lot with air drying. I think it works wonders for supermarket chickens that have been processed with additional water. These birds take on additional water weight, which dilutes the flavor and makes it harder to brown and crisp the skin.

With better quality air-dried birds, drying uncovered in the fridge seems like too much. Drier is not better past a certain point.

What I've found works well with these birds, if you have the time, is to salt them and let them sit overnight in the fridge partially covered ... like in a plastic bag that's been ventilated wtih a few holes. The results are much better than brining, in my experience, and you get benefits that you just don't get when you salt shortly before cooking.

Keller's Simple Roast Chicken is very good, but keep in mind that it's his simple chicken, not necessarily his best! If he's roasting a chicken at the French Laundry or Per Se, I'm betting he's using more sophisticated methods that give even better results. You can too.


Notes from the underbelly

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Thom Keller's Simple Roast Chicken is a no-fail recipe.  You could add the potatoes to the pan to roast in the pan juices.  For the beans, blanch them, refresh under cold water and dry, the saute in butter with pine nuts.  Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

This is the only method I use now, and it's absolutely incredible. It's my go to dish for company or just me. I swear, I've been known to eat close to the whole thing standing up at the counter...

I've turned a number of friends onto this method as well and they all swear by it too.

Absolutely. I've turned what could have been an awkward weekend with the girlfriend's parents into a much more comfortable occasion with Keller's Roast Chicken. Unfailingly delicious.

I have to say... I have a hard time calling this "Keller's" roast chicken. His recipe consists of: truss 2-3 pound chicken, salt well, roast in preheated 450F oven until done, rest 15 minutes. This hardly seems like a "technique." The secret, in my opinion, is in the size of the chicken.


--

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I've experimented a lot with air drying. I think it works wonders for supermarket chickens that have been processed with additional water. These birds take on additional water weight, which dilutes the flavor and makes it harder to brown and crisp the skin.

With better quality air-dried birds, drying uncovered in the fridge seems like too much. Drier is not better past a certain point.

That's a good point. I get Bell & Evans nearly all the time, and despite their "air-chilled" marketing, they are pretty soggy. But when I've gotten chicken freshly killed at a local poultry place (worth doing if you're going to roast) that I kept on cracked ice in the fridge, they've not needed that much drying.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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