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lullyloo

Roasting a Chicken

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I like Chef Fowke's method, but if you want something more "scientific," the usual formula is:

1/4 cup table salt

or

3/8 cup Morton's Kosher

or

1/2 cup Diamond Crystal

per quart of water

Note that it is the proportion of salt to water that constitutes the "recipe." It is infinitely expandable.

To this you can add sugar, juice or almost any other water soluble flavoring. But the salt is indispensible -- it's what does the protein (and a good bit of the flavoring) magic, and is why it's called a brine.

Use displacement to figure out how much brine you need: put your bird (or whatever) in an appropriately-sized container, fill with water to cover, then measure the water. For a 3-pound chicken, two quarts does it.

As for time, 30 minutes per pound of food is a good starting point, but obviously that can vary according to shape and density. Five pounds of spare ribs will take less time than five pounds of pork shoulder, for instance, and three pounds of shrimp will go a lot faster than three pounds of boneless chicken breasts. Like any other craft, you have to use your judgement, and you can expect to get better at it the more you use the technique. (IMHO, brining should never be less than 30 minutes for anything. Shrimp will be done at that point, and don't let 'em go much longer; but a big pork butt can go all night, and then some.)

And remember to refrigerate it, not so much because of bacterial growth (a brine is pretty inhospitable to bacteria, though anything already in the chicken itself presents some danger), but because brining works much better at lower temperatures.


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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I find it easier to put an egg into the water and add the kosher salt until the egg floats.

I've long used floating a potato in water to get the right salinity for brining fish before smoking. Got any idea of the difference between a potato and an egg? If not, it would be an interesting experiment.

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This thread reminds me of Mark Bittman's "Fastest Roast Chicken."

Put a cast-iron pan in the oven while you're preheating to 450. Season the chicken and plop it in the pan. (I put a temperature probe in the thigh before the plopping.) Wait 30 minutes, or until the temp is 155 or so.

Done. One of the best effort/result ratios to be found in cooking.

Geez -- does that really work?? I've been doing the basic side-side-breast up thing at about 400 degrees and it still takes an hour or so. Can the chicken really be done in half an hour with no turning?

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This thread reminds me of Mark Bittman's "Fastest Roast Chicken."

Put a cast-iron pan in the oven while you're preheating to 450. Season the chicken and plop it in the pan. (I put a temperature probe in the thigh before the plopping.) Wait 30 minutes, or until the temp is 155 or so.

Done. One of the best effort/result ratios to be found in cooking.

Geez -- does that really work?? I've been doing the basic side-side-breast up thing at about 400 degrees and it still takes an hour or so. Can the chicken really be done in half an hour with no turning?

I, too, was a non-believer, until I tried it.

The cool thing about it is the built-in thigh compensation. The already-hot skillet gets the legs going a lot quicker than the breasts, which only roast, while the thighs are roasting and frying. This lets them get done at the same time.

Note that, given more time, this is not my preferred method. there's not a lot of finesse here. But it gets you good Roast Chicken in less than an hour, including time to take off your coat and mix a Tom Collins.

Here's how it works for me: I'm on my way home from work, and I'm wondering what I'll do for dinner. The words "dinner" and "roast chicken" are always within a few synapses of each other. But I used to discard the thought because roast chicken either means 1) buying a rotisserie bird at the mega-mart, or 2) "the basic side-side-breast up thing at about 400 degrees," and yes, an hour or more is correct.

But this technique, which also convinced me that Bittman was worth listening to, has made roast chicken a week-night staple.

All I can say is, try it. If it doesn't work for you, put it back in the oven till it's done, eat it, then report here. We'll figure out what happened. It's what we do. Well, it's what some of us do.


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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Hmm. Think I can get away with a non-cast-iron pan? (I have an All-Clad 10" fry pan that would probably fit a chicken. Or the cheap little Graniteware thing that I normally use to roast in, although it's thin metal and I'm guessing it wouldn't build up the heat like cast iron...)

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Hmm. Think I can get away with a non-cast-iron pan? (I have an All-Clad 10" fry pan that would probably fit a chicken. Or the cheap little Graniteware thing that I normally use to roast in, although it's thin metal and I'm guessing it wouldn't build up the heat like cast iron...)

You need something with high heat capacity. Given the choices, go with the All-Clad (and catch up on slkinsey's eGCI course on Understanding Stovetop Cookware).

Meanwhile, you really need a cast-iron skillet. Buy it through this link, and eGullet reaps a farthing. It's the best $13 investment you'll ever make.


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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I've been doing this for some time with a very heavy rectangular terra cotta dish. It goes into the oven (which is always "preheated" to 220C, since it's an Aga cooker) for 15-30 minutes, while the chicken is prepared. Then the chicken goes into the dish. Works well. The chicken gets a lemon and some garlic and herbs inside, and a quick rub with olive oil. The chicken rests in the dish, which stays warm.

The slow cooking method also works well.

I only "truss" chickens and ducks very lightly, when they are going on the spit, just to keep the legs from flopping around as the spits turn. Chickens rarely need more than the spit attachments to keep them in place. No string. Spit-roasted birds always taste better than those roasted in a pan. Is that because the juices circulate more freely?

Dave, what is the return to additional hours of brining? I had thought that overnight was a minimum for poultry. Is 6 hours twice as good as 3? Or are there diminishing returns to longer brining?


Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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It is on my wife's list tomorrow. She is going to buy a whole chicken for me at Lonsdale Quay. I will truss it and take a photo. Really, once you see this you will not eat chicken any other way. Lots of crispy skin and no more over cooked breast. :raz: :


Chef/Owner/Teacher

Website: Chef Fowke dot com

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Chef Fowke: I tried your stretched chicken last night

I stuffed the bird with some flavorings, pulled down the legs, tied them together and roasted it. I must say i worked perfectly and provided more crisp skin than usual. Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful truc.


Edited by Wolfert (log)

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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Dave, what is the return to additional hours of brining?  I had thought that overnight was a minimum for poultry. Is 6 hours twice as good as 3?  Or are there diminishing returns to longer brining?

A salt-only brine will eventually turn the meat mushy. I once left shrimp in a brine for about 30 hours (not on purpose), and they ended up a lumpy mound of grainy goo. I don't know how long it would take less fragile meats to achieve this state. A 12 to 14 pound turkey easily withstands 18 hours, and I've known people to leave pork shoulders in brine for days. On the other hand, a brine with acidic (e.g., lemon juice) or enzymatic (e.g., fresh pineapple) components will act much more rapidly to render your meat to mush.

What happens eventually is that the salinity of the brine and the salinity of the meat achieve an equilibrium (the initial difference in salinity is part of what makes brining work). Once you've gotten that far, there is no reason to brine further (and for reasons stated above, good reasons not to). Unfortunately, I can't tell you what that point is, and I've never seen a table that claims to establish those points. What seems clear is that this point will vary according to 1) meat density; 2) thickness of the cut; 3) what animal it came from; and possibly 4) what part of the animal it came from (here I'm thinking that a chicken leg will brine at a different rate than a breast, due to the differences in connective tissue and myoglobin content, but this is speculation on my part).

The thing is, you're just trying to flavor the meat and gain a little tenderness from denaturing the proteins. For convenience's sake, an extra hour for chicken is not going to do much harm, but why push it? And if you're roasting, you want the chicken out of the brine for a while to dry out the skin, anyway. Given sufficient time, I brine, then set the chicken on an open rack in the refrigerator for several hours.

Chef Fowke, I'm looking forward to those pictures. Wolfert seems to have firgured this out on her own, and I'm envious.


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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What happens eventually is that the salinity of the brine and the salinity of the meat achieve an equilibrium (the initial difference in salinity is part of what makes brining work).

Just on the technical side, there is something that I'd like to point out:

When you have different levels of dissolved solids between food and brine, liquid will move from the less concentrated environment into the more concentrated environment until the two environments have more or less the same levels of dissolved solids. This is what is meant by "equilibrium."

Now, normally one would think that there's no way a chicken could possibly be as salty as the brining solution. This is, in fact, correct. So why doesn't brining a chicken actually move water out of the chicken and into the brine? This is, after all, exactly what happens if you brine a cucumber. Is this happened, wouldn't that make the chicken more dry instead of more moist? Correct again.

Luckily, as it turns out, the bland part of most meats is the liquid contained inside the cells and inaccessible until the cell walls are broken. The intracellular fluid -- the fluid between the cells -- has an extremely high concentration of dissolved solids. So what happens is that the brining solution flows into the spaces between the cells until equilibrium is reached.

The net effect of this is that the overall salinity of the chicken is increased even as the salinity of the intracellular fluid is decreased. This is good in the short-term, but the cell walls are used to having a high concentration of dissolved solids in the liquids that surround them. When the concentration of the intracellular fluid is drastically changed by brining, there is only so long the cell walls can maintain their integrity before they begin to break down. A certain amount of this can provide some additional tenderness. However, too much makes the meat mushy.

I have effectively brined a large (say 20 pound) turkey for over 24 hours without encountering any mushiness. It's going to take a long time for any brine to make it into the center of a big thick turkey breast. A 3-5 pound chicken, on the other hand, probably doesn't benefit from much more than a couple of hours of brining. I also like to brine double-cut pork chops.


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The other thing chicken has that the cuke lacks is protein. Protein strands are normally coiled into loose balls. The salt in the brine causes the bonds holding the strands in place to loosen (this is called denaturing). The strands are now free to tangle up with each other, forming net-like configurations that trap the brine. When heat is applied, the proteins coagulate, keeping the additional moisture inside (assuming you don't overcook it).


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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Taking a cue from brinemaster klink, I use a quarter cup kosher salt per quart of water. You can leave the chicken (or pork) in it for as long as a few days (have yet to encounter any mushiness) or as short as a few hours and still get a juicier chicken.

I brine whole birds, then push a mixture of herbs under the skin (oregano, sage, marjoram, thyme), garlic, salt, pepper, and a little olive oil to hold it all together. There's usually a half cup or so of the herb blend...you can use quite a bit more if you like.

I usually cook on the weber, indirect heat (sometimes with wet wood added for smoke), turning a couple of times, but don't bother to tie...it results in what my family and friends consider one of the 'best chickens ever.'

Jim


olive oil + salt

Real Good Food

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You need something with high heat capacity. Given the choices, go with the All-Clad (and catch up on slkinsey's eGCI course on Understanding Stovetop Cookware).

Meanwhile, you really need a cast-iron skillet. Buy it through this link, and eGullet reaps a farthing. It's the best $13 investment you'll ever make.

I finally sat down and really read through slkinsey's course. It was excellent. Finally I understand the difference between All-Clad's stainless line and their MC2/Ltd lines!

As for the cast iron skillet... the link you included was for a pre-seasoned pan. But I thought high heat (like half an hour at 450) was bad for seasoning--or is that not high enough to make a difference? I'm wondering, would a plain old unseasoned pan from the corner hardware store work for this if I didn't bother to season it?

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A whole chicken looks like a headless human infant anyway. One that's tied up is just awful beyond words.

It's so funny you should say this. My mother always refused to make Cornish Hens because she said they looked "...like little fetuses in the oven" and she couldn't handle the visual. :blink:


Katie M. Loeb
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You need something with high heat capacity. Given the choices, go with the All-Clad (and catch up on slkinsey's eGCI course on Understanding Stovetop Cookware).

Meanwhile, you really need a cast-iron skillet. Buy it through this link, and eGullet reaps a farthing. It's the best $13 investment you'll ever make.

I finally sat down and really read through slkinsey's course. It was excellent. Finally I understand the difference between All-Clad's stainless line and their MC2/Ltd lines!

Thanks, dude.

As for the cast iron skillet... the link you included was for a pre-seasoned pan. But I thought high heat (like half an hour at 450) was bad for seasoning--or is that not high enough to make a difference?

Not really. 450F isn't all that hot in the grand scheme of things. If you leave a cast iron pan empty on a full blast burner for 5 minutes, I am pretty sure it will be a lot hotter than 450F. That is the kind of heat you have to worry about when it comes to seasoning. Regardless, the pan won't be 450 for long anyway. Once you put the chicken in the pan, the (relatively) cold chicken will suck heat from the pan and protect it from becoming too hot. The "chicken in a hot pan" method depends almost entirely on the initial blast of stored heat from the pan, since the oven's convection heat (as opposed to conduction heat on your stovetop) is too inefficient to replenish the heat in the cast iron pan to any significant degree once the chicken hits the pan. This is why having a pan with a high heat capacity is so crucial to this technique.

The one change I would suggest (and which I practice in my own cooking) is to heat up the pan on the stove for 5-7 minutes rather than preheating it inside the oven. This way, the pan is much hotter when the chicken goes in. I also like to keep the pan on the burner for a minute or two before throwing the whole affair into the oven. This allows the chicken to cook some more and for the burner to replenish the pan's heat.

I'm wondering, would a plain old unseasoned pan from the corner hardware store work for this if I didn't bother to season it?

That would probably work, actually. As I suggest in the above mentioned class, I think it's a good idea to keep one big unseasoned cast iron pan around for super-high heat cooking.


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The "chicken in a hot pan" method depends almost entirely on the initial blast of stored heat from the pan, since the oven's convection heat (as opposed to conduction heat on your stovetop) is too inefficient to replenish the heat in the cast iron pan to any significant degree once the chicken hits the pan.

Ovens cook primarily by radiation, not convection.

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The one change I would suggest (and which I practice in my own cooking) is to heat up the pan on the stove for 5-7 minutes rather than preheating it inside the oven.  This way, the pan is much hotter when the chicken goes in.  I also like to keep the pan on the burner for a minute or two before throwing the whole affair into the oven.  This allows the chicken to cook some more and for the burner to replenish the pan's heat.

~rapidly scribbling down notes~

Thanks for the tip! I think I will have to get the cast iron pan and try this. Maybe I can sneak it into the cupboard and avoid the usual "Why do you need more cookware??" reaction from my significant other. :rolleyes:

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.

In lieu of brining, a kosher bird saves a good amount of time - almost "pre-brined," if you will...and to my taste, very few birds in the states come close to the taste of a fresh Empire chicken.

Can't tell you how much this validates my thinking! When everyone was brining their Thanksgiving turkeys all over television last fall (prior to deep frying them on EVERY channel 24/7!), I thought back over all the very salty Empire birds we had consumed without even using the term "brining" ...

Once we bought chickens from a local kosher butcher and, upon eating one of them, I announced "hey, this isn't kosher! No salty taste whatsoever!" My husband was appalled at my surprising declaration, as was the entire community later on when the butcher had his "hechsher" certificate summarily removed ... seems I was correct ... and, yes, you CAN taste the difference!


Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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The "chicken in a hot pan" method depends almost entirely on the initial blast of stored heat from the pan, since the oven's convection heat (as opposed to conduction heat on your stovetop) is too inefficient to replenish the heat in the cast iron pan to any significant degree once the chicken hits the pan.

Ovens cook primarily by radiation, not convection.

Not true. Look it up in "On Food and Cooking." I thought that as well at one time, but it turns out to be incorrect (unless I am remembering incorrectly -- will check when I get home).


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In lieu of brining, a kosher bird saves a good amount of time - almost "pre-brined," if you will...and to my taste, very few birds in the states come close to the taste of a fresh Empire chicken.

Can't tell you how much this validates my thinking! When everyone was brining their Thanksgiving turkeys all over television last fall (prior to deep frying them on EVERY channel 24/7!), I thought back over all the very salty Empire birds we had consumed without even using the term "brining" ...

According to this, kosher poultry is not brined. It is soaked in unsalted water for a short period of time and then removed from the water and salted for a short period of time, after which the salt is rinsed off three times.

While this will provide a certain measure of saltiness to the poultry, it would not seem to confer any of the liquid absorbing/retaining benefits of brining. The poultry should absorb some liquid during the water soaking, but I can't imagine that the major kosher poultry processors are soaking significantly longer than the minimum required by kosher law. Also, the subsequent dry salting would tend to draw out any water that was absorbed in the brief soaking.


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So, how much salt is absorbed in brining a chicken? My mother won't salt her pasta water.

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So, how much salt is absorbed in brining a chicken?

Hmmm... Hard to say. Some? I have never felt that brined poultry had a taste I would describe as "salty" although it was well-seasoned and did not seem to require any additional salting. That said, my understanding is that people can differ drastically in their taste sensitivity to salt. This is, I think, especially so for people who routinely consume very little salt. If this is the case, one could certainly make a weaker brine and still enjoy many of the liquid absorbing/retaining benefits of brining without too much additional saltiness.

My mother won't salt her pasta water.
That's interesting... I have always felt that pasta cooked in unsalted water tasted insipid. Mileage varies from person to person though, I supose. Does your mother avoid salt because she is concerned about the health risks (which only actually affect a small precentage of the population) or just because she doesn't like salty flavors?

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I believe trussing is bullshit.

I've never been a big fan of bondage...in the kitchen. :wink:


 

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