Adapted form Cooks Illustrated
I’ve always been intimidated by whole poultry. I’ve heard horror stories from people at thanksgiving dinners cutting into a turkey that’s been half frozen and bloody. The first chicken I made was in a crock pot and it came out dry as all hell. Finally I learned this way of doing it from some food magazine last year. I’ve made it a couple of times now and each time I’ve gotten great reactions from people who’ve tried it. Roast chicken, when done right, doesn’t need much else. The breasts are ridiculously juicy and the skin is crispy and golden… well, here’s what to do: in food porn format.
Step 1: Thaw yo bird in the fridge until no longer frozen. If you bought your bird fresh, good for you. Have a cookie.
Step 2: Brine yo bird! Soak your chicken in a pot of saltwater (about ¾ cup of salt dissolved in a stock pot of water was good for a 3 pound chicken) The process takes 4-6 hours depending on the size of the bird. Be sure your fridge can accommodate.
Note: Brining (← website that gets into how) the chicken requires time. Usually I do this step in the morning and it will be done by the time I get home. Take ¾ cups of table salt and dissolve it in the water. You can add other things to it, but the salt is what is important. I’ve seen recipes for brine with sugar, herbs, soy sauce and so on. For me, I prefer plain salt. The chicken does come out quite salty though so you might want to try a brine recipe with some sugar to balance it out if you’d rather have a more subtle chicken. The point of brining the chicken is that the proteins of the meat are affected by the saltwater. It comes out WAY more juicy with brining.
Think about it this way. You know how you bloat with water weight when you eat really salty foods the day before? Brining is the equivalent to a family size bag of Lays and a pepperoni pizza on a Thursday night. Come Friday morning you can’t fit into your sexy jeans and the guys at the office are calling you Juicy Lucy until you start hitting them… maybe that’s just me.
6 hours later, my bird was done.
Step 3: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and put an oven safe pan in there to preheat along with it. Make sure that it’s big enough to hold the chicken and the drippings
Step 4: Remove the chicken from the brine (which can be discarded now) and then pat her dry. Her being the chicken, who I assume is a her. I’m not sure whether that’s offensive or not.
Step 5: Truss your chicken! This step is a little tricky, Chow.com has a great how-to video on youtube but for someone who doesn’t care and just wants some good chicken I’d just tie the legs together and tuck the wings under the bird. It does the same thing with less hassle. Also, you can put onion wedges in the crevices next to the legs and in between the wings and the breasts, this also helps keep the meat moist. Before that though, take some oil, salt and pepper (optional), and rub it all over the chicken. You can also use butter as well if you’d prefer a richer flavor.
Step 6: CAREFULLY and with an oven mitt, remove the preheated pan out of the oven and place the chicken on the pan. Expect some aggressive sizzling and some oil scatter. This isn’t a step that I’d recommend doing naked. The reason we use the pan is because it gives the thighs a head start on cooking so when the breasts are done, the thighs will be as well.
Step 7: Keep the chicken in there for 25-35 minutes depending on the size. My 3 pound bird got 30 minutes on my convection roast setting and it was fine.
Step 8: After the first cooking time then turn the heat off and DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN. Leave the bird in there for ANOTHER 25-35 minutes so it can still cook at a slowly-reducing temperature. After that, your chicken is all good to go.
Optional Step: Don’t let your dogs each the chicken.
Last Step: Let the chicken rest for 20 minutes. This stabilizes the juices and finishes the cooking. Also, it torments the people who’ve done nothing but sit at the couch and play video games the whole time… bastards.
Of course, it’s probably good to check the temperature of the chicken before you cut into it. Breasts should read at 160 degrees and thigh should be 175. The juices should be clear…
If you want some sauce for the bird you can use the drippings in the pan! If some has been cooked on, put a bit of water (or a dry white wine) into the pan and, while on high heat, scrape that stuff off. Then reduce heat and simmer until there’s half the amount of liquid there you started with. There, you have a sauce and learned a new fancy cooking trick called deglazing.
Optional: Throw the scraps and chicken carcass into a crock pot with some carrots, onions, cilantro and whatever else you’d like for roast chicken soup the next day.