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Posts Tagged ‘perfect roast chicken’

Originally posted by me on owlpetal.net

Since the last post was all about exploring weird new areas in food and science, I thought I’d share my take on a classic dish. This is really a dead simple recipe, and most of the steps are even optional. The trick is to roast a dry, well-seasoned chicken at 450 for around 50 minutes. You do that, it’s gonna taste good.

You know you want it.

Roast Chicken

Preparation time: 20 minutes + 12 hours in brine + 1 hour of tempering
Cooking time: 50 minutes
Yield: 2-4 depending on how hungry people are

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken, ideally free range
  • Salt and pepper
  • Thyme (optional)
  • Root vegetables (optional)

Hardware:

  • 1 ovenproof pan
    1 cutting board that can handle some chicken juice

Short Directions:

Brine. Preheat to 450. Pat Dry. Cut out the wishbone. Bring to room temperature. Truss. Season. Toss the root veggies in the pan. Roast on top of the root veggies for 50 minutes. Rest. Carve. Snack.

See? Super easy, one-pot recipe. Here’s a breakdown of each step and why I do it the way I do for those of you with questions and patience.

Brine (optional)

What?

A brine is a salt and sugar bath which is used, for example, to make pickles. Think of it as a marinade, except with salt instead of acid.

Why?

Through the magic of science (diffusion and osmosis) the bird will become juicier and more flavourful. This is optional, but highly recommended. The brine should be kept cold, either in a cooler with ice, or in the fridge.

How?

A brine is 16 parts water, 1 part salt, ½ part sugar. So a gallon of water would have a cup of salt and half a cup of sugar. A litre would have 1/4 cup salt, 1/8 cup sugar. Mix these up, add any other flavours you like, and immerse the chicken. I use a ziptop freezer bag in the fridge, but use whatever you have handy. It’s important to keep the chicken cold.

Preheat your oven to 450

Why?

Crispy skin is your friend with chicken. If you cook at a lower temperature, you’re not going to get the desired crispiness. Low and slow until ‘falling off the bone’ gets you dry, mealy chicken. Save low and slow for your pot roasts or a great chicken stew.

Pat dry

Why?

When dry cooking, steam is your enemy. Steam creates rubbery, rather than crispy skin. The only moisture when roasting a chicken should be in the meat itself.

How?

Use paper towels or a tea towel you don’t mind washing. Completely pat the chicken dry inside and out. If you’re hardcore and have a clean fridge, put it uncovered in the fridge for a few hours.

Cut out the wishbone

Why?

If you’ve ever tried to carve a chicken, the dratted wishbone is what gets in the way of cutting off the breast perfectly. If you remove the wishbone before the chicken is cooked, you won’t have any problems with tasty juices escaping.

How?

Scrape at the top and sides of the back cavity of the chicken with a paring knife until you see the wishbone. Then, run the knife along the sides, wiggle your fingers in, and yank it free.

Bring to room temperature

Why?

By tempering (slowly bringing to desired state) your meat, you ensure that the cooking is even and that your recipes’ advice actually works. If you start with cold meat, you immediately drop the oven temperature and create uneven, and unreliable cooking.  Trust me, this is safe. We’re cooking it all the way through.

Truss

Why?

By tying the legs tightly to the chicken, you’re ensuring even cooking by increasing the density. Not doing this will result in different doneness for your white and dark meat.

How?

Season the inside with some salt and pepper, and then watch this video.

Season

Why?

To season means to coat with salt and pepper. Everything you cook of any kind needs seasoning of some sort. Meat especially. Season from higher up because the salt will disperse and get you a more even coating.

How?

Pinch kosher or fine sea salt between thumb and forefinger, and then sprinkle from around a foot above the chicken. Cover the entire bird, and repeat with pepper. If you have it, sprinkle some fresh thyme leaves overtop.

Roast

How?

If you have some root vegetables, chop ‘em up and put them beneath the chicken. Tasty! Anyways, stick it in the oven for 50-60 minutes. For a ‘normal’ chicken, which is around three pounds, go for 50. An oven thermometer should read no less than 161 in the thigh. It will continue to cook for a bit once out of the oven. Ignore those lying fucks who tell you that chicken should be served at 180.

Rest

Why?

ALWAYS REST MEAT AFTER COOKING. When meat cooks, the juices inside become active and rush to the surface. Think of a fist tightening in the water. Letting the meat rest is like relaxing the fist, which allows the juices to redistribute. Rest for minimum ten minutes, but twenty or even half an hour is good too.

Carve

How?

By removing the wishbone you have made life very easy. With a long, sharp knife slice along the top of the breast, and then down. Gently pull the knife back along the entire length of the chicken until you hit the bottom, making sure you’re outside, not inside of the ribs. You’ll hit the thigh and wing joints, and may have to wiggle that free. You should end up a leg & thigh piece, and a wing & breast piece.

Snack

Grab the little oysters from the small of the back, and the crispy pope’s nose. You’ve earned it!

Serve

Your nicely cut half chicken can be served on top of your roasted root veggies. Pour over the pan juices and then sprinkle with a bit of finishing salt if you have it. Share, and enjoy!

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