Friday, June 3, 2011

how to roast the perfect chicken

If there's one kitchen trick you should learn; it's how to roast a chicken. It's such a satisfying, savory, home-warming skill and the birds you roast can make up 3-6 meals spread out over just a couple dollars in flesh, potatoes, and carrots. Here's the way I do it: it's easy, inexpensive, and it always turns out wonderful. Prep time is just minutes, and you only need one pan, a bowl, and a knife to cut veggies with. Follow these directions and I promise you'll want to roast a bird every chance you get. I use an adaptation from the River Cottage Meat Book with brining options taught to me by Cooks Illustrated.

You'll need:

To Roast:
One small roasting chicken (3-5 pounds)
Olive oil (or warmed butter)
Rosemary, garlic, and sage (or commercial chicken meat rub)
Piece of tin foil
Roasting pan
Meat thermometer
3-4 medium potatoes
4-6 carrots

For Brining(Optional:)
Plastic gallon freezer bag
Salt
Sugar
rosemary sprig
Bay leaves

Preheat your oven to 420 degrees. I know that seems high, but I'll explain later.

If you bought the chicken from the store, or if it was recently frozen, brining is the way to ensure your chicken roasts moist and savory, instead of stringy and dry. Take you whole bird and place it in a large freezer Ziploc bag (or saucepan if the bird is large) with about a gallon of water, 2/3 a cup salt, 3/4th a cup sugar, a sprig of rosemary and a few bay leaves. Let it set in the fridge for 2-4 hours (flipping it on its opposite side every hour or so). When you're ready to cook it, it'll be primed.

Take your fresh (or defrosted in the fridge) chicken and rinse it in cold water. I rinse out the cavity, under the wings, everything and then give it a few good shakes in the sink before I set it down into a large bowl. Set it aside and take out your roasting pan (I use a glass Pyrex pan) and cut up chunks of carrots and potatoes no larger than your thumb and make sure they coat the bottom of your roasting pan. (Besides cooking in the birds juices and fats, they'll act as a roasting rack, letting air under your bird and helping it cook thoroughly.) I always brush a light coating of olive oil and chicken rub spices over my veggies as well, but you don't have to. Set it aside and go back to your bird-in-bowl.

Take either room-temperature salted butter or olive oil and rub the entire bird over with the fat. When the meat is coated in one of these, take a knife and with the bird belly up, try to get your fingers right under the breast skin of the bird, sliding butter or oil into it, right over the breast itself. If the idea of an inner-skin massage makes you want to gag-then just use a knife and slide some cuts into the breast skin to allow air and steam to get between that skin and the muscles. (Trust me, it's worth it.) Last, take either crushed herbs (finely chopped garlic, sage, coarse salt, and rosemary) or a commercial chicken meat rub, and coat your bird entirely in this wonderful mix. If you want, tie the back drumsticks together with some butcher string (at your kitchen store), and then place it on top of your cut veggies. Now, open that oven door, baby.

Slide your herb-rubbed chicken into the oven at 420. This is the method of a flash of heat followed by a slower roast. Let it crackle and pop in there for 20-30 minutes and then lower the heat to 350 and cover the bird with a shield of tin foil lightly placed over it to stop the skin from scorching, but allowing it to get a little crispy. I then let the bird roast at least an hour, taking it out when the bird is a nice brown color to check temperature and other signs of "doneness". If your meat thermometer reads 170 degrees in the thickest part of the breast, you should be fine. Stab the birds skin to check that the juices run clear (not milky or red) and if you wiggle the legs they should be almost ready to snap right off in your hand. If your bird seems to have a lower temperature, just pop it back in for twenty minutes and try again later

If all the signs are good, let the bird sit for 20 minutes (the meat will keep cooking as it cools on your stove stop) then serve your white meat with a side of savory carrots and taters! Enjoy! And hopefully some of you readers out there can share some gravy and chicken stock recipes for what to do next!

28 Comments:

Blogger Paula said...

Sounds good! When you rest the chicken, rest it on its breast in a bowl so that the juices run into the breast- it's a good way to make sure that part of the bird isn't too dry.

June 3, 2011 at 9:58 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I never knew that, awesome tip....

June 3, 2011 at 9:59 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

be careful using the glass dish too. Glass that's heated and cooled or cool and then heated too fast can crack (as I'm sure you know) I've always been told that 400 is the highest you should bake with glass, especially if the room temperature dish is going into a pre-heated oven that hot, or coming out of an oven that hot.

Your chicken looks Delicious though!! Drooling here! When I make gravy I usually just heat the meat drippings till a boil on the stove top and then stir in one of those just add water type clubhouse gravy mixes. Super tasty, but kind of cheating, I know.

June 3, 2011 at 10:20 AM  
Blogger Janet said...

Jenna: That recipe made my mouth water and my stomach rumble - yum -I must have chicken again soon.
I want to thank you for the lovely 'sheep keepsake' thank you card for the Maude wool hat I sent you - I can hardly wait for the next shipment later in the season!!! And the stamp on the envelope - is that one of the do-it-yourself personalized ones? Love it!
Keep the mix you'[re sending our way just as it is - I love to read of your life!

June 3, 2011 at 11:02 AM  
Blogger DarcC said...

For gravy, take whatever fat you have in the pan and stir in an equal amount of flour. It will be thick. Add in stock or water (starchy water used to boile veggies or potatoes for instance) until a little thinner than desired. I add a splash of Gravy Master (in the spice aisle) liquid for a little flavor and a darker color. Sometimes I add other spices, powdered sage is a favorite for pork, but whatever you like, or nothing else at all! Simmer and stir until it thickens to your desired consistency.

June 3, 2011 at 11:35 AM  
Blogger Flartus said...

Stock? Easy! Save the bones, wrap tightly in plastic wrap or ziploc, store in the freezer until you get two or three carcasses' worth. Then put them in the biggest stock pot you own, along with carrots (whole or snapped in half), onions (cut in 1/2 or 1/4) and celery (see carrots). Add whatever fresh herbs suit your fancy. Fill the pot with water, and let SIMMER for hours and hours. (You should see only the slightest of bubbling; any more and you're boiling, which will extract more bitter flavors.)

If the bones sort of crumble instead of snapping, you're done. (You can stop earlier if your schedule demands it; stock is very forgiving.) Cool the stock by floating pre-frozen water bottles in it, then pour the stock through a sieve, preferably lined with cheesecloth.

Once it's chilled in the fridge, you can pull the fat off if you like. We store ours in the freezer in plastic 2-cup and quart containers. 2 cups is perfect for cooking a batch of rice; a quart is good for soup.

June 3, 2011 at 11:51 AM  
Blogger hlbrack said...

This sounds delicious! Thank you for the recipe, Jenna. Can't wait to try it!

June 3, 2011 at 11:58 AM  
Blogger Joie said...

Ugh, you had to post this on a day that I brought lame food for lunch!

In re. gravy, I would add to Sam and DarC's comments - if you roast in a dish that's safe to use on the stove, say across 2 burners, you can make the gravy directly in the pan. I have more of a Southern food heritage, so I like to make my roux (the fat and flour) dark, as dark as I can comfortably get it without freaking that it's going to burn. This gives it the depth of flavor that I really like. Then slowly whisk in your stock. Omgosh I am craving gravy now.

June 3, 2011 at 12:10 PM  
Blogger Courtney said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 3, 2011 at 12:16 PM  
Blogger judy said...

Sounds to good to pass up thank you because no matter how many times I have baked a chicken,I can always think of a problem that came up--too dry thighs not done etc.

June 3, 2011 at 12:36 PM  
Blogger jen said...

We raised our own meat birds this year, and I saved everything except their heads and guts. I separated the feet, necks, hearts, livers, and gizzards then divided them between about 8 ziplocs and threw them in the freezer. (No, I don't eat chicken livers). When I make stock, I throw a package in with my carcass, onions, carrots, celery, and any leftover veggies I have. (Last night I threw in some old broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus stems. It's a tad green, but chock-full of vitamins!!) It's been simmering overnight, and today I'll strain out the solids and grind them up in my KitchenAid and make dog food with it. I freeze individual portions in large muffin tins. The dogs go nuts for it! I freeze the stock in gallon Ziplocs so they lie flat in the freezer and don't take up much room. The only waste from those meat birds were their heads and guts. I'm quite proud of myself! :)

June 3, 2011 at 12:52 PM  
Blogger jen said...

Oops - forgot I wanted to add a link to my favorite stock recipe...
http://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=146356&p=1

June 3, 2011 at 12:52 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

We put our roasted bones and scraps in the slow cooker with enough water to cover, plus some onion and celery and cook on low for...lots of hours. A good tasting, home raised chicken doesn't need much embellishment to make great stock. :)

June 3, 2011 at 12:57 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

Well this is certainly making me reconsider raising meat birds this summer.
When I brine a bird, I use a 5 gallon bucket. For a wild turkey at least 24 hours, domestic turkeys overnight and chickens 8-12 hours.
Yes, I'm really reconsidering meat birds.

June 3, 2011 at 12:58 PM  
Blogger Crystal said...

Can you brine out of the fridge? I would never be able to fit a 5gal bucket in my fridge...

June 3, 2011 at 1:02 PM  
Blogger oukay said...

Crystal, you can use a plastic cooler filled with brine solution, ice, and bird (disinfect the cooler afterwards, of course). That is how we brine our Thanksgiving turkeys.

June 3, 2011 at 1:14 PM  
Blogger Hi! I'm Jenny said...

Thanks for this Jenna....

June 3, 2011 at 1:24 PM  
Blogger aralyn said...

I love to stuff the chicken with lemon wedges before roasting. It is soooo good!

June 3, 2011 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger SouthernHeart said...

Sounds really good, Jenna! Think I'll pick up a roaster today...

Blessings,
Dianne
http://www.mysouthernheart.com (my blog)

June 3, 2011 at 2:34 PM  
Blogger Teresa said...

Sounds yummy, but I'll wait until it cools off some. It was 95 degrees here today. Last thing I want to do is heat up the kitchen! Might have to try roasting on the Big Green Egg.

June 3, 2011 at 6:53 PM  
Blogger jen said...

Just a quick update to my earlier comment about making dog food out of the leftovers - FYI - KitchenAid mixer grinder attachments do NOT like tough asparagus stems - no matter how long you boil the crap out of them. AND - I forgot to add earlier - I also cook up a big pot of rice and mix it all together when I'm done. Doggy heaven in a bowl!

June 3, 2011 at 7:28 PM  
Blogger Jasmine said...

Everyone has pretty much covered stock making well, I just wanted to add that my mother used to use one whole onion (plus others cut up) with cloves stuck into it. I usually do this. But then I bought allspice berries for a recipe, and never used them all, so now I toss them in with the whole black peppercorns and bay leaves at the beginning instead of the cloves...
Also, if you're using fresh herbs, you can add them in for only the last 15-20 minutes. That way the vitamin etc compounds don't break down, and your body gets mire goodness.
Also, I always use garlic as well as onions.
Part of an apple will make it sweeter. Or a splash of cider.
I've heard good things about adding balsamic vinegar...

Also, you want to skim off the first white frothy stuff that comes to the top. I usually bring to a boil for a few minutes to render out these impurities and then simmer all day/night.
:-)

June 3, 2011 at 8:18 PM  
Blogger Donna said...

Ugh! Great recipes and no storage. When I move I definitely need to get a full size freezer. Thanks everyone for sharing recipes that are proven to work. I've just about given up on cookbooks, I got tired of them calling for a bunch of herbs and spices that spoil before they get used up.

June 4, 2011 at 12:01 AM  
Blogger Nanette said...

........but no greens in your dinner ?

June 4, 2011 at 3:33 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

Crystal reminded me about other climates. I would think you could brine for a few hours out of the fridge in the warmer climates. This is a salt solution after all. In my area, 40 this morning, by Thanksgiving the garage is quite cool.

June 5, 2011 at 5:39 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Greens with every dinner!

June 5, 2011 at 11:06 AM  
Blogger Heidi said...

i've got a morrocan roast chicken recipe that i concocted cooked with dates that is so crazy good. i pull it out when i want to impress guests :)

June 5, 2011 at 11:32 PM  
Blogger redbird said...

Going to try your flash heat thing-never done that before.

Gravy recipe…ladle some of the delicious broth from the roasting pan when things are done into a mason jar until its ¾ full. Scoop in some flour or cornstarch, maybe about ¼ a cup but I’ve never measured it and believe I prefer flour for the homey flavor. Close the jar and then shake it up till its mixed well, then put the liquid in a sauce pan to heat and thicken while stirring often. Mason jar method can be used with a whisk and a sauce pan, but I like the jar better because it’s almost lump proof and more fun. Ratios can be played with to tailor make the gravy consistency. A splash of wine or cider depending on the meat can add something too.

June 18, 2011 at 4:56 PM  

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