Oven crisping chicken skin
How do you make the skin thickly crisp and brown when cooking chicken in the oven?
(I was thinking recently about a garlicky chicken thigh/leg that I ate a while back at a Cuban restaurant in LA (Versaille) and how thickly crisp the skin was -- if anyone is familiar with it, that is my goal.)
I am not familiar with the Cuban restaurant you mention (even though I live in L.A.).
However, here is how I make roast chicken with a crispy skin. First, I brine the chicken for a few hours in a sugar-salt-water solution (about a half cup of sugar and half a cup of salt in about a gallon of water). I'm a big beliver in brining--I think it results in better texture and flavor. However, some people don't like to brine, so you can skip this step if you prefer.
Pat the chicken dry. If you have time, you can let the bird dry for an hour or two on a rack in the fridge. (I almost never have time to do this, by the way, so it is not absolutely necessary).
Preheat the oven to about 425. I like to use convection at this temperature. If you don't have convection, heat it to about 450.
Put the chicken on a roasting rack, and set the rack in a shallow enough pan so that the chicken sits above the sides of the pan as much as possible, but so that any drippings will still get caught in the pan. This allows the heat to get to the chicken right away. Season the chicken with whatever spices you like. I use Greek Seasoning from Penzey's. You can experiment with garlic rubs, etc.
Put the chicken in the oven. If, after awhile, the grease drippings start to smoke, add some water to the bottom of the roasting pan--but only do this if your pan is metal. Do not do this with a pyrex pan. It can shatter from the temperature shock of the water. I know this from personal experience. I also don't recommend that you use a non-stick roasting pan. Over time, I have ruined a few non-stick pans with this kind of high-heat technique. My preference is a Le Creuset enameled cast-iron roasting pan. If I don't plan to use the drippings for a gravy, I line it with heavy-duty foil to make clean-up easy.
It will take anywhere from 25 to 60 minutes (or more) to cook the chicken, depending on whether you are cooking pieces or a whole bird. If the outside is starting to get too browned, lower the temperature and/or tent it with foil.
I test my chicken for doneness by using a probe thermometer. I like the dark meat to be around 170 and the white meat above 150.
It's easier to get the skin of the leg and thigh section crisped up because the skin is relatively thick and bone-in dark meat can handle longer cooking times. Brining isn't necessary because of the fat between muscles but a marinade is always welcome. Sugar in the marinade will cause problems with scorching. Working with just thighs alone is nice because the drumstick has relatively little meat and it's difficult to get much crispness on it when it's attached to the thigh because of the limited contact area.
An initial pan frying as "neener" suggested, skin side down, is important. It's essential that the skin is very dry (leave uncovered in the refrigerator for several hours) and brown in a skillet with a touch of oil (or brush oil on the section). Don't move it until the skin releases (~5 min), brown only for a bit on the other side, and then transfer, if needed, to an oven safe pan. Finish it off in the oven.
To get a crackling like skin just with oven cooking requires a dry skin, as aforementioned, and an excellent broiler/salamander. Pretty difficult from my experience.
re: Pork Butt
Your response regarding crispy skinned chicken was succint and so well written. Methinks I shall be looking for other Pork Butt postings. My particular range has the added broiler function of "Convection" broil. In an informative phone conversation with the spokesman/chef for the range company, I came away with an excellent method for very crispy skinned and juicy interiored chicken. In a foil lined broiler pan, I lay a goodly amount of sliced onions, separated into rings. This provides a nice bed for the chicken, and I suppose it helps to keep the chicken moist during the broiling. Then I place two chicken halves ontop, seasoned with kosher salt, granulated garlic, and Italian herbs. The broiler pan gets put onto the middle rack of my COLD oven, and then I set the convection setting to the second highest temperature. Forty five minutes later, I have an ummmazing crispy skinned and juicy broiled chicken dinner. One time by mistake I set the convection broil setting to the highest temperature. Thirty five minutes into the cooking I happened to look into my oven and realized what I'd done. The skin was super crisp and very dark. Of course I took the chicken out immediately, and the result was wonderful---perhaps the meat was even juicier this time around, and needless to say the skin was fabu.
In any event the posting has gotten me in the mood, big time, for a broiled chicken dinner.
The oldest truc for this is to gently separate the skin from the flesh.
Basting makes for soggy skin; putting fat (be it butter, oil, or the pads of chicken fat removed from other parts of the chicken, et cet.) between the skin and the flesh makes for moister flesh and crisper skin.
re: Karl S.
Well, butter browns best because it has milk sugars (aka lactose) and proteins that assist the Maillard reaction (the technical name for the browing process for meats). But putting the fat does not so much help browing that way but by melting and creating a very thin layer of air that helps crisp the skin above.
And the chicken fat is very good to use that way; I never waste it by tossing it (and I rarely have the patience to save up enough to make schmatlz).
You have to brown the chicken in a skillet on top of the stove first.
Here's what to do:
Put a little olive oil in a skillet. (Best to use a skillet WITHOUT non-stick surface). When the oil is rippin' hot, place WELL DRIED pieces of chicken, skin side down, in the hot oil. Once in the skillet, do not move chicken for at least about 4-5 minutes. Then turn over so the other side can get brown too.
If the skillet is the type that can go into the oven, you can use it to finish baking in the oven. If not, transfer chicken to a baking pan and finish in the oven.
Also, there will be some nice brown bits in the bottom of the skillet after browning on top of the stove. You should deglaze the pan with some kind of liquid (water, wine, orange juice, pineapple juice, etc.) and use to baste the chicken during the oven baking process.
This should give you the desired results.