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Oct 1, 2001 03:40 PM

roast chicken?

  • m

I just got back from a friend's organic farm in Ohio bearing a great, big, gorgeous home-grown bird. I know that chicken-roasting is an art and the subject of much culinary controversy, and while I'm a pretty experienced cook, whole roast bird isn't a part of my frequent repertoire. SO, who has the perfect recipe for a juicy, flavorful, crisp-skinned fowl? (I'm cooking tomorrow). Thanks!!

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  1. After all the time and money I spent taking courses at the French Culinary Institute, if there's one thing I know I can do well, it's roast a chicken. Take a look at their "Cooking with The Times" website (URL below).


    21 Replies
    1. re: Dena

      Okay, I read the French Culinary Institute’s way of roasting chicken. My questions is, wouldn't the fat that run off the chicken while roasting make the vegetable bed underneath extremely oily? The last time I roasted a chicken, I used a rack (did everything else the FCI did otherwise) and I saw a huge puddle of fat afterwards. While it's yummy, I'm sure, to have roasted vegetable along side the roast chicken, it's probably not good for my husband's 300+ cholesterol.

      1. re: Wendy Lai

        ooh, the fat is the best part!

        here's what i'd do:
        i don't like putting anything underneath the chicken because i love the caramelized parts. if you roast in a flat pan you can pour off the juices into a tall glass and let them sit so you can skim the fat. meanwhile, deglaze the pan with wine, add the juices and reduce.

        bittman had an article on roasting chicken in the times once. the one thing about his method i liked was preheating the pan you're cooking it in so the thighs get done.

        preheat to a high heat and cook it there for 10 min. or so, then turn it down as low as you can and let it melt for a while. i wouldn't do anything too fancy flavor-wise, since you've got a nice home-grown guy with pure chickeny flavor. butter, salt, pepper, lemon, inside the cavity and rubbed on the skin.

        1. re: emily

          Actually I did that, pour off the juice and let it cool in the fridge so I can scrape off the fat the next morning. But I didn't deglze the pan, next time I'll have to do that.

          For one Thanksgiving I brined the turkey using a Alice Water recipe. It was SOOOO good. I wonder if it would work just as well for a chicken?

          1. re: Wendy Lai

            Wow! It's nice to know I can always count on the Hounds. I'm guessing that my bird is a 6-pounder.

            I've had trouble with the high-heat method with regard to burning/smoking fat--I know you can pour a little water in, but does that create too much steam?

            Thanks for all the good advice! I'll keep reading and let you know how it goes...

            1. re: Meredith

              With a six pound bird, I'd have to go with coq au vin. For roasting, nothing beats a convection oven. If you have one. If you don't, I'd recommend injecting the bird with olive oil flavored with fines herbs and roasting at 400F. The flavored oil adds immesurably to the flavor and juiciness of the chicken and wouldn't hurt hubbie's cholesterol.

              1. re: Greg Spence

                Gotta argue with you about the convection oven being the best way to roast a chicken. I just did a free-range organic bird purchased at the local farmer's market--in my Weber kettle. Indirect heat, no smoke chips. Rubbed the bird all over with some garlic-lemon olive oil. Started breast down, turned it once that way, flipped it over and turned it again so it cooked evenly. It was just under 4 pounds, and took about 50-55 minutes. Wow. Crispy, slightly garlic-y skin with just a hint of smoke and succulent, flavorful meat. Sometimes with less primo chickens, I rub them with tandoori masala before roasting in the Weber kettle. High quality meat deserves to be cooked with real fire.

                1. re: zora

                  I wholeheartedly agree on the Weber's extreme talent with a whole bird--my dad always did the Thanksgiving turkey on one, and my hubby has perfected the recipe with a salt and sugar brine, basting the bird with butter melted with rosemary and a little sherry. Crisp mahogany skin, pink, smoky flesh...mmmmm. We used to buy hickory chips but now just grab hardwood off our property and throw it on the coals as needed. We've done the same with pork roasts and thick chops.

                  However, tonight, with a toddler around and hubby in a meeting, I need to resort to the oven. I'm brining as we speak and am intrigued by the caramelization bit. How do you pour the fat off during the cooking process without a major mess?

                  1. re: Meredith

                    "How do you pour the fat off during the cooking process without a major mess?"

                    don't! you've got that wonderful bird--enjoy it. if you're really worried, just don't eat the dark meat or the skin or the crispy bits caramelised at the bottom of the pan. send them to me instead.

                  2. re: zora

                    Zora, I love the Weber. I just figured that a roasted bird means no smoke, and a webered bird is really more grilled, even if you're using indirect heat.

              2. re: Wendy Lai
                Carolyn Tillie

                Yes! Brining works on chickens and after brining my first bird three years ago, I will NEVER roast a bird again without brining it first. Makes ALL the difference in the world...

                1. re: Carolyn Tillie

                  Could you tell us how you do this please?

                  1. re: bryan
                    Brandon Nelson

                    Pretty simple...

                    I brined our turkey last Thanksgiving it made for a wonderful bird. I know there are more ingrediants than this in the Alice Watters recipe, but this one is a good start. 1 cup of kosher salt per gallon of water. Let the bird soak for @ 12 hours. I'm sure other hounds will have suggestions for ingredients to add.


                    1. re: Brandon Nelson
                      Allie D'Augustine

                      My suggestion is to skip the brining, and buy kosher chicken if you can find it. It's already been salted in the koshering process, so it ends up with pretty much the same effect. (Uh, obviously this doesn't apply to Meredith's organic chicken.)


                      1. re: Allie D'Augustine
                        Melanie Wong

                        That's a different effect. Brining plumps up the moisture in the bird.

                        1. re: Melanie Wong
                          Allie D'Augustine

                          Yeah, the salt from the brine allows it to retain moisture. And it's the salt in kosher chicken that makes it more moist. It may be more pronounced if you brine, but it's the same concept (and if you buy kosher chicken, you can cook it right away).

                          1. re: Allie D'Augustine

                            LAst night I fried chicken using the recipe in this month's Cook's Illustrated that uses both salt and sugar in the brine and it was outstanding. I don't remember if they put sugar in their turkey brine, but
                            I DO remember that they then let the bird dry in the fridge overnight for the crispiest skin.

                      2. re: Brandon Nelson
                        Emily Cotlier

                        I go a bit crazy with brining, adding white wine (in a 1 to 6 ratio with water), crushed garlic cloves, squished fresh herbs, crushed lemon halves. I agree with letting the bird "dry" to get it crispy before roasting.

                        Brining, by the way, is great for reviving the succulence of a long-frozen chicken or turkey.

                        I don't stuff brined birds, but roast them with a lemon and a peeled, quartered onion in the cavity. I find stuffing a brined bird makes the whole affair a bit soggy.

                      3. re: bryan
                        Carolyn Tillie

                        Brandon's formula is about what I use. I don't add additional herbs or anything until I do the roasting (then, sometimes, I stuff the bird with garlic and rosemary).

                        Make sure you rinse the bird well before you roast it, though! And the funny thing about brining is, depending on the size of the bird, you want a non-reactive container. For turkeys, I actually went and bought a new, clean kitty-litter box... It was big, strong, and plastic. And cheaper than most Tupperwares...

                    2. re: Wendy Lai

                      Brining is absolutely key. But skip the Alice Waters recipe. The extra ingredients don't really do much, though they may make you feel better about using all that salt. I've tried it, and could not tell the difference from my prior brining habits (nor could a single guest).

                      Stick to salt per Brandon, and perhaps a little sugar (read Betty's helpful post on crispiness below).

                      The most important thing that many people forget is to use COLD water; either refrigerated in advance or iced (remove the ice before making the brine). Putting the bird in tap-temperature water is not quite hygenic. It's a real issue for large birds like turkeys.

                      1. re: Wendy Lai

                        I had not heard of this technique before. Having tried it at last, I am now firmly in the Never Do It Any Other Way category. Thanks for the tip!

                      2. re: emily

                        Actually, i tried this method last night -- the hot pan on top of the stove -- but I think you were slightly off in your description. You preheat the oven to 450, and get a pan blazing hot on top of the stove or in the oven. Put the chicken in, dark meat down, then immediately place in the oven for about 30 minutes.

                        Did it last night, and found it to get the best results of ANY of the other methods I've tried - and I've tried them all! Plus, you get great drippings for making a sauce -- just add equal parts of a liquid (water, broth, stock) and an acid (wine, lemon juice, balsamic or wine vinegar) and reduce.

                        Juicy white meat, and perfectly done dark meat.

                  2. Meredith wrote that she had procured "a great, big, gorgeous home-grown bird." This implies over the French Culinary Institute's ideal 3 1/2 pound bird. How much does the chicken weigh?

                    1. it sounds pretty bizarre but beer can chicken in a weber kettle over indirect heat produces an incredibly moist and tasty bird! plus the novelty is pretty cool!


                      4 Replies
                      1. re: gordon wing
                        Carolyn Tillie

                        I've done that, too! Very bizarre, but it works... (I didn't do it again because I didn't like what it did to the herbs on the inside of the bird. But it was an interesting experiment.

                        1. re: Carolyn Tillie

                          Umm...what did it do to the herbs inside the bird?

                          1. re: Lisa Bee

                            Indirect heat-I use a drip pan with a little water under the chicken and put the coals around the pan. If you don't like what happens to the herbs in the cavity maybe you could try putting the herbs under the skin?

                        2. re: gordon wing
                          wendy jackson

                          We tried this about a month ago, with pretty great results. The only caveat is that you do have to make sure that you use indirect heat; otherwise you get a bird with a scorched butt. The meat turns out incredibly moist and tasty. If you don't like the idea of beer, wine, cider, or an aromatic stock could be substituted in the can. It's a hoot to try at least once.

                        3. c
                          Caitlin Wheeler

                          It may sound weird, but it's an old family recipe, and I use it EVERY time I make roast chicken.

                          Put an onion and fresh rosemary in the cavity. Rub the skin of the entire bird with salt -- LOTS of salt. Don't pack it on, but really rub it on. You can truss it now, or before you rub on the salt. Roast in a 400 degree oven on a rack, 20 minutes on a side for a 4 lb. bird, for a total cooking time of 1 hour. (a chicken is roughly triangular -- I usually use oven mitts to just pick it up and turn it. I have very dirty/greasy oven mitts) The cooking time may need to be adjusted for a larger bird. It's salty, but not unduly so, and quite moist and delicious with a crackly skin.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Caitlin Wheeler

                            This is pretty standard roasting technique (the best cookbook I've found for this is Tom Colicchio's "Think Like a Chef". Get it - it will change the way you cook.):

                            Pre-heat oven to 375. Clean and wash the bird, pack the cavity with whatever you want. I've had good results with rosemary & half a lemon, and sliced apples & thyme (this last can be incorporated into a sauce later or served straight). Truss and season. Heat a little oil in an oven-proof pan large enough to hold the whole bird without crowding, and brown each side (left/right) for about 7-10 minutes. Turn the bird breast side up and put in the oven. Cook for about 20-30 minutes, then add a little bit (about 2 tbsp) of butter. Continue to cook until done, basting periodically.

                            IMPORTANT: let it stand for at least ten minutes before carving.

                            You can deglaze the pan with some wine or mirin to make a sauce.

                            It sounds like a lot of effort, but it's well worth it.

                          2. l

                            I frequently use an adaptation of Andre Soltner's recipe, in which you wash the baby inside and out, dry it, pull off the loose fat,stick a whole garlic clove and a sprig of thyme inside, salt and pepper inside, rub the outside with olive oil (not butter), salt the outside, and shove it in a large cast-iron skillet in a 400 degree oven until the juices run clear from a pricked thigh. I don't like to put vegetables in the same pan (their steam compromises the crispiness), so I parboil them then roast them separately in goose fat (bad bad bad), which I drink red wine to counteract the effect thereof.