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America's Test Kitchen roast chicken - the best! (long)

On a recent episode of ATK I watched their revised technique for high-temperature roasted chicken with pan-roasted potatoes. Don't leave the potatoes out, their purpose is to soak up the chicken fat so you don't smoke up the kitchen.

The link is here (requires registration):
http://americastestkitchen.com/recipe...

If you're not a member, here's my paraphrased version, with my variations below it.

Ingredients:
1 roasting chicken, 3.5-4 lbs
1 cup kosher salt or 1/2 cup table salt
1/2 cup sugar
1.5 Ts olive oil

2.5 pounds roasting potatoes, russets or Yukon Golds
3/4 ts salt
ground black pepper
1 Tb olive oil

Compound butter:
2 Tb butter
1 clove garlic, mashed
1 Tb dijon mustard
1 ts minced fresh thyme
ground black pepper

Brine chicken in solution of 1 cup kosher salt (or 1/2 cup table salt) and 1/2 cup sugar to 1/2 gallon water for 1 hour.

Pat chicken dry. Cut out backbone (their website has illustrations) to butterfly chicken. Flatten breastbone (just push down firmly).

Mix up compound butter - the website has some other compound butter recipes. With your fingers, loosen skin across breast and as far down drumsticks as you can, do not tear skin. Spoon butter under skin and work across as much of the chicken as possible. Rub 1.5 Ts olive oil over chicken.

Slice potatoes 1/8" to 1/4" inch thickness. Salt and pepper lightly, toss with 1 Tb oil.

Line bottom of grilling pan with heavy-duty aluminium foil. Spread potato slices across pan evenly.

Place grilling rack over potatoes. Arrange butterflied chicken on top, folding drumsticks inward so they cover part of the breast. Roast at 500 degrees for 20 minutes, turn pan around, roast for another 20 minutes or until internal temperature in breast is 160.

Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Take grilling rack off, pat potatoes which will have a fair amount of oil on them. Potatoes may stick to foil, peel as much off as possible. Cut chicken up and serve with potatoes. That's it.

I made this over the weekend and it is absolutely the best roast chicken I've ever tasted. It may be heresy on this board, but it beat the Zuni chicken by a mile. The skin is crispy, meat is juicy and loaded with flavor. The potatoes are simply fabulous, roasted in butter and chicken fat and juice how could they not be? Choosing between the potatoes and Zuni's bread salad is a toss-up. I'm thinking of ways to do this with bread as well.

My variations:
I brined for about 6 hours, after putting the butter under the chicken skin, I put the chicken in the fridge overnight.

I zested a lemon and used this instead of the garlic/thyme in the compound butter. In the TV episode they used 4 oz of butter so I did the same.

I took the chicken out at 150 degrees because I loathe dried-out meat. This reduced my roasting time to about 30 minutes, not 40. Because of this the potatoes weren't as crisp as they should have been - I think I'll let them cook a few minutes longer next time.

Last note: We had leftover chicken last night. It's so hot I didn't want to turn on the oven but I wanted the crispiness of the chicken skin. So we used our blowtorch to char the skin, it did an excellent job of recrisping it and improved the flavor by adding a bit of smokiness. Altogether this is a WINNAH!

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  1. I also like a wet brine. The Zuni chicken was very good (photo below), but it didn't 'knock my socks off', perhaps because I always brine my chicken anyway.

    Zuni Chicken...
    http://i38.photobucket.com/albums/e10...

    1 Reply
    1. re: Funwithfood

      Thanks for the crisp skin "blowtorch" tip!
      Chicken brulee! Just up my alley!

    2. Butterflying and high temperature is the best way to roast a chicken. The chicken doesn't taste steamed and the whole chicken browns beautifully. Plus the chicken is easy to cut up. I think ATK is a great cooking series and I always recommend their cookbooks to beginning cooks.

      2 Replies
      1. re: PBSF

        Yes, I'm a fan..I love the science of cooking which is why I also watch Alton...I just counted...I'm almost embarassed to say I have TEN 10! of them!
        Cookbooks are a disease which I also have!

        1. re: ChowFun_derek

          When Alton Brown made roast chicken on his Food Network show "Good Eats," Alton broiled a butterfied chicken on top of cut veggies in a broiler pan and flipped the chicken half way through.

      2. This is normally how I make all my roast chickens , but I don't butterfly it. It amazes me how quick and well the high temperature method works. The last time I roasted a chicken this way the breast was dripping with liquid!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Mickey Blue

          There are several parts to ATK's technique. Brining, butterflying, high-heat roasting on a grill pan, having something underneath the chicken to catch drippings. The reason you butterfly the chicken is so you get even roasting with just one turn of the roasting pan. I've made the Zuni chicken a number of times which is also a high-heat method. Flipping the chicken over twice in the face of the intense heat and smoke from burning chicken fat is not fun. Try butterflying it and see if you agree.

        2. I will have to try this one. I like the Zuni recipe. I also like Thomas Keller's simple roast chicken recipe in the Bouchon cookbook:

          http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

          Salt/brine and high heat seem to be what these recipes have in common. If you make Keller's recipe, do try it with butter, mustard, and salad, as he suggests. The butter isn't necessary, but it's sure yummy.

          1. I've tried it both ways, but because of appearance I prefer to keep the chicken whole.

            I save the butterfly method solely for grilling purposes, though I've used this method in the oven in the past too!