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To truss or not to truss?

I was just reading Thomas Keller's roast chicken recipe that someone posted earlier (thank you!) and saw that he highly recommends trussing the chicken and states the various reasons why. I never do, didn't think it really mattered, but now I'm reconsidering. Do other CHs out here normally truss, and do you notice the difference in the end product?

Here's the recipe, BTW:

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  1. Never truss any more. I read Keller's reasons and it still doesn't make sense.
    Seems to me that holding the dark meat together would make it cook more slowly and the white meat would overcook, the biggest problem in roasting fowl well.
    So, the chicken doesn't look picture perfect. Big deal. It tastes great.

    1. I truss. BTW those silicone food loops are great. They can go into the dishwasher and be used over and over again. Now if I could find a 2 lb. chicken. 3lbs seems to be the smallest I can get.

      1. I rarely do a "full truss" but often tie the legs together.

        1. CIA recos trussing for a moister bird - why don't you get too small birds and cook them side by side - one trussed, one untrussed.

          1 Reply
          1. re: kayakado

            Good idea, and the "loser" gets made into chicken salad. :)

          2. I only truss with that recipe if I've got guests. I will say, though, that I recently ordered quail at a restaurant that arrived untrussed, limbs akimbo, and it made me laugh out loud.

            1. I think Making Sense does: IMO a trussed bird cooks unevenly.

              Plus I'm lazy.

              1. I never truss. Haven't in years. Works much better, precisely because trussing tends to lead to overcooked white meat (this is more of an issue the larger the bird, btw; for the smaller birds that professional kitchens tend to use (it's hard to tell on a cooking show), it's less of an issue.

                Anyway, I prefer what Julia Child once called the "wanton" look in my cooked birds....

                4 Replies
                1. re: Karl S

                  Notice that the recipe in the link the OP gives calls for "One 2- to 3-pound farm-raised chicken" - just as you say, much smaller than we see in markets. Even the Zuni and Marcella recipes call for very small chickens by US standards. I wonder how many notice that size discrepancy when they use these instructions.
                  And I love that "farm-raised" - where else do most of them come from unless you live in the Third World?
                  How about untrussed, non-farm-raised, "wanton wild chickens?"

                  1. re: MakingSense

                    I guess the main thing I found confusing in the recipe was when Keller said the ends of the drumsticks protect the breast meat from drying out... the thing is, it doesn't look like the ends of the drumsticks cover any more than maybe an inch of the breast meat, and it's way down at the bottom anyway. I don't get it. I'm going untrussed unless I'm entertaining pious guests. :)

                    1. re: MakingSense

                      Yes, the size issue is one I constantly harp on because Americans often ignore the specification and wonder why their recipes don't turn out as perfectly as they'd expect. 2-3 lb birds are rarely brought to market whole anymore in the US; more normally, they are used for chicken parts. The change seemed to have transpired when larger roaster chickens came to dominate the whole chicken market a generation ago.

                      1. re: MakingSense

                        They mean free-range or close to it as opposed to battery birds.

                        Typical roaster sizes used to be about 3 lbs. A 6 lb bird would have been a capon, much more expensive than your usual roasting hen.

                        Stewing hens were typically spent layers and were usually at least a year or year and a half old.

                        Now most commercial chicken is all the same breed, 6 to 8 week old monster chickens bred to grow to huge size in that short period, debeaked, kept 3 to a cage stacked 10' high. If you'd ever seen a battery house you'd probably lose your appetite for chicken.

                        I'd probably eat more chicken if I could afford free-range, but I can't. Flavor makes the difference for me.

                        If you've ever read a really really old cookbook, you'd see few recipes for roast chicken. Most of them involve some variation of stewing, boiling, or fricasseeing. This was mostly due to the small size of chickens at the time, as well as the way they were usually raised (more muscle due to running around meant tougher birds). One cookbook stated that you could roast a chicken in "one quarter of an hour". I can only think that in order to avoid toughness, they were roasting young birds that had not reached full growth, weighing maybe a pound or so.

                        One pre-1900 cookbook I was looking at did say something about roasting, opining that the only true way to roast a bird was on a spit over an open fire. Otherwise, the author opined, "you are merely baking the bird", LOL! Of course you needed a spitjack, which was a clockwork device you wound up to keep the spit turning. This was an improvement over the older method of using a dog to turn the spit!

                    2. I used to truss until I used the Zuni recipe. Now I don't truss and my chickens have never been better! :)

                      1. Don't truss -- brine, or rub a few TBSPs of butter under the skin of an unbrined bird. I've sent a few hundred chickens to the dark side of 160F, always on their backs and never turned, and have come to see trussing and flipping as falling into the old-school, technique-for-its-own-sake camp that just creates too much damn work for a home cook. A good chicken is an awfully simple technique.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: orezscu

                          Every chicken I cook seems to get more simple and still turns out great. I've switched from butter to good olive oil now (under and on the skin) and the chicken crisps and browns beautifully. All that salting, brining, trussing and flipping is for the birds! But not mine!

                        2. Always truss a bird, unless I'm butterflying it. I don't wrap the string around the breast to hold the wings, either - I run the needle through the body from one "safety pin" bone to the other twice, once with each end of string, and tie them up at the back. I think the bird roasts better that way, period. As for going after moist breast meat, that's why I lay it on its tummy for so much of the roasting...and having it trussed up makes turning it over so much easier. It also simplifies the preliminary salting and oil-bathing that I like to do.

                          1. I revived this post because it seems to me that trussing is becoming less common with each passing year. I stopped doing it not because of its effect on cooking time but because I wanted to maximize the amount of skin-browning, and the skin covered by trussing remains pale and flabby. Yes, a trussed bird looks better, but I will forsake that in favor of more good skin.

                            Jacques Pepin's More Fast Food My Way shows him roasting an untrussed chicken, making a short incision in the skin at the point where the leg joints are. He explained that this area often remains bloody, and slitting the skin allows it to cook through. Trussing would make those areas even harder to cook thoroughly.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: greygarious

                              My grandmother did this not with chicken but with turkey( making incision a leg joints.) It helps the dark and white meat to cook at the same rate, helping with keeping the breast moist .

                            2. I stick the ends of the drumsticks under that flap of skin at the tail. I stick little foil caps over the tips of the wings. I don't usually actually truss.

                              1. Update from my 2007 post: never truss anymore, because I'm convinced spatchcocking is the way to Poultry Perfection. Cut out the spine, flatten the sucker out. Make slits in the skin at the leg/thigh joints and stick the wingtips in there to keep them from burning. Assuming you've dry-brined it already, whatever greases and herbs are then applied and you roast it. A turkey takes 1 1/2 hours or less, and a chicken maybe half that. And the breast is moist enough for even breast-haters to enjoy.

                                1. I never truss either and have had no complaints about the either the taste or dryness of the meat on the birds I've cooked.

                                  1. Up to you, but if you truss, please use a 'safe word'.

                                    1. once in a while, if my chicken is looking a little more wanton than I'd like, I'll cut a slit in the flaps of skin at the bottom of the cavity and tuck the ends of the legs through those.

                                      I then tuck the wings into themselves.

                                      It's kind of trussing, I suppose, but no string involved.