Roast Chicken quandary
I'm on what seems to be a lifelong quest to produce a perfect roast chicken (I roast probably at least one a week), and while I come very close on many occasions, I seem to always have a problem producing and maintaining crispy skin. Even when skin is crisp as bird comes out of the oven, it usually gets soft while resting, as I make jus or whatever. Anybody have any tips or suggestions? Thanks.
My first suggestion would be to leave the raw chicken uncovered in the fridge overnight. This is what Cooks Illustrated recommends for ensuring that a brined turkey will have crisp skin when roasted. I've done it with brined chickens but not unbrined.
Their current issue has instructions for crisp-skinned stovetop roasted chicken parts - you could check if the details are free online. It calls for browning 3-1/2 pounds parts skin-down in 2 tsp oil in a big nonstick skillet, not moving the pieces until golden brown. Reduce heat to med-low, flip skin side up, add 6 ounces low-sodium chicken broth, cover, and cook 15 min or so, till dark meat is 170 degrees and breast 155. Put pieces on plate, skin up. Pour off liquid and reserve, wipe out the pan, add 1 tsp oil and turn to med-high until shimmering. Put pieces skin-down and don't move them, 4-7 min until meat reads 175 and 160. Transfer to platter and tent. Make a sauce with reserved cooking liquid and pan juices. The idea of covered cooking in liquid is to render fat while remaining juicy. I haven't tried this recipe but it sounds promising.
I went through technique after technique, from butterflying it, to high heat lower to low, to using a rack to using a lot of vegetables as a base to beer can checken to rotisserie on the grill, etc, etc. and the best one has been the Zuni chicken. Honestly, after trying that, I was done looking because I couldn't ask for anything more.
While it's in the dry brine, I have it vertical in a tall tupperware container, with paper towels below. That way, anything I don't dry w/ the paper towels drips down and it's perfect (dry) when I cook it. If not, you can get puddles of liquid and it doesn't work as well (though is still excellent) because the skin can stick when you flip it. I also like to add a handful of garlic cloves to the pan about 20 minutes before the chicken is done. Great roasted garlic.
Gas or electric oven? I've never been able to get a properly roasted exterior in a gas oven, but it's easy in an electric one.
My favorite roasted chicken recipe is from Cooks Illustrated and calls for butterflying the bird after removing the backbone. The chicken is then left uncovered in the refrigerator to air-dry the skin. It's roasted on a perforated broiler pan (with a bed of sliced potatoes beneath the chicken to catch the drippings) in a very hot oven and results in the crispiest skin I've ever made.
My favorite method, and the fastest I've experienced, is butterflying, browning skin down on the stovetop in a cast iron pan with a weight on top, and finishing in the oven.