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So many roast chickens recipes, but do you have a favorite?

My experiences with roast chicken have been mixed and I'd like something really good and relatively plain - not unseasoned but I'd like the main taste to be chicken. People on this board will frequently say "oh do a roast chicken." But can any of y'all point me towards something where the breast doen't get overcooked and the skin is brown and at least a little crunchy? And my guests will go "oh my, this is SO good." Thanks in advance.

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  1. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5816...

    I am going to try the Zuni recipe this month though, as I just got the book for Christmas, and it's one of the COTM books that we are revisiting.

    18 Replies
    1. re: MMRuth

      I second the Zuni vote. Its the only way I make roasted chicken anymore.


      1. re: ourhomeworks

        I vote for Zuni, too. I've tried it uncountable ways and many were good, like butterflying, high heat/turn down, beer can but once I tried the Zuni, I stopped trying anything else. In cast iron. and throw in a handful of peeled garlic cloves about 20 mintues before you take the chicken out.

        1. re: chowser

          me too; the zuni high heat method is the only one I use. Sometimes I don't have the time to do the couple day brining, but I still cook it the same way. Sometimes I put potatoes on the bottom of the pan (I think jfood had that idea) and that's good too, but the basic high temp, small chicken, flip it flip it method is the only one I use.

          1. re: DGresh

            When do you put the potatoes in the pan? Does the chicken cook the same w/out the hot sear of the pan? It sounds really good. I've made mashed potatoes with the chicken drippings, instead of the bread and that's really good.

            One thing I do when brining is put the chicken in a vertical tupperware. If I've missed drying any of it, it drips off.

            1. re: chowser

              Pre-heating the pan is supposed to help the skin not stick, but the skin has ALWAYS stuck for me.

              Cubed potatoes go in the same time as the chicken.

              1. re: jaykayen

                I just made the Zuni for the first time tonight, and I had the same result: skin completely stuck to the pan even though I pre-heated. Anyone have any suggestions? I imagine that the skin is supposed to sear quickly and then easily detach itself from the pan, but this doesn't seem to happen in practice. I'm considering oiling the pan next time (used All-Clad 10" SS frypan). Otherwise, one of the most delicious meats I've ever cooked.


                1. re: Noice

                  we like the zuni chicken a lot. deb uses a cast iron skillet. we've never had a problem with skin sticking.

                  1. re: Noice

                    I've done it with both cast iron and my all clad 10 incher. Turn the flame on full blast, put the pan on the flame for 3-4 minutes. Make sure the bottom of the chicken is very dry--that is place it on 2 paper towels for the 3-4 mins the pan is preheating and if it sticks, next time try it with your watch timing 3-4 mins. If it still sticks, you're living on another planet, return to earth and repeat. I've done this countless time. If the pan is hot and the chicken is dry, it won't stick.

                    1. re: Noice

                      It's important that the skin be quite dry, and that the pan is very hot. I always rest my chicken in the refrigerator on a folded up piece of paper towel for the brining period. I've never had a problem with sticking on a cast iron pan (and my cast iron pan is not seasoned to the point of "non-stick" that some have).

                      1. re: DGresh

                        Dry skin is very important for it not to stick (learned the hard way). It's why I brine the chicken vertical w/ paper towels below, too, changing it every few hours.

                  2. re: chowser

                    I put the potatoes in at the beginning (don't bother with the preheating of the pan). The fat from the chicken bastes the potatoes. When I take the chicken out to rest I put the potatoes back in to brown the parts where the chicken sat. There's always plenty of chicken fat in there by then to "baste" them.

                    1. re: DGresh

                      I'll have to try this. Do you use whole, sliced,?

                      1. re: chowser

                        sliced, thick or thin, depending on my mood and time.Thin is a bit nicer since they "fit" closer to the pan, but thick is ok too.

            2. re: MMRuth

              I'm going to fix your husband's version tonight cause I figure if YOU like it, I certainly will. Zuni and Keller will probably be the next versions. Thanks.

              1. re: c oliver

                This was excellent! Thanks. Because of its weight of almost 5# it took a little monitoring. I think I'm going to talk to the meat person at our big market and see if I can get smaller ones. A little aside/confession: the bird would have been better served if I had "allowed" my husband to cut it up. Until I serve my plate, I didn't realize that he had flipped the bird over therby destroying the crispy skin. We had "words" over that ! :(

                1. re: c oliver

                  oops, that should have read "hadn't allowed".

              2. re: MMRuth

                BTW, do you put the chicken on a rack? Thanks.

                1. re: c oliver

                  Sorry I didn't see this before - was travelling. I don't use a rack, though I do occasionally put in on a rack of celery.

              3. Thomas Keller's is my favorite. It's exactly what you describe. Simple, crispy golden skin, moist and juicy meat. It's my favorite recipe on nights when I don't feel like cooking.


                6 Replies
                1. re: Jen76

                  I agree that this method is excellent. The hardest part is finding a 2-3 pound chicken. Today's farm factories seem to put out large birds more in the 6-8 pound range.

                  1. re: TonyO

                    I find it hard to find a 3 pound bird in Manhattan, but the largest is usually about four pounds. However, when I was in NC over the holidays, the smallest bird I could find was almost six pounds, and I just couldn't believe it.

                    1. re: TonyO

                      Look at the natural chickens - they tend to be smaller. No hormones to bulk them up!

                    2. re: Jen76

                      I second Keller's method. When I'm up for a little more work, I like the recipe for Roast Chicken with Lemon and Thyme on Epicurious:


                      1. re: Jen76

                        I love The Thomas Keller Approach to roasted chicken and it is the only way I roast my chickens anymore. High heat, s&p, and a sprinkle of thyme after it's removed from the oven. Don't forget to eat the chicken butt (tom & his brother used to fight over that little piece of fat & skin when they were kids). Don't forget a little dollop of Dijon mustard on your plate for dipping. Simplistic and delicious!

                        1. re: lynnlato

                          I do a Zuni/Keller hybrid. Zuni pre-salt with the herbs (I've found I like 2 days minimum) and in my herb choice I always try to use marjoram, thyme and sage. Unlike Zuni's, I don't flip the bird. I roast it more like Kellers--including trussing the bird..

                      2. If I have a really large chicken or a capon, say 5# or more, I use a wet salt/sugar/garlic brine.
                        But if it's less than 5 lbs, I shove it neck-side down onto an angel-food or bundt pan after covering the tube's open end with tin foil. I salt the cavity and sometimes put onion and carrot inside. In the pan I put chunked onion/carrot/celery/apple. Vertically roasting it "upside-down" in this way allows the juices from the legs to baste the breast. Between that and the shelter provided by the sides of the pan, the breast doesn't overcook but the skin still browns well, especially on the legs and thighs. Roast at 350-375. The juices are good as is, or can be turned onto gravy. If all you have is a 2-part angel food pan, put the tube/bottom part into a different pan or a flat-bottomed casserole dish.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: greygarious

                          We have a vertical roaster that we used to us all the time. I should get it out again. The upside down aspect sounds like a real possibility.

                        2. Zuni. I've had comments like "is this how chicken is supposed to taste?" and "I've never had chicken as good as this before." Invariably, everyone I've cooked it for has said something along those lines.

                          I've also made the Keller and Hazan recipes. No matter which method you pick, you must do the Zuni salt brine at least overnight. Doing this, you can dispense with any extra butter/oil that other recipes tell you to put on (your chicken absolutely will not need it in order to produce a crispy skin or prevent dryness.)

                          1. All three of these sound really good. Thanks.

                            1. I go for more simple and last minute for roast chicken (I shop at a yuppy store, so these are upscale chickens), so I don't brine or anything. My essentials are salt and pepper, inside cavity and on bird and under skin. I roast in a v-rack in a hot oven for 45min to over an hour, depending on size, at 450. test for doneness with a thermometer. I don't baste or turn. Additions: Keller likes his bird as dry as possible for crisp skin, so that's all he does. I try to do that sometimes, but I also like to throw in some root veg, which adds moisture too. So I vary between Keller and Julia Child and rub with butter--skin, cavity, and under skin. She uses a stick, I use a couple tablespoons. I like to put lemon halves, quartered onion, and rosemary sprigs in the cavity. I like to put carrot, parsnip, potato, shallot under the chicken--with salt, pepper, and more butter--if I have them. The pieces have to be pretty big at the high temp. All this is pretty flexible though. The main thing is the high heat for ease and simplicity.

                              1. Regardless of method, I think the key is a small bird ( three lbs or so). If you have a crowd, cook two. The smaller birds cook faster leaving the white meat more moist.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: cassoulady

                                  That's a really good suggestion. I do find it hard to find smaller birds.

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    Seek out an independent butcher shop. We are lucky enough to have one here, finally. Ours buy locally sourced chickens and they are in the 3-4 lb. size and taste like chicken, unlike those gross over sized supermarket ninja mutants. Did you even notice that the roasted chickens and fried chicken in supermarkets are where the smaller birds end up?

                                2. the two places I usually shop have birds 3-4 lbs though I didnt realize this until I started really looking for them- before I was getting six lb birds which are harder to cook and leave me with too much leftover. I would suggest shopping around and trying different chickens in your area, some are bound to be better than others flavor wise.

                                  Also, if your best chickens are a bit off the beaten path, a whole chicken freezes fine, so buy two and freeze one for later. then pop it in the fridge to defrost a day or two before you want to cook it.

                                  1. If you want a fantastic Roasted Chicken Breasts (bone in) - someone on Chowhound shared this Awesome one called "Spicy Roasted Chicken with Marjaram and Cherry Tomotoes" - so delish, tender and simple.

                                    1. Beer can chicken. So many variations nowadays..but the original remains my fav.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: HillJ

                                        I always chuckle/grimace when I think about beer can chicken. I fixed one some years ago. While carrying it in from the grill, it/I got off-balance and spilled the whole damn thing in the middle of the (gratefully tile) floor :)

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          c oliver, been there! Then I bought a vertical roaster which helps to keep the bird and beer can/contents in a sturdy position while oven roasting or grilling. No more spills. Consider a vertical roaster if you roast chickens often.


                                      2. C oliver, if you are up for something fun, pollo al mattone - chicken under brick, is fun to make. This is also especially great with a smaller bird. Cut out the back bone, so you can lie the bird totally flat. Salt, pepper it. then put in a cast iron skillet skin side down with an foil covered brick on top to squish it down, cook for about ten min then flip- at this point the skin is crisp then finish cooking in the oven. this well deliver a chicken that is crisp all over. a 100 year old building behind me was recently torn down and I took tons of bricks and passed them out to friends for this recipe, you can use a pot lid or something though instead, anything that will flatten the bird. people seem to go nuts for this especially those who like crisp skin.

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: cassoulady

                                          The favorite in my kitchen is the recipe from Tom Colicchio's Think like a Chef (here's link to the recipe:http://www.amazon.com/Think-Like-Chef...). It is simple enough to pull off on a week night, but delicious enough to share with others. Brown on the stove top and finish off in the oven. I also love that the ingredients are pantry staples, so I could make this any night- no planning.

                                          1. re: cassoulady

                                            Chicken under a brick is my second favorite method after Zuni. In addition to removing the backbone, I also remove the breastbone and cut through the joint where the leg attaches to the body. This makes it lie even flatter and brown more evenly. I use two cast-iron skillets, the smaller one on top weighted down with a big can of tomatoes. It's a really great method when, for whatever reason, you just don't feel like heating up the oven.

                                            1. re: JoanN

                                              JoanN, I will try taking the breastbone out next time! Do you put yours in the oven at all or cook it entirely on the stove top?

                                              1. re: cassoulady

                                                Entirely stovetop. Fyi, to remove the breastbone, it helps if you score down the center of it with a sharp knife, then bend the breast backwards to break the breastbone. Sometimes I have to get in there with a knife or my fingers to get it out completely, but once you've done it and have the anatomy figured out it's really very easy.

                                            2. re: cassoulady

                                              America's Test Kitchen has a great Pollo al Mattone like recipe that you finish in the oven over some roasted red potatoes that I've made many times.

                                            3. Hi!

                                              Here's how I roast my chickens. The result is crispy and juicy. I don't remember for sure, but I think I got the recipe originally from a Julia Child cookbook.

                                              I just rub a little softened butter on the outside, season the bird inside and out, tie the legs and tuck the wings under and put it on a rack in a pan at 425 degrees. After 15 minutes, drop the temp to 350, throw a couple of veggies in the bottom of the pan and let it go. Total roasting time is usually about 45 minutes plus 7 minutes per pound. The drippings make a great gravy.

                                              Good luck!

                                              1. This would scorch in pan-or-high-roast methods, but for a regular oven-roast (350-375 degrees), I've used a method once described on The Frugal Gourmet when he was interviewing a gentleman who was a member of an Italian (or other European) noble family: mix equal parts toasted sesame oil, honey, and soy sauce. Brush onto the skin before roasting, and periodically while it roasts. This produces a well-flavored bird with a gorgeous and deliciously crisp, mahogany skin.

                                                1. I am obsessed with Roast Chicken and, as I have posted before, I confess I love my own: