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Zuni chicken help

I am going to try making the Zuni chicken tomorrow for the first time (actually my first time roasting a chicken). I have a just over 2-lb chicken, which I guess is on the small end of the Zuni size range. Does this mean I should up the temperature and reduce the cooking time?

What size roasting pan should I use? Does it matter if it is much bigger than the chicken? I was thinking of roasting some potatoes with the chicken. Should I put them around or under it? I'll be salting/herbing tonight and cooking tomorrow, so any other tips for this Zuni virgin are most welcome!

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  1. I can never do 475, it will smoke in any oven I have roasted chicken. I always go for 450, though I guess some people have success with 475/500.

    I think she always gives a range, like 10-20 minutes for each step. There are 3 steps: when you initially put it in, the first flip, and the second flip. I would just do the minimum time on each of those. I've always used a large-ish cast iron skillet which is bigger than the chicken. Always comes out fine.

    4 Replies
    1. re: jaykayen

      I like the cast iron skillet too. It helps prevent the chicken juices from burning, which is great so you can make the fantastic bread salad.


      1. re: Amuse Bouches

        Unfortunately I don't own a cast-iron skillet (though it's on the list for my next cookware purchasing expedition...). Anyway to prevent the juices from burning in the roasting pan? I don't plan to do the bread salad but would like to use the juices (which I assume are fat) to roast potatoes.

        1. re: mayache

          To keep my apartment from smoking up, I pour off the fat in the pan each time I turn the chicken. You might try pouring the fat into a Pyrex dish and then browning the potatoes in that dish. The potatoes should take less time than the chicken, especially if you parboil them first until they're almost cooked through. I'd cut the potatoes into 1-inch chunks, parboil them, dry them in the oven for a bit, and then roast them in the chicken fat for the last half hour you're roasting the chicken.

      2. re: jaykayen

        To prevent the chicken fat from smoking up the oven while cooking at high temperatures, lay slices (1/4" and doubled layered) underneath the chicken to absorb the fat that is causing the burning. (I use a broiler pan and put the potatoes beneath on foil and the chicken above on the rack at cook at 500.) The potatoes are a hit.

        1. Whenever I make Zuni chicken I crank my oven almost up to 500. Just follow her directions--start at 475 and watch the chicken to see if it's browning. I always use a bird around three pounds and go the middle of the cooking times. Since yours is just over two, I might shave a minute or two off of the shortest times. As for cooking vessel, I just use a regular old skillet.

          1. Report back. (Having made it for the first time a month ago I'll be interested in your experience.)

            1. I've made the zuni recipe using two 2.5 lb birds using a sheet pan with maybe a 1-2" lip around the sides without issue. This recipe does create a lot of smoke from the juices splattering against the oven door, so you may want to consider building an aluminum foil wall around your pan. I followed the directions exactly but used a meat thermometer to make sure we didn't overcook, and I think it might have taken whatever the lower threshold was (45 mins?) for the total time range given. Just keep an eye on the bird an you'll be fine - ours came out delicious.

              2 Replies
              1. re: kasiav

                I've wondered about cooking two chickens at once. Did you need to increase cooking times at all?

                1. re: meleyna

                  nope - do note that they were two birds half the size of the one called for by the recipe, but we observed the 'lower' cooking time provided in the range for each step (ie 10 - 15 mins was 10 mins for us). Birds came out excellent, cooked very quicky - keep a meat thermometer on hand to see if your meat is done early.

              2. Jfood would agree with the removal of the fat at each turn. Another idea is to lower the temperature to around 425. Next week jfood is going to try a zuni in the gas weber, if is smokes only the neighborhood will have smoke.

                BTW - jfood uses a 3.5+ pound bird.

                1. I ended up making the chicken in a 9x13 roasting pan, threw in the parboiled potatoes around it after some fat had already rendered. I had set the oven for 475 (and initially reached that temp), but unfortunately had the door open too long while I was putting the chicken in the pan and didn't reach that temp again. The pan also may not have been hot enough because the skin stuck to it on one side and ended up ripping off. Chicken was tasty and juicy due to the dry brine but unfortunately the skin wasn't crispy like it's supposed to be. The potatoes came out very well. Definitely gonna try this again, probably start the oven at 500 and don't keep the door open too long.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: mayache

                    Whenever I need to maintain high temps in the oven, I've found it helps a ton to make sure you pre-heat for an extended period of time - often up to an hour for 475-500. This allows the oven walls to fully absorb and heat up rather than just the air inside the oven which exits upon opening the door (another tip from A. Brown).

                    Also pre-heat a bit over target temp if possible.
                    Together, I've found this really helps the oven come back up to temp.

                    Now I'm in the mood for some roast chicken!

                    Good luck,


                    1. re: ArizonaDave

                      That is a good idea about keeping it on the preheat temp for a while after it hits the setpoint; funny how these ideas seem so obvious in retrospect (and I'm an engineer, wish I had thought of this myself) ;-). Although the problem was keeping the door open too long, storing heat in the oven walls would make it much easier to stay up to temp after opening the door.

                    2. re: mayache

                      Another reason the chicken may have stuck is if the skin wasn't completely dry. A smaller pan may also help since Rodgers does mention using a pan that is only a bit bigger than the bird. Also, did you preheat the roasting pan as well?

                      1. re: beetlebug

                        I thought I dried out the skin pretty well between patting it down with paper towels, salting, and leaving it exposed in the fridge, but now that I think about it, I believe I placed the side that was face down to the plate in the fridge down onto the pan as well, so that side may have been a bit wetter. I did preheat the roasting pan with the oven, but perhaps not long enough...

                        I am wondering what the effect of a larger or smaller pan is? The pan I used was just big enough for the chicken and potatoes around it, but can't come up with a good explanation for a smaller pan being better.

                        1. re: mayache

                          Ahh, I suspect it's the damp skin. When I pull it out of the fridge before cooking, I always re-dry using paper towels.

                          As for the pan size, I don't remember off the top of my head, but it's something to do with the heat I think. I'll pull the book out and see what she says. Although, from your description, it doesn't sound like it was too big, I was picturing a large roasting pan (like for a turkey) for your 2 lbs. bird.

                          Once you taste that crispy skin, you'll be amazed.

                    3. I would also suggest a smaller pan. I used an enameled frying pan (a pre- Le Cruset Descoware one).