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Dec 17, 2009 08:48 AM

Roasting Chicken - Using Rack Creates Steam?

Hi All,

I am wondering if anyone has thoughts about the advantages/disadvantages of using a rack when roasting chicken. I use the Thomas Keller method (dry bird, 450 heat, leave it alone). I used to do this in a shallow baking pan that did not have a rack, and it worked great. Recently I bought a roasting pan (I think it's enameled light metal, maybe tin) with a small rack. I roasted the chicken that way recently, while also using the same oven to bake no-knead bread, which necessitated taking the top off the bread pan for the last 30 minutes. My chicken was noticeably less crisp. My theories are 1) it was less crisp because after taking off the top of the pan holding the bread the bread released moisture during the last 1/2 hour, or 2) the dripping of the juices down from the rack into the pan creates sizzling that lets off moisture.

Perhaps both were at play. I am wondering though whether wise chicken roasters on this site think that using a rack might create more moisture because the juices escape, hit the hot pan, and then evaporate to some extent. Any thoughts would be much appreciated!

(Would also love any quick tips for making pan sauce - haven't done it before but am planning to when I roast a chicken tomorrow).


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  1. It was the bread. I bet it both gave off moisture and lowered your oven temp.

    I high heat roast my chicken all the time. Usually use a rack, but have sometimes not. No noticable difference.

    Juice comes out of your chicken and evaporates with or without a rack.

    2 Replies
      1. re: C. Hamster

        Yup, it was the bread. The chicken doesn't create any more steam with a rack than without. Placing the chicken on a rack doesn't change the amount of moisture in the bird, hence the amount of water vapor in the oven should remain relatively constant regardless of whether you use a rack or not.

      2. Third the bread.
        Pan sauce: Roast your chicken on top of a few whole carrots, celery stalks and sliced onion, as a sort of rack, with bay leaves and thyme. Remove chicken, deglaze the roasting pan and the aromatics right on the stovetop, with white wine, brandy or other liquor of choice, scraping the fond, reduce, add homemade chicken stock, reduce, strain the sauce into a sauce pan or back into the roasting pan, whisk in a little cold, unsalted butter to thicken a bit, adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and maybe a bit of acid, like lemon, to "perk" up the flavor.
        You can also add heavy cream to the reduction step with the chicken stock, to add additional richness.
        Pan sauces are not thickened with roux or other starches, just thickened with a bit of butter or not, and served as a jus.

        4 Replies
        1. re: bushwickgirl

          I've been roasting whole chicken on top of just such a bed of veggies lately, but butterflied. I cut out the backbone and breasbone, spread the chicken skin side up atop the veggies, baste with melted butter, sprinkle with plenty of s and p (really generously) and roast one hour at 350. This way, the whole bird is wonderfully crisp, every inch of it.

          1. re: bushwickgirl

            i do a similar bed of veggies, but i do thickly sliced onion, thickly slice carrot, and fennel (just the bulbs) tossed with olive oil and thyme, and S & P. stuff chicken with garlic head and lemon, both sliced in half, along with a bunch of thyme. brush skin with melted butter and sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. i roast at 425 for about an hour and a half, and i'll add some sliced potatoes tossed with olive oil, S & P, about 45 min way through. oh and i do it in a non-standard roasting pan; i usually use a disposable aluminum foil pan that's particularly deep and just wide enough to hold my 5 1/2 pound bird.

            1. re: bushwickgirl

              When you do make the sauce this way, are the vegetables so soft that they basically "puree" through the sieve? Or can you use a hand blender to aid the process, then sieve?

              1. re: ChristinaMason

                No, the veggies are usually not quite that soft, but if you wanted to puree them with a immersion blender, you could. I normally don't bother. I chop them up and feed the carrots to the cats; not the onions, however. I like my pan sauce to have just a little body, not like a gravy.

              1. re: KARAal03

                I screwed up; I roast at high temp, 450f, not 350. It gives the skin a gorgeous color and it's very crispy.

                Sorry about that.

              2. Yuppers, it was the bread...

                If the bird comes with the neck and giblets, I simmer them on the stove with the veggies. Then, I them strain out, throw them away and add to the pan drippings. Helps to get all the brown bits loose. I add a slurry of flour and water to my pan sauce. Also, start bird at 400 for 1/2 hour and then lower to 350. Makes for very crisp bird.