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Apr 20, 2010 07:26 AM

Your secrets to crispy chicken skin


I was wondering what your methods are for baking crispy chicken skin (no frying!) My chicken always comes out tasty and moist, but the skin is flaccid and - kind of gross, to be honest. I don't know if it's the temperature I'm cooking at, if I should be broiling to finish it off, or what?! Any suggestions??

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  1. To be crispy, the skin has to start dry and stay dry. Patting it thoroughly with paper towels is a good start, but putting the bird in front of a fan for an hour will really do the trick. If you can hang it from a hook so the juices can drip out and the carcass can rotate freely in front of the fan, even better.

    A sprinkling of kosher salt will tend to bring moisture to the surface, where the heat of the oven will evaporate it. And getting some separation from the meat from will also enhance crispiness. Rubbing butter under the skin is an easy way to do this, but some cooks will actually use a bicycle pump or air compressor to inflate the skin, forcing it away from the meat.

    In the oven, any temperature between 300 and 450 can give you nicely crispy skin. But you have to make sure that there's nothing preventing air circulation. Use a shallow roasting pan and a rack that holds the chicken above the edge of pan. Start the chicken face-down, and flip it over about a third of the way through the cooking process.

    Roasting a chicken isn't brain surgery. Follow a few simple rules, be willing to engage in trial and error, and you should have it down fairly soon. Good luck.

    6 Replies
    1. re: alanbarnes

      Ruhlman's "Too stupid to cook" chicken has resulted in the best chicken skin I've ever made. Delish. It's basically what alanbarnes is saying. Dry the chicken. Salt with 1 tbsp of kosher salt. Cook it in an oven crazy hot (450).

      1. re: Indirect Heat

        Sarah Moulton has the 45 rule. 4.5# chicken for 45 min at 450 degrees. Easy to remember, and as a landmark to compare to if your bird is a little smaller or larger.

      2. re: alanbarnes

        All good tips. Cooks Illustrated also suggests adding some baking powder to the salt. Seems to act as a drying agent. I've done it a few times, it does promote crispy skin and doesn't leave an aftertaste. I'd do it more often but I generally simply forget.

        1. re: alanbarnes

          I just had a vision of DH coming home to find a chicken swinging from a ceiling hook in front of a fan. I think it would be worth a few laughs just to try.

          But -- you are absolutely right. Dry skin is essential. To be explicit, the OP needs to start the chicken pieces, if cooking pieces, skin side down and then flip for the final cooking. I have been known to use a half sheet pan just to get really crispy skin because there is a lot of room and no steaming.

          If cooking a whole bird, one of those nice V shaped racks are the best, and there is no need to flip the bird over. I also have one of those Showtime rotisserie ovens, and the skin is always perfect on those chickens. I just add salt and pepper.

          Finally, I do like my vertical roaster, but only for the top half of the chicken. I bought one of these when I thought it might be an good substitue for outdoor cooking of beer can chicken, which has the crispiest skin of all. It seems to do only the top half (white meat) crispy, and leaves the bottom a little soggy where the legs are, because they are below the pan line. If you can get a wire vertical roaster and set it in a roasting pan, that may be a good way to go..

          1. re: RGC1982

            Jam the bird onto the vertical roaster neck side DOWN. The juices from the legs baste the breast, which doesn't overcook if it's at the bottom.

            1. re: greygarious

              Exactly, you had it upside down, friend!!

        2. This may be out of your reach, but a convection oven, with the constantly blowing fan makes incredibly crispy chicken. I don't air dry it, but do sprinkle kosher salt on it, do start it breast side down on either a rack or a cookie sheet (lined in foil), to give maximum air circulation to the skin. I like kosher chickens, which have been soaked and salted, I feel they are both moister and crispier than regular.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Diane in Bexley

            I do both, and you're absolutely right, Diane, they are!!

          2. Salt the skin at least for 4 to 6 hours prior to cook. Not enough to make you choke from the salt, just enough to get all over te skin. Then put it in the frig and allow it to air dry. Works like a charm.

            If youre going to leave in longer, whic is a good idea, you can loosely cver for a while but still allow it to get air. Pat the chicken skin witha paper towel to dry when ready to cook.

            1. I find the less I do to a chicken the crispier it is. That said I just season and bake (350 or 375) . My mother bastes it but I find that makes the skin soft. when I cook a whole bird I start it on the back and turn it over so it won't dry out. Good luck.

              1. One thing to keep in mind: the hotter the temp the crisper the skin, BUT also the more smoke you get. In a kitchen with a professional-quality hood that's not an issue, but in my kitchen I find anything over 400 causes fire alarms to go off. I usually do 400 until the skin is as brown as I want it to be, then lower it to 350 until a thermometer says it's done. And ditto on drying the skin, salting before cooking, using an uncovered roasting pan with the chicken on a rack, and not basting. If you do that, there's no way the skin will be anything other than crackling and delicious.

                3 Replies
                1. re: monopod

                  I hear that if you use a roasting pan that's just the size of the bird, you won't get smoke. I often cram my chickens into a dutch oven, although that may not be ideal from an air circulation perspective.

                  1. re: monopod

                    If I want to avoid the smoke with crispy high-heat roasted chicken I pour about 1/4 inch table salt into the pan, then roast the chicken directly ON THE RACK above the pan. The salt soaks up the drippings and seems to keep them from burning in the pan. The downside is you can't make a pan sauce with this method.

                    1. re: RealMenJulienne

                      I've heard Christopher Kimball suggest the salt-in-the-pan thing when you're broiling meat, only with kosher salt in the bottom of the broiler pan. I'm going to try it today when I'm broiling pork slices for a Vietnamese salad ... we'll see how it goes. I think I'll also put a fan near the smoke alarm, because I live in a fairly new apartment with an industrial-style smoke alarm that could wake the dead.