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Roast Chicken Technique

I love roast chicken and the variations of time, temperature and seasonings are extremely diverse. What is the best combination to produce a tasty, succulent and consistent product? I've tried breast down at high heat then turn over and finish at low heat, drunken chicken, brining, butter under the skin, etc. Is there a consensus on what is best?

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  1. Believe it or not, Ronco's "Set it & Forget it" Rotisserie makes fantastic chicken. If you get one of those, the rest is easy. Tasty, succulent, consistent. We've had one for years (10+) and it's earned back whatever we paid for it many times.

    6 Replies
    1. re: boredough

      I recently watched the episode of The French Chef with Julia Child called To Roast a Chicken and in it she uses a rotisserie. I was sort of surprised. It hadn't really occurred to me before to do it up that way, but now I am interested. I can't see myself buying an appliance for it, though. Maybe I'll try and convince a friend to get one. :)

      1. re: rainbowbrown

        It's worth having the Ronco appliance (IMO) - skin always comes out crisp & meat is never dried out (if you follow the instructions). It's the small enclosed area that gets it just right. I think there may be different sizes, so the small one may work for you. Anyway, if you end up getting the "Set it & Forget it", be sure to report back with results.

        1. re: boredough

          But there are plenty of techniques/recipes here that don't require another appliance and give crispy skin and moist meat. My cast iron skillet is a dream for doing this and gets used for other things and takes up very little space.

          1. re: c oliver

            That's one of the first lessons Alton Brown taught me. Never buy a product that is only good for one thing. Can you use a rotisserie for other meats?

            1. re: richburgfoodie

              of course!

              I have a rotisserie in my oven (didn't seek it out, it was the right size and the right price) - and I love it -- use it all the time for any kind of meat at all.

              No reason you couldn't use the Ronco for just about everything.

              1. re: richburgfoodie

                The reason it's so good is because you can.....set it & forget it. Really. Your concern was the inconsistency of cooking chicken, and IMO the Ronco appliance solves that problem easily. We don't do (meat) roasts, but would certainly use it for that should we decide to make one. Even if it were only good for poultry, you're a chicken lover, so it should earn its keep. Plus due to its compact size, it cooks more quickly than a standard-size oven w/rotisserie. (No, I don't own stock in Ronco!)

      2. I would have to agree a Rotisserie Roasted Chicken is best and provides the best and most consistent results.....if not over-cooked

        Without access to a rotisserie oven or grill......I would recommend a beer can method if you like crispy skin.

        2 Replies
        1. re: fourunder

          thanks for the responses. I've thought about a rotisserie but I've heard some horror stories in regard to cleanup. Are those stories true?

          1. re: richburgfoodie

            At least on our (old) model, many of the parts detach for "easy" cleaning. A removable tray at the bottom catches the grease. No horror story from me...!

        2. A lot of people are gonna recommend the Zuni method or something like it (Thomas Keller's method is similar, as are some others - basically use a small bird, high heat, short roasting time, a few other little tricks). It's super popular on CH. With good reason - it's a fine method and stupid-easy too.

          But the truth is there is no consensus, no best way to roast a chicken. A lot of the medium-temp, longer cooking methods are trickier to pull off properly but also can lead to a moist flavorful bird (and crispy skin), along with more potential for letting aromatics shine, more versatility in creating sauces.

          My personal favorite (adapted from my mom's adaptation of God-knows-what):

          1 chicken (about 4.5 - 5.5 pounds), with giblets
          about 6 cloves of garlic
          1/2 stick butter
          1 lemon, cut in half
          2 tablespoons dry mustard
          2 tablespoons ground ginger
          1 tablespoon cumin
          Handful each of parsley and cilantro
          Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
          4 medium-size yellow onions, quartered
          3 cups chicken stock
          1 teaspoon dijon or brown mustard, or to taste

          1. Combine some quartered onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, one cut up lemon, and spices (dry ginger, dry mustard, season salt, cumin, pepper or lemon pepper, and some cilantro and parsley) and throw it into the cavity of the chicken.

          2. Melt 1/2 stick of butter, with about 1/2 lemon's worth of fresh lemon juice, about a teaspoon each of the dry mustard and dry ginger, cracked pepper, and cumin to taste. Brush half of this over the chicken. Then season chicken with salt to taste. In a roasting pan scatter 3 of the quartered onions. Either place the chicken on top of the onions, or on a rack over the onions and roast for 30 minutes @ 425.

          3. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine the chicken stock, the remaining onion, the remaining garlic cloves, the remaining dry mustard and dry ginger, some more cilantro, a good dash of cumin, dijon mustard, and the other half lemon half (juice and all). Taste and adjust seasoning before adding the giblets. Bring to a simmer and cook for approx 30 minutes.

          4. Check the chicken - if the skin looks good, reduce the oven to about 375. Baste with a bit more of the melted butter mixture. Pour about 1/2 cup stock (you can also add a splash of white wine) on the onions and continue to let it cook.

          5. Strain the stock and set it aside (I love the liver and have been known to buy extra and throw it into the pan with the chicken to roast at the end after cooking it in the broth).

          6. Baste the chicken every 20 minutes with a bit of the stock until it registers about 155 f with a digital thermometer in the center of the breast. Remove the chicken and rest it. Sometimes i dry then saute the bottom side and thighs in a pan to crisp that skin and bring the temp up a bit without overcooking the white meat.

          7. Meanwhile, add the rest of the stock to the roasting pan and deglaze (there should be lots of black and brown onion bits) and reduce to sauce consistency. Cut the bird into pieces and return it to pan with the sauce, giving everything a good toss.

          Serve with buttered noodles or bread or something else to mop up the sauce. You can strain the onions if you want, but I don't.

          I don't bother brining, but if you do, a standard saltwater brine would be fine.

          3 Replies
          1. re: cowboyardee

            Thanks cowboy. I, too, love chicken livers and I'll definitely try this.

            1. re: cowboyardee

              One of the techniques I've tried was from the Food Network web site and it's called rotisserie chicken but it is done in a conventional oven. It calls to roast the bird at 250 F for 5 hours. This actually gives moist, excellent chicken but renders the skin practically inedible. Does anyone cook chicken at a low temperature and salvage the skin?

              1. re: richburgfoodie

                My favorite roast chicken is done on the rotisserie on the gas grill. Just season your chicken well and put it on the rotiesserie and about 1 1/2 hours for a 4-5lb chicken. So moist and succelent! And easy cleanup to boot!!

            2. If on the grill, as said before, the easiest way is the beer can chicken. You really can't go wrong, pick out the rub you want to use, grill it for an hour or so....done. I've just started to do the Rick Bayless roadside chicken as well and am liking it.

              2 Replies
              1. re: cb1

                I'm familiar with Rick Bayless but I'm not hip to his "roadside chicken". Could you help me out on that a little, cb1? Thanks.

                1. re: richburgfoodie

                  I just found about it myself and have done it twice in the last two weeks or so. It's from his book Everyday Mexican. It is a spatchcock or butterflied way of cooking. Just google it. The recipie is all over the place.

              2. I use the Thomas Keller method and never fails.

                450° oven, rinse and dry chicken very well, salt and pepper inside and out, put in a saute pan and let it go. no butter, no basting, nothing.

                1 Reply
                1. re: mljones99

                  Agree 100% on this method. The key here is to buy a smaller bird and to make sure you have plenty of dry heat, which gets the skin nice and crispy. The small bird lessens the cook time and ensures that the skin won't burn, but will have a deep golden brown color. Go for something free range that hasn't been fed a bunch of hormones or steroids, they should be about 3 lbs. If you need more meat than that, buy two and roast them at the same time. One bird takes about 45 minutes in my oven, sometimes a little less. I would also add that a roasting rack helps here. If you lay the chicken down on the roasting pan flat, it sits in its own juices, which makes getting a crispy skin more difficult.

                  Keller says you can slather a little butter over the bird when it is done roasting, or serve with some nice dijon mustard. You don't need to do a whole lot with this method to end up with a delicious chicken. I don't love the dijon mustard combo personally, and almost always make myself a little pan gravy using the drippings from the roasting pan.

                2. There are SO many roast chicken techniques and ya know what? Just about all of them make the "best" bird. Butterflying/spatchcocking have the advantage of being faster if you're in a rush.
                  As does high-heat roasting. But you can do a slow-roast and also get a great skin and meat.
                  Unless i want to stuff the chicken, I like to vertical roast using a solid-bottom angel food pan, with the bird shoved onto it neck-side DOWN, since that self-bastes the breast.

                  5 Replies
                    1. re: erica

                      No, the one you liked has a removable bottom - although you could use just the insert, set onto an oven-safe skillet or baking pan. Most AF pans these days are 2-piece. Mine is quite old and is thick aluminum. It's just a way to vertical roast without buying another gadget. The key thing is to have the breast at the bottom, not at the top. The neck opening is small, but if you use some force you can get the chicken fairly low on the tube.

                      1. re: erica

                        You could also use some versions of Bundt Pans to give you the vertical roasting technique. some pans have higher center necks and thinner tubes, similar to the pan you have linked to.

                        1. re: fourunder

                          True, but I think you'd have a lot of work getting all the fond out when making gravy. The elevation of the ridges might or might not cause the find to burn - on the other hand it might make for more fond. I can actually make the gravy using the AF pan as a saucepan.

                      2. A few months ago I asked here, if one has done the Zuni chicken, is there one they liked better. Here are the replies:


                        3 Replies
                        1. re: c oliver

                          I'm pretty sure I read it here a while back.....Is it Sara Moulton who has a recipe on the order of a 45 Rule?

                          A 4.5 pound chicken roasted at 450* for 45 minutes

                          for those who have tried all the different celebrity chef recipes.....how does this compare?

                          1. re: fourunder

                            Zuni makes a real point of calling for 2-3/4 to 3-1/2#. Most of them are more like that 4.5er. I'm thinking that smaller size matters. I've been using the organice ones from Costco (can't remember the brand). Not as small but not huge either.

                            1. re: c oliver

                              I've tried tons of techniques and Zuni technique never fails. Basically it pan fries in it's own fat, so no basting required.

                              Keys are good quality bird, 2-3 day dry brine, not trussed, dried well before cooking, high heat. I try to bring it close to room temp before cooking, for more even dark meat cooking. For me, works best in cast iron pan. Works fine with larger bird but probably not ideal skin:meat ratio.

                        2. Violate it. Seriously. Get out your bundt pan. Chop up some potatoes and onions for the bottom. Season your chicken with salt, pepper, and paprika. Shove that chicken onto the bundt pan's middle. Roast it at 450 for 20 minutes, then 350 for 90 minutes. Check to make sure it's done with a thermometer.

                          Best chicken ever.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: tzurriz

                            Just pointing out that if you use a small bird, 110 minutes is gonna result in overcooking. I imagine your recipe is for a 6 lb+ chicken?

                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                It is, yeah. I buy my roasting chickens at Costco, and they are freaking huge. Adjust the time to your chicken size. :) My family of 4 gets multiple meals out of a single bird.

                              2. re: tzurriz

                                I like that idea! I tried the Cook's Illustrated beer-can chicken recipe once (using one of those tall iced-tea cans, since there are no beer-drinkers in our house), and had terrible problems with the can falling over. I've seen wire vertical roaster racks before, but couldn't justify the storage space for a single-purpose gadget. Using a Bundt pan, on the other hand (don't own an angel-food cake pan, so that's not an option for me) -- that would be more stable than a beer can; the potatoes and onions would get flavored by the chicken drippings; and (assuming you put the Bundt pan inside a larger pan) the chicken could still absorb additional flavor from a liquid (such as beer) placed in whatever pan one places the Bundt pan in. I'll have to try that sometime!

                              3. I use Joy's Turned Roasted Chicken (the method -- somehow I never manage to follow the actual recipe...)

                                Use a v-rack set in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Season as you like (I usually just use olive oil, S & P, although occasionally I use herbes de Provence or some garlic powder).

                                Set the chicken on its side in the v-rack (no v-rack? prop it up with balls of foil) and roast for 25 minutes for the first 3 pounds, plus 3 minutes per additional pound at 375F/190C

                                Pull the chicken out and with a long-handled wooden spoon, flip it over onto its other side -- repeat --- 25 minutes for the first 3 pounds, and an extra 3 minutes for each additional pound.

                                Turn the chicken one more time -- breast-side up this time - and roast for 20 more minutes or til it tests done (to whatever done means at your house).

                                Comes out golden and juicy every single time.

                                (you can toss some chopped potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc., under the rack after the first 20 minutes -- toss them with some olive oil and season to taste, then just spread them evenly under the chicken - they then roast at the same time and catch all the drippings)

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  That sounds pretty similar to a turkey I did a couple of years ago for Thanksgiving. New SIL wanted "traditional" whereas we usually do SW, i.e., turkey on the Weber. It turned out nice and moist, even the breast meat.

                                2. The best method for our skin loving and often time constrained family is an 8 hour brine of a 4-5lb, halved chicken. Let both sides rest and air dry on a broiling pan, tucking the wings back, and use the neck, liver, gizzards and spine for stock.
                                  Salt the skin lightly 5 min before putting the chicken in a 425 oven for 45-50 minutes. You can also put herbs and aromatics under the skin. (My fave- garlic, rosemary and thin slice of lemon) That can strongly flavor the skin, though..

                                  Schmaltz is caught in the bottom of the broiler pan, and can be harvested nicely. If you oversalt the brine or the skin, the schmaltz may be too salty to be used in some applications.

                                  All the skin, except for the strip along the back, is perfectly crispy, brown and yummy.

                                  Keys for this and all roast chicken- dry skin and room temperature bird.

                                  This also works well on a charcoal grill over indirect heat. Cooking time is more variable, but the skin is better.

                                  1. I use a trick I think I stole from Jamie Oliver, to basically dry-pan-fry the chicken on both sides for 5 minutes before it goes in the oven. It keeps it really juicy when baking (450 for 45). I also stuff seasonings (S&p, garlic, paprika) and fresh herbs (whatever's around but usually rosemary & marjoram) both in the cavity and under the skin, plus lemons in the cavity. Its a little extra work but it comes out really delicious.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Adrienne

                                      Thanks to everyone for the great ideas. There are several here that I'm sure to try. I'm surprised that the trend seems to be high heat with a lot of emphasis on the skin. Interesting. Ya'll keep them coming!!

                                    2. I am obsessed with Roast Chicken and have tried just about every way. I have my own 'perfect roast chicken' which I will reference below. But I must say lately Marzella Hazen's Roast Chicken with Two Lemons has taken over as my favorite. Very easy and sublimely good, it might just trump my own version:


                                      My own version: