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Oct 16, 2012 08:52 AM

Fear of a Roast Chicken

I can competently handle pork shoulder, short ribs, chicken thighs, meatloaf, lamb curry, beef stew, and all manner of soups. However, show me a whole raw chicken and I sigh, give up, and poach the damn thing for chicken salad and soup. I would love to be able to throw it in the oven with a minimum of fuss, not fill my kitchen with smoke, and end up with something reasonably tasty that won't kill anyone. Is that too much to ask?

Please share your most basic, easy, moderate-temperature roast chicken tips. I have no burning desire for crisp, browned skin (well, alright, I do, but I'll happily give that up for an easy technique and no smoke pouring out of the oven). I have a meat thermometer, but I must be using it wrong, because I'm often left with red juice in the cavity and raw-looking pink meat at the center of the thighs even after it reads "done."

Help me, chowhounds, you're my only hope.

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  1. Never had much luck with moderate temperature roasts; the breast ends up dry and the thighs undercooked. Thomas Keller's recipe is bulletproof. I've done it dozens of times and it always comes out perfect.

    2 Replies
    1. re: monkeyrotica

      Gotta second this. It's KISS and ofh so good.

      1. re: mike0989

        Third! It's spectacular, and absolutely foolproof!

    2. Really? You have all those dishes in your rep and the lonely roasted chicken eludes you?! Tartinet, I think you can nail this bird!

      One of my standbys is a to place the whole bird in a large roasting pan, slather with a quick tasty glaze. Place a sliced lemon and a few garlic cloves in the cavity and roast per lb instructions.

      The glaze consists of:
      •1/2 cup Chinese hoisin sauce
      •1/2 cup Chinese soy sauce
      •1/4 cup each honey and Chinese duck or plum sauce
      •1/4 cup each dry sherry and cider vinegar
      •5 large cloves garlic
      whirled in a food processor.

      If you are concerned about a dry bird, use a roaster bag or foil for the first 30 mins. than remove it and continue roasting until the thigh leg bleeds clear when pricked.

      Moist, tender, some lovely skin (your bonus). It's simple.

      14 Replies
      1. re: HillJ

        I know, HillJ, I feel like a dope that this eludes me! Thanks for your recipe-- what do you mean by "roast per lb instructions" Remember, I'm a dope-- I need specifics! :-)

        1. re: Tartinet

          oh, every chicken has cooking instructions on the wrapper. Good guidepost for per lb temp and roasting times....which can vary.

          1. re: HillJ

            Really? I can't believe I've never noticed the cooking instructions on the wrapper! Mark me down points on attention to detail, wow.


            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              Unless it's a bird you've bought from a butcher...I can't think of a commercial bird wrapped in brand-label that doesn't have instructions on or in the pkg.

              1. re: HillJ

                I just checked the wrapper--- and the only cooking advice my supermarket chicken offers is, very helpfully, "cook thoroughly."

                Ah, well then, chicken carpaccio is off the list! :-)

                1. re: Tartinet

                  Really?! Then, color me corrected! I have never run into a non instructional label. First time for everything, Tartinet. Thank goodness you have CH's to help you along!

          2. re: Tartinet

            Congrats on nailing that roasted bird, T! The skies the limit now!

            1. re: HillJ

              Thanks for your help! Next up-- finally learning how to toss pizza dough in the air... ;-)

              1. re: Tartinet

                Awesome! Learning how to churn out homemade pizza deserves its own thread!

          3. re: HillJ

            Adding 5 spice to the above would make it GREAT. I also adda bit of sesame oil.

            1. re: Westy

              This reminds me of a 5-spice roast chicken recipe I saw on chow yesterday.


              1. re: Westy

                Btwn the hoisin, soy & duck sauce I tend to save the sesame oil and five spice for other recipes. The bird roasts to a nice golden brown color and doesn't need extra oil or add'l spice. Now if we were talkin pork ribs, I'd be all over that suggestion!

                1. re: HillJ

                  That reminds me to resurrect the baste I remember from the Frugal Gourmet. He was visiting with a gentleman (Italian nobility?) who prepared a roast chicken, brushing it periodically with a mix of equal amounts honey, toasted sesame oil, and soy sauce. Incredibly tasty, mahogany-brown skin. I don't recall what temp he used but I would assume no more than 350, lest the honey burn.

                  1. re: greygarious

                    mahogany-brown chicken skin!!! my favorite!

            2. Thomas Keller's "My Favorite Simple Roast Chicken" Easy and delicious. You don't even have to truss the bird if you don't want (just tuck it artfully)

              And I never bother with the thyme, mustard, or butter either.

              Make sure you orient your chicken the way he does in the photo.

              ETA: haha, I see the first poster in this thread also recommended a Keller recipe. I'm sorry it's not moderate temp, though, but the technique is easy and I've never had a smoke problem.


              8 Replies
              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                I second this completely (including not bothering with the thyme or butter). I swear there isn't a better method out there for roasting a chicken, it is seriously perfect EVERY time! I generally have a hard time finding chickens that small, so I usually have to go a little longer on the time, but with no detriment to the chicken.

                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  i totally 3rd this, 100%. i do truss, but i often don't do the thyme, mustard or butter. ditto on no smoke problem. perfect chicken every time.

                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    I do this also but add the Lemons a la Hazan but cook at Kellers temp and no flipping..

                    1. re: King of Northern Blvd

                      I've been meaning to do hybrid with just popping a lemon into the cavity and proceeding with the Keller recipe, but I wondered if that would result in steaming the chicken, which Keller desperately wants you to avoid (hence his requirement to pat the bird down prior to cooking...)

                      Do you think the hybrid Hazan/Keller approach compromised the crispy skin?


                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        Not at all. I just use one lemon if I have one laying around. I haven't noticed a difference in skin at all. I do salt and leave the chicken uncovered in the fridge all day though.

                        1. re: King of Northern Blvd

                          Sounds like the best of all worlds. I'm definitely going to try that.Thanks for tip.


                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            Forgot to add that I also take that pieces of fat that are near the tail and place them under the skin on top of the breasts. I usually save the breast meat for the kids and we eat the dark meat. Please post back if you find any compromise in skin crispiness.

                            1. re: King of Northern Blvd

                              Will do. What a clever idea re: that tail fat!


                  2. You may, as you reported, be using the meat thermometer incorrectly. Poultry temperatures are taken at the thickest part of the thigh or where the thigh meets the breast but the thermometer should not touch the bone.
                    Here are some guidelines that may prove helpful in that regard:
                    When roasting a chicken, make sure it's resting on a rack or a layer of vegetables and that there's always some amount of water in the bottom of the roasting pan while the bird is in the oven.
                    I like HILLJ's suggestions, especially the roasting bag. If you've never used on of those you might want to try that. Just keep it away from the edges of the roasting pan while baking and read the directions for use carefully.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: todao

                      To clarify your excellent advice just in case the OP doesn't realize the reason for it, the vegetables and water in the pan will prevent smoking. An added benefit is that they flavor the drippings, for ease in making gravy or pan sauce. Another option, if you don't want to make either, is to put a layer of salt on the bottom of the pan, and use a rack so the chicken isn't sitting on the salt.

                      I'd suggest starting simple, a la Sara Moulton: 4.5 pound chicken, 450 degrees, 45 minutes. Easy.

                    2. If the crispy skin is not important to you, then my first suggestion would be to spatchcock the chicken...or simply cut in half. This way, the poultry will cook faster and more evenly placed on a rack. If you do wish for crispy skin, then all you need to do is place the chicken under the broiler.

                      Another alternative is to simply bake cut up seasoned chicken in a shallow dish....with or without liquids/marinades. You can add things like root vegetables or peppers later on in the same dish or a separate one.

                      For baked chicken, I usually set the temperature @ 350-375* with no smoking issues and grease splattering.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: fourunder

                        But...but....but fourunder! The crispy skin is the BEST PART!!! :-)

                        And keeping it simple is the best for the OP. Branch out with "other stuff" later. Oil the skin, salt and pepper it, maybe put a half lemon inside the cavity (salt and pepper in there, too), put Miss Birdie into a roasting pan and cook at about 375°, basting once or twice, for about 20 min. per lb. (rough guesstimate, depending on your oven). Add an additional 10-15 minutes, if needed.

                        Use an instant read thermometer and check in the meatiest part of the breast meat (don't touch the bone with the probe) until it's at about 165°. Take it out and let it rest for 10-15 minutes. Temp will continue to rise a bit.

                        Another method is initial high heat - preheat to 450° and roast for about 15-20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350° and finish roasting @ 20 min. / lb. (without the extra 10-15 minutes added at the end).

                        1. re: LindaWhit

                          Another method is initial high heat - preheat to 450° and roast for about 15-20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350° and finish roasting @ 20 min. / lb. (without the extra 10-15 minutes added at the end).

                          I do this when I roast my chickens. Also, no herbs, no butter, no nothin'. Breast side down always. Turn off oven after the 20 min per lb is up, and leave the bird in the closed oven for about another half hour. Breast is juicy and tasty, crispy brown skin on the back, thighs falling off the bone, and oysters to die for.