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Feb 12, 2013 07:07 AM

Calling all low and slow roasted chickeners...method?

I am planning to roast a few chickens and would like to use the same low and slow method I used for a turkey last month, but not sure if the method needs to be adapted for a smaller sized bird. I will be roasting 2-5 lb chickens at the same time, covered with herb butter and on a basic mire poix. Any tips? What temp? How long? I have an in-oven thermometer so that will be a guide but just wanted to gauge in terms of planning the rest of the meal.

Fourunder, you out there?

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  1. My m.o. for roast chickens of that size is 325F for about an hour and a half to an hour and three quarters, with another 15 minutes of rest before carving -- so plan for at least two hours between going in the oven and serving. Chicken goes into the oven with a foil shield over the breast, which gets removed after 45 minutes (and, unfolded, used as the tent during resting).

    This timing assumes the chicken is pretty much room temperature and as dry as possible before getting buttered and seasoned. I've found that working some herbed butter under the skin (as well as just on the outside) seems to help crispify it, and makes the breast meat moister and tastier.

    4 Replies
    1. re: ellabee

      My mom used this method a few weeks ago- though she cooked the bird for a total of 3 hours, I think. It was fabulous! So moist, with crispy skin. And it made delicious gravy! Besides the butter, she threw a few lemons in the cavity.

      1. re: macca

        How big was the bird? What final temp? Should I add more time for 2 birds?

        1. re: fldhkybnva

          It was probably about 5 or 6 lbs. I think I would add more time for two birds- but if the breast is covered, and you use butter ( or olive oil) on the skin, it is really almost impossible to overcook- as long as you keep and eye on it. good luck, and let us know hhow you make out.

        2. re: macca

          I always do a lemon half in the cavity, too, sometimes with a clove of garlic (unpeeled). Wonderful jus for gravy...

          @fldhkybnva: It does seem as if it would add some time to have two birds roasting at once, but I'm no help there -- have a 24-inch oven that can only handle one bird. If there's room in the oven for them to be side by side, with a bit of airspace between, that would minimize differences between the two in cooking speed.

      2. I have used the method laid out in this post a bunch of times with great success. I have never done it with 2 birds or with one as big as 5 pounds, I am sure you would have to make some adjustments but 300 produces a wonderful chicken (just no crispy skin).

        8 Replies
        1. re: GretchenS

          What temperature would you roast to? For the turkey I did 150 in the thigh and it was still warm after a 2 hour rest and perfectly juicy.

          1. re: fldhkybnva

            I am not much of a temperature-taker with poultry but I think that sounds about right. I am curious whether fourunder will weigh in, can only remember fourunder posts about beef though, not poultry.

            1. re: GretchenS

              Fourunder was the miracle god for my 1st turkey which was the best I've ever had, so he/she does poultry. I am also hoping fourunder will chime in. I hesitated to address the post specifically to him/her but after that turkey experience, I listen with very open ears.

              1. re: fldhkybnva

                btw....I'm a he, not a she...although when my putting skills are off...some would disagree....and I have been called *Alice*.

                : 0 )

                1. re: fourunder

                  deep apologies, professor fourunder! :)

              2. re: fldhkybnva

                Leg meat is full of connective tissue that doesn't dissolve until cooked to 165. A lot of people say to get it even hotter, like 180. Dark meat has a chewy and (to me) unappetizing texture if the connective tissue isn't cooked out.

                1. re: C. Hamster

                  I didn't find that with the turkey at all although it might be true. I'm also not the biggest dark meat fan so only ate it when the white meat had disappeared so perhaps that's why I didn't notice.

            2. I rested my turkey 2 hours only because I got behind schedule with side dishes. How long is too long to rest the chicken for it to still be warm? I can always serve room temperature with hot gravy.

              1. Now, Professor fourunder can correct me if I'm wrong, but I do not like chicken done low and slow. 325 to 350 are about the lowest temps that I will use. I find the meat to be too flaccid for my taste when I cook 'em in the 225 to 250 range - even on the offset!

                1. I'm humbled that you and others appreciate my thoughts on roasting....The short answer is *375 for those that do not want to continue reading any further....

                  Many will opine that the Zuni Cafe or Thomas Keller method for roasting chickens at high temperatures is best....and I would say it's a great method for a smaller bird, but not birds larger than 4.5 pounds. There's an old adage for roasting chickens, I do not recall who started it, possibly Julia Child, but I know Sara Moulton praises's the 4/5 method or something close called that with the combination of numbers:

                  A 4.5 pound chicken...roasted @ 450* .....for 45 minutes...If you do not like your meat dry, it's a pretty good guideline.

                  I DO NOT like to roast or bake any chicken at less than 325*. I feel the end result in texture is *rubbery*, so MGZ is correct and we both recently noted this in another thread..., that unless it's barbecue, a higher moderate temperature is preferred.

                  Like turkey, the best temperature depends on the size of the bird itself, combined with how you like your chicken, i.e., fall off the bone or with a little chew.. I grew up eating fresh kill chicken on the bone only...never white meat fact, when the chickens were braised and chopped, you could still see the blood inside the bone....I never gave it a thought. Personally, I like my chicken moist, and a little undercooked doesn't bother me when it comes to dark meat. Many of the high temperature roasting methods are recommended to focus on keeping the white meat moist, but then the dark meat can be over or under cooked. The high heat methods, combined with flipping the bird favors the breast meat....and I feel does not cook the dark meat properly. I believe the reason why many like the Rotisserie Style methods is that the white meat does not dry out, while cooking the dark meat so that it is tender. With high heat you risk not cooking the meat close to bones.... I prefer to make my chickens cooked moist and the high heat method is not my preferred choice. Instead, I like to roast at a more moderate heat...specifically @ 375*, which I feel gives you the best opportunity to duplicate a rotisserie style chicken and the best combination of having moist and tender meat, for both white and dark..... short of vertical roasting. I like to start off the chicken @ 450* for the first 15-20 minutes, then drop down to 375 to finish.. I do not flip the bird, but I will rotate the roasting pan or birds while they are inside the oven once, at the halfway point. If I want crisper skin then what has developed at the end of roasting time, then I'll give it a high heat blast or a few minutes under the broiler.

                  While a thermometer will aid you and avoid the risk of over or under cooking, I don't use one myself. I don't concern myself with trying to make the perfect chickens. My method is to see with my eyes...when the skin pulls back off the bone on the legs and I confirm with a finger poke it's done. This is usually at the 75-90 minute mark, BUT with a larger FIVE POUND Chicken, You may need up to two hours with two birds. This is easily done @ 375, but with a higher temperature, past 45 minutes and you risk burning the outer perimeter of the breast meat, thus the reason why I feel the lower temperature is better.

                  Like Thomas Keller and Jacques Pepin, I recommend you remove the wish bone and truss the bird. It's prettier for presentation and cooks the chicken more evenly.....and it's easier to slice in half off the ribcage.

                  I do not recommend any chickens over 4.5 pounds, myself, I try and choose chickens 3-3.5 pounds when available. I do not like Roaster Style Chickens(6+ pounds)

                  The video provided by Thomas Keller really shows how easy it is to prepare, roast and serve a chicken. Give it a look.


                  Finally, don't let all the words intimidate you. It's just like the turkey or roast beef......

                  * You season and prepare

                  * You toss it in the oven

                  * Unlike other meat do not need to rest chicken over 20 minutes.

                  * In 90-120 minutes or so you have dinner.

                  Important....multiple birds may increase the total cooking time needed, but not if the birds are small.....make sure you keep some separation between the birds for more even cooking....especially if you want brown/golden brown skin for the five pound chickens.

                  27 Replies
                  1. re: fourunder

                    Thank you in advance. I'll try out this method and let everyone know how it goes. Dinner is on Wednesday so will report back then.

                    1. re: fourunder

                      I love your roasting tips fourunder.

                      1. re: darrentran87

                        thank are too kind....and it's my aim to please.

                      2. re: fourunder

                        OK, I picked up the chickens and they are smaller than I expected (fyi I decided to have Whole Foods prep and coat with herb butter and mire poix to save me some time) at 2 lbs and 3 lbs. I assume this method is still OK? Any idea how much meat I can expect from each? I remember a quick estimate as 2/3 edible meat per lb but not sure if I'm remembering correctly.

                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                          I don't normally find poultry under 3 pounds, let alone one at 2 pounds. I may have to reevaluate my aversion to Whole Foods.

                          If you like your chickens a little more springy in texture, go with 400-450*. If you are trying to achieve a softer texture more like the Rotisserie style chicken, then 375* will get you there.,

                          With such small birds, you are looking at 45 minutes to 75 minutes...depending on the temperature you choose., total roasting time.

                          Your guideline seems reasonable...but how many people are you looking to feed....or is this a preliminary step for another recipe or dish.

                          Whenever I roast chicken, I pull the pones and carcass for stock/soup..... this can easily feed four....but if you are looking to serve 5-6, then I would quarter the chicken into white and dark meat portions, or bone out the meat.......otherwise just split in half.

                          1. re: fourunder

                            Great, thanks it's for 4 of us but we are pretty big meat eaters...I must admit that SO and I devoured an 18 lb turkey in 3 days. However, it will be served among a bunch of other sides so it should be fine but perhaps no leftovers as I expected when I estimated based on 5 lb chickens.

                            Do you prefer the smaller birds?

                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                              Smaller birds are more tender and they taste better!

                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                  My ideal chicken size is 3.5 pounds for broiling or roasting at home. Whether cooking one or four in a roasting pan, they all cook evenly and fit into one oven without any worries of grease splattering when I crank the oven up for the blast portion of crisping or browning.

                                  Like C.H. has noted.....cooked properly, small birds are more tender, less stringy and more tender......they are the perfect size for Double French Cut chicken Breasts.....they also have less fat than larger birds. Last, the smaller bird means I eat less.

                                  1. re: fourunder

                                    Gracias for the advice. I followed your method of 450F for 20 minutes and then it seemed to end up at 22 minutes/lb at 375F. At the end, the skin was a bit anemic but we are not skin fans so didn't bother with the high-temp to crisp up the skin. Thanks again, another great bird.

                            2. re: fourunder

                              I've been able to find 3+# chickens at WF. Air-dried FWIW. I'm hooked on the Zuni method for those but don't know that I'd do that for those big ones, which BTW I feel have subpar flavor and texture.

                              When cooking a whole chicken, we generally cut the breast in half which give two extra pieces of meat and no one seems to miss it.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                very nice.....I'm hooked on the PopEye's method to be honest.

                                1. re: fourunder

                                  Which is what?????? Haven't had PopEye's in a few decades so don't remember :)

                                    1. re: fourunder

                                      I notice a Popeye's in Reno yesterday. May have to check it out.

                          2. re: fourunder

                            Could I use this method for a cornish hen?

                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                              Why would you want to? They're so small & cook so quickly using regular methods.

                              I'd think their small size would have them drying out rather quickly low & slow.

                              1. re: fldhkybnva

                                If you are referencing my preference for 375*....yes, but for the smaller birds I actually prefer the higher heat at 450* if simply seasoned. If it were stuffed, then I probably would do the lower 375*

                                Cornish hens are also very good grilled and deep-fried. The cook very nicely if you like the brick method too.

                                1. re: fourunder

                                  -4, could you please elaborate on the deep-fried Cornish hens? That sounds QUITE interesting! TIA.

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    You could do it like traditional Fried Chicken and coat it with buttermilk and your favorite seasonings.....but I've had them fried whole and in halves....mostly in Chinese restaurants just served with Chinese banquets, they use Squabs which are darker meat and the birds are cut into quarters.

                                    Here's a link with what looks like a pretty good recipe.


                                    1. re: fourunder

                                      Wow, that sounds delicious, thanks.

                                      1. re: fourunder

                                        That sounds fun. Will try it soon. Thanks.

                                2. re: fourunder

                                  Fourunder, I'd say that the Zuni and or Keller version isn't good for chickens over 3 pounds. I prefer a 2.5 lb if possible.

                                  Something I found that helps, after taking the bird from the oven, I place the bird upside down and position an ice pack under the breast. As the bird comes to room temp (I usually do an hour or so), the breast stays iced and doesn't get overcooked.

                                  1. re: hankstramm

                                    The only place I have ever seen poultry under 3 pound is at Chinatown Markets...but they are labeled as fowl. Where I shop, it's very rare to see any chickens under 4 pounds. Costco used to have smaller chickens when they carried Tyson, but with their present brand, all the chickens seem to be over 5 pounds.

                                    btw....did you mean to say you remove the bird from the fridge and place on an ice pack...or after it's roasted and you are cooling the bird down? I'm assuming it's the former, not the latter....


                                    1. re: fourunder

                                      I can get approx. 3#ers at WF usually.

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        Yea, I also routinely find small birds 2-3lbs at
                                        Whole Foods.

                                      2. re: fourunder

                                        Yes Fourunder, while the bird is cooling, I place an ice pack under the breast. It starts colder than the legs, so it evens out in the cooking process. A brilliant engineer from Cal Berkeley recommended it once.

                                        Thing is that the smaller birds are sent to places like Costco where they use them for the rotisserie. That's why they're so delicious. In the SF Bay Area, you can find them in small markets, but they often cost $3-5 per pound. They're worth it.