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Zuni Chicken - really dry breast meat?

I am in love with the Zuni chicken but primarily the juicy dark meat. I actually eat a lot of chicken breasts but the chicken breast on this bird seems to always come out really dry and not very enticing. Everything else is spot on - crispy, amazing skin and juicy leg/thigh. So, the dry brine seems to be doing it's job but it's not helping the tenderness of the breat at all it seems. Should I lower the temperature or is this just a result of the high heat method?

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  1. What temp is the breast meat when you take it out?

    2 Replies
    1. re: C. Hamster

      Much higher than I'd like usually rises up to 170F while resting but I don't use a therometer with this recipe as it'd be quite a balancing act.

      1. re: fldhkybnva

        I always use the thermometer. I take the pan out of the oven, onto the cooktop to turn. Frequently the last turn isn't necessary.

    2. I've never had a problem with dry chicken breast when doing the Zuni method. In fact, quite the opposite -- I've never had chicken breast that moist anywhere else.

      7 Replies
      1. re: darrentran87

        Same here, and I use that method all the time. OP should realize that dry brined chicken tends to cook faster, so it may be just a timing issue.

        1. re: Dirtywextraolives

          Perhaps, I've been following the 30 minutes, 10 minutes, 5 minutes method. My chickens are actually within the range so perhaps that's the issue as it seems these sized birds are hard to find. For example, I am planning a 2.5 lber which I think might actually be done in 35 minutes

          1. re: fldhkybnva

            That's a pretty small bird. I would pull it out sooner, maybe at 25 minutes? Your oven may also run a bit hot, have you calibrated it lately? I know my top oven does not anymore, since it doesn't close properly since a hinge bent in the door (2nd time, don't want to spend the $$ so I might just get new ovens), so sometimes my stuff takes longer than it should. And sometimes I will turn the convection on to speed it up a bit. Hope that helps.

            1. re: Dirtywextraolives

              Yea, it's been checked and runs pretty much within 5 to 10 of the indicated temperature so I don't worry that's the problem. Yea, I think same temperature at 475F for shorter time might be the trick, perhaps 20 minutes flip 10 minutes and take it out

              1. re: fldhkybnva

                I deviate from the recipe and don't bother to flip the bird anymore. But I'm usually roasting at least a 5 pounder.

              2. re: Dirtywextraolives

                I dont' know the exact directions for cooking the zuni bird (only how to prepare it) but I usually throw my cast iron pan in whiel preheating the oven sot the pan gets nice and hot. I drizzle on some oil over the bird and pop it in breast side up at 450F. I then cook for about 20 minutes and flip the bird over until it's done... about another 20 minutes for a 3.5 lb bird.

                So I'm using 40 minutes for a 3.5 bird and you're going for almost that same amount of time for a 2.5 bird (though you are using higher heat). Use a probe thermometer. Take it out a few degrees lower than you would like because it will have carryover heat and continue to cook otu of the oven.

                1. re: darrentran87

                  I have not done one yet in my CI skillet, I like using a roasting pan, as the sides are low enough, that flipping is unnecessary, unless you enjoy a crispy back skin and eat that meat. We save it for stocks or soup. May have to try it that way next time......

        2. Thanks for the time suggestions, saved the Zuni!! Hallelujah because I loved this chicken the first time, but then was quite disappointed the next go round. For anyone interested in relative times per weight, I roasted 475F 20 minutes, flip 10 minutes, flip 5 minutes. I probably could have skipped the second flip and actually cooked shorter as the breast came out at 145F and rose to 165F but was still moist.

          3 Replies
              1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                Thanks! It felt odd to call it done after such a short time but I guess that's why I like the method and now it's even more convenient as it's faster than it has already had been.

            1. I was just reading the Zuni chicken recipe this morning and contemplating trying it. Is it worth it? I've had good luck in the past with a Keller and a Martha Stewart recipe, but I keep hearing about the Zuni chicken and am intrigued.

              11 Replies
              1. re: Firegoat

                Me too! I keep seeing the posts here, I thought it was some kind of Middle Eastern dish or something. Never heard of it. Looked up some recipes. Sounds delicious!!

                Has anyone every tried it on the bbq? I guess a bit harder to get the right temp. Can't imagine turning my oven on that high right now. Might have to wait for fall.

                Most of my chickens now are cooked on the smoker, but I miss the crispy skin.

                1. re: cleopatra999

                  My next question is that in the book the recipe is included with a bread salad that sounds pretty good. I've never made a bread salad. It sounds like it would be delicious but I'm wondering if it is as good as the chicken.

                  1. re: Firegoat

                    There are those among us who think the bread salad is even better than the chicken.

                    1. re: JoanN

                      This is good to know. I'm interested in trying it exactly as it is written in the book with the bread salad. But hated to waste the cash on ingredients if it was just poo.

                        1. re: scubadoo97

                          Okay. I'm going to have to make the grocery list and give this a try. I'll report back in about 3 days.

                        2. re: JoanN

                          I've certainly fixed the salad when I didn't make the chicken. And it was a little wow factor :)

                      1. re: Firegoat

                        Yes, it is totally worth it... It's delicious and pretty much a tried and true method.

                        1. re: Firegoat

                          Worth it 100%! I had the same feeling and eventually just made it and was surprised at just how delicious the chicken turned out. I will admit that I think that's only true for a chicken fan, if not it's probably just another roast chicken which happens to have crispy skin. I also like that it's fast and easy.

                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                            I've even made it with those $1/#, 5# birds that I normally avoid. Great for sandwiches and chicken salad.

                        2. Spatchcock it first then prep the chicken per Zuni recipe.

                          I do mine like this and cook it in a very hot cast iron skillet in the oven. The white and dark meat cook more evenly time wise

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: scubadoo97

                            I've never found it to be a problem. Mine usually takes less time than the recipe calls for but that's why I use the thermometer. To me spatchcocking is just an extra step but if it works better for you, that's all that matters.

                            1. re: c oliver

                              Since the OP was having issues it was a possible solution. I do it both ways. The butterflied bird does save some minutes without compromising the crisp skin

                              1. re: scubadoo97

                                Do I assume correctly that if you spatchcock it you don't turn it? You just cook it skin-side-up the entire time?

                                1. re: JoanN

                                  Yeah Joan, no turning. I toast my skillet in the hot oven before the chicken goes on so it's searing hot when the chicken hits the pan. I roast it on the upper rack which helps to get that crackling skin.

                          2. I had dry breast meat on my first attempt with the recipe and am certain overcooking played a big role (should have used the thermometer...). Still, it was dryer than any wet brined chicken I've ever overcooked. The dark meat was delicious though. Two questions:

                            1. There were enough complaints about the skin not drying that I decided to skip the rinse before applying the salt. Is the rinse necessary to get the meat to absorb the salt, especially since the salt is only applied to the outside of the skin? Is it necessary to put any salt underneath the skin?

                            2. What do people do with the legs as the bird cooks? Unlike other roast chicken recipes that direct you to fold the legs inward, she doesn't specify to do anything with them. I let them sit naturally and they came out nice and crisp. (BTW, fldhkybnva, you asked about translucent skin on a different thread. That happened to the legs--- they were red when I took them out of the fridge)

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: hyperbowler

                              I rarely rinse chicken and the salt is always completely absorbed in 2-3 days. I don't salt under the skin.

                              I always truss my chicken just because mom did but I think in the recipe there's no specific instruction. If you leave them as is, the skin around the entire leg gets crispy. I'm not the biggest skin fan so it's not a big sacrifice for me.

                              btw, through trying the Keller approach I learned that the dry aspect of the breast that I didn't like was related to flipping the bird breast side down. Without flipping, the skin over the breast might be less crispy but that's OK with me.

                              1. re: fldhkybnva

                                Good points, fld. I've not had any problems. And am planning one for a little dinner with friends early next week. I follow the recipe exactly btw.

                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                    Then there's Heston Blumenthal's method. He would have a restaurant voted as the best in the world a couple of years ago.
                                    I use the very 'low and slow' method.
                                    This vid is #1 of 2:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Kq8k7...