HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Brewing beer, curing meat, or making cheese? Tell us about it

Zuni Chicken - really dry breast meat?

fldhkybnva Apr 7, 2013 03:29 PM

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?

  1. C. Hamster Apr 7, 2013 03:35 PM

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

    2 Replies
    1. re: C. Hamster
      fldhkybnva Apr 7, 2013 04:39 PM

      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
        c oliver Jun 16, 2013 11:05 AM

        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. d
      darrentran87 Apr 7, 2013 03:43 PM

      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
        Dirtywextraolives Apr 7, 2013 04:19 PM

        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
          fldhkybnva Apr 7, 2013 04:39 PM

          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
            Dirtywextraolives Apr 7, 2013 04:45 PM

            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
              fldhkybnva Apr 7, 2013 04:51 PM

              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
                Dirtywextraolives Apr 7, 2013 05:21 PM

                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
                darrentran87 Apr 7, 2013 07:59 PM

                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
                  Dirtywextraolives Apr 7, 2013 08:38 PM

                  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. fldhkybnva Apr 7, 2013 07:24 PM

          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: fldhkybnva
            darrentran87 Apr 7, 2013 07:59 PM

            congrats! great to hear! :D <3 zuni

            1. re: fldhkybnva
              Dirtywextraolives Apr 7, 2013 08:35 PM

              Nice job!! Glad you saved it! Enjoy!

              1. re: Dirtywextraolives
                fldhkybnva Apr 7, 2013 10:06 PM

                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.

            2. Firegoat Jun 16, 2013 07:12 AM

              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
                cleopatra999 Jun 16, 2013 07:30 AM

                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
                  Firegoat Jun 16, 2013 07:33 AM

                  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
                    JoanN Jun 16, 2013 07:50 AM

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

                    1. re: JoanN
                      Firegoat Jun 16, 2013 07:54 AM

                      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: JoanN
                        scubadoo97 Jun 16, 2013 08:26 AM


                        1. re: scubadoo97
                          Firegoat Jun 16, 2013 08:27 AM

                          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
                          c oliver Jun 16, 2013 10:13 AM

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

                    2. re: Firegoat
                      c oliver Jun 16, 2013 08:44 AM

                      Here's a thread of mine from a couple of years ago:


                      1. re: Firegoat
                        Dirtywextraolives Jun 16, 2013 09:50 AM

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

                        1. re: Firegoat
                          fldhkybnva Jun 16, 2013 10:43 AM

                          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
                            c oliver Jun 16, 2013 11:08 AM

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

                        2. scubadoo97 Jun 16, 2013 07:31 AM

                          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
                            c oliver Jun 16, 2013 10:15 AM

                            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
                              scubadoo97 Jun 16, 2013 01:08 PM

                              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
                                JoanN Jun 16, 2013 01:20 PM

                                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
                                  scubadoo97 Jun 16, 2013 01:48 PM

                                  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. h
                            hyperbowler Mar 13, 2014 05:01 PM

                            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
                              fldhkybnva Mar 13, 2014 05:15 PM

                              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
                                c oliver Mar 13, 2014 06:20 PM

                                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: c oliver
                                  fldhkybnva Mar 14, 2014 04:09 AM

                                  Now I need to defrost a chicken...

                                  1. re: fldhkybnva
                                    Puffin3 Mar 14, 2014 05:39 AM

                                    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...

                            Show Hidden Posts