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Mushy Roast Chicken

This REALLY bothers me. I put my chicken in a roasting pan (the graniteware kind with a lid), preheat the oven to 425, and cook for 1.5 hours. And when it's done, the chicken is always mushy. I'm not talking fall off the bone (which it does) but a really unpleasant mush texture. My husband doesn't notice it, but boy I sure do.

Any ideas on what is going on?

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  1. Are you covering it? If you are that will be the problem.
    1.5 hours would be for a 5-6 pound Roaster. So if you are cooking a smaller Chicken that sounds too long.
    Temperature is a much better way to check doneness than time is.

    7 Replies
    1. re: chefj

      I am using the lid it came with. I always figured if I didn't cover it, it would dry out too much.

      1. re: utarinsyis

        No need to use a lid when roasting a chicken. When I roast mine, I place chicken on a rack inside a roasting pan, and baste every 30 minutes or so.

        And like chefj said, how much does your chicken weigh?

        I'll bet you it's the lid that's making mush of your chicken.

        1. re: chloebell

          Hmmm.. don't remember now. But I'll check next time I buy one. I will try without the lid next time.

          1. re: chloebell

            Agreed. No reason to cover. If, for some reason, the legs/wings start to over-brown before the breast meat is done, you can lightly cover them with foil.

            Leaving the cover off and basting a few times allows for the heat to circulate all around the bird (put it on a rack inside the roasting pan), and gets the skin all nice and crispy.

            Crispy skin = the best part! :-D

            1. re: grangie angie

              Thanks, I'll try that next time for sure.

            2. re: utarinsyis

              You are steaming your Chicken which is much more penetrating and too moist.

          2. Most of today's mass produced chickens are water cooled and some are injected with additional fluids. Like others said cook uncovered so the water will escape.

            1 Reply
            1. re: zackly


              I was thinking exactly the same thing zackly.

            2. Hmm, I never set poultry of any kind to roast down in a roasting pan, I always roast it so it at least sits on a rack as close to the top of a shallow pan as possible.

              I've even gotten to the point now where I even prefer butterflying a chicken, and just letting it roast lying on top of one of those broiling pans that come free with your oven.

              1. Try the Zuni roast chicken method:


                Even if you don't do the dry brine, I still find it to be a perfect chicken.

                2 Replies
                1. I cut out the back bone, flatten it, brush with melted butter and season, then roast 1 hour at 450f, depending on size. Every inch of it has crispy skin and the bird is really juicy. You have to use a shallow pan so it's not steaming anywhere instead of roasting.

                  I'm partial to dry brined chicken or pre brined organic ones from Trader Joe's.

                  1. Cook without a lid.

                    Report back.

                    Imma guessin'...........

                    1. You don't roast chicken with the lid on. You should roast it without the lid so the skin crisps up. You are essentially steaming the chicken in the closed pot.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: boogiebaby

                        Yeah that seems to be the concensus. I will try that next time.

                      2. Buy better chicken.

                        Chicken shit in. Chicken shit out.
                        Just cooked chicken shit in your case.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          Don't think it gets much better than air-chilled organic chicken. lol

                          Thanks though.

                        2. How big is the chicken? What do you mean by mushy? The meat itself? Is there something you could compare it to?

                          I recommend two very similar approaches which have never failed me - Zuni chicken and Thomas Keller's chicken. These two methods using a small, high quality bird (e.g. 4 lbs or less, non-injected, preferably organic) are great.

                          11 Replies
                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                            fld, a couple of times I've even done those 99 cent/# ones with no brine time and it's still better than any other chicken I've done. But, yes, the better and smaller are better. I get air-dried ones at WF sometimes that aren't TOO big.

                            1. re: c oliver

                              Yup, I've used the same method without a brine and it's great! I've also tried it with TJs run of the mill regular chicken and I couldn't really notice any difference from my usual air dried from WF. They consistently have the right size chicken with some hunting through the birds.

                              1. re: fldhkybnva

                                I'll have to check out TJs. The freezer needs replenishing!

                            2. re: fldhkybnva

                              Hard to explain really. I do buy air-chilled, organic chicken, so that's not the issue. I think (from what others have said) that it was because I covered the chicken while it was cooking.

                              1. re: utarinsyis

                                Yea, that's likely most of the problem. Also as mentioned above, unless it was a large bird 1.5 hours seems like a long time. I usually use a 3-3.5 lb chicken and it's done in 45 minutes.

                                1. re: utarinsyis

                                  Also that you probably overcooked it. As was mentioned, a meat thermometer is my most essential tool in the kitchen. Set times just aren't dependable.

                                2. re: fldhkybnva

                                  Where does one reliably buy small, high-quality fresh birds?

                                  At the supermarkets they're always at least 4.5 - 5 lbs. minimum, with breasts Jayne Mansfield would be proud to display. Yet the ones they sell from the rotisserie already cooked are barely 3 lbs. after being injected with all sorts of seasoning fluids to bulk up the weight.

                                  In L.A., Zacky Farms used to have "petite" birds, but when I've asked about smaller birds anywhere else, people stare at me like I'm from Mars. "But, but, you've got them in the deli on the rotisserie that size" seems to make no impression.

                                  1. re: RelishPDX

                                    Check with your WF. Mine (in Reno) carries Mary's chickens from the Fresno area. Their organic and non-organic are all also non-GMO.

                                    1. re: RelishPDX

                                      As c oliver suggested, whole foods. I've also seen smaller birds at Trader Joe's. Their birds actually include giblets and a neck unlike whole foods so the package weight is about a lb heavier than actual roasting weight and they have tons of 4 lb birds, 3 lb birds for roasting purposes.

                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                        I will check both when I'm heading down that way again near the end of the week, thanks for the suggestions.

                                        When I swung by my local megamart for a few things last night, I looked at the chickens there just out of curiosity. Avg. starting weight was 5 - 5.5 lbs., with many topping 6 lbs.!

                                        I asked the guy stocking meat why the birds were so big. "Americans like everything super-sized" was the only thing he could come up with. I pointed out that the cooked rotisserie chickens were 28 oz. at their store. "They have to do smaller chickens to compensate for the cost of cooking them." It just didn't click in his mind that the fresh meat dept. didn't stock the same smaller size that's sold cooked, a size many people like, so I dropped the subject again.

                                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                                          A real bugaboo for me is birds without giblets or not ALL the giblets. I'm heading to TJs. Thanks, fld.

                                    2. I have Mom's covered aluminum chicken roaster, which has a closable vent on the side of the lid, and came with a rack. So once upon a time, if not now, people roasted lidded birds. Could have been that they were larger, or older. If I have a big one, I feel I ought to use the lid - for a while. I have no idea if it makes a difference. I cover it for the first 30-45 min. This will just about always be a stuffed bird, 6 pounds or more. Then I remove the cover for the majority of the roasting time. I *think* the wings and the tips of the drums stay moister with the part-time lid. But I do roast until there's crisp skin all over.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: greygarious

                                        Thinking about this roaster further. The closed vent would still not be totally airtight, and its presence indicates that at some point people roasted chicken in at least two stages: presumably at first with the vent closed, then later opened, and probably a third, cover removed, to brown the skin. This means the initial cooking is akin to steaming. The Frugal Gourmet once had a show where he steamed a duck before dry roasting to crisp the skin. Peking duck is steamed or boiled first, isn't it? And a few years ago Pepin had a turkey recipe in the NY Times that steamed, then roasted, the bird.

                                        Whether or not such 2-3 stage prep results in mushy texture, I have no idea. Clearly, though, there are experienced chefs who do not always rely solely on dry heat to roast poultry.

                                        1. re: greygarious

                                          This is the Wearever roaster I'm referring to.

                                          1. re: greygarious

                                            Yes, there are a few schools of thought on Peking Duck. One calls for steaming for about an hour first, another method I've seen far less commonly is blowing up the skin with a bicycle pump (really!), then letting the skin dry out completely before roasting.

                                            I've only steamed duck once, and was disappointed with the results compared to a slow roast, but I'm sure preparing the dish in a standard American kitchen had something to do with it.

                                        2. roasted = open air
                                          braised/stewed/coq au vin = lid

                                          different choices, different methods.


                                            1. By using a lid and a rather long cooking time, are basically kind of braising your chicken, as others have pointed out.

                                              Some conjecture: i suspect your husband likes dark meat and you like white meat. Why? Because dark meat takes a lot better to that kind of cooking than white meat does (hence your husband has no complaints while you dislike it).

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                                hehe Hey you're good! You got that spot on.

                                              2. what are you basting it with if anything? are you using pineapple juice at all? I ask because I know the enzymes or whatever in that stuff kills the texture of meat(s) as it's happened to me with pork. mushy pork, blech.... I'd take the lid off&let some of the steam escape+let the skin firm up/brown up a bit.

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: iL Divo

                                                  Nope, not basting. I've heard similar things about pineapple juice. The lid seems to be the winner for being the issue. Definitely going to try without it next time.

                                                    1. re: utarinsyis

                                                      I think you may have missed the fact that the high sides of the roaster are likely also causing a problem. I roast chicken in my CI skillet.

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        No I saw that. I was just too lazy to type it all out XD Was going to try my CI skillet as well for the next one.

                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                          Me too, well heated before the bird goes in, giving the dark meat a head start