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Is there any good way to slow-roast a chicken (over 4 hours)?

Hi all,
I have a meal-planning dilemma. I have agreed to cook for around 8 people tomorrow night. I had planned to do a roast chicken (as that's easy to buy locally), but then have been called in to an urgent meeting from 3pm-6pm (I'll be out of the house from 2:30pm-6:30pm).

As dinner needs to be ready by 7:30pm, a roast is off the cards UNLESS I can prep & get it into the oven before I leave at 2:30pm, and leave it to roast for around 4 hours. I'll have the time to do all the prep before I go, but I can't find any chicken recipes that involve such long cooking times.
I don't have a slow cooker, this would have to be done in the oven.

I'm very partial to Jamie Oliver's Chicken In Milk recipe: could this be adapted to a long cooking time?

Or, am I better off heading to the other side of town in the morning to get a pork shoulder or piece of beef that I KNOW will respond well to the long roast time?
Thanks for any help!

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  1. Inspired by a 20-year-old recipe for "Less shrink roast beef" I've used for years, which calls for a 10-hour roast for a bottom round, I once googled for a similar strategy for roast chicken. Lots of results popped up, and I actually prefer this method.

    Googling again brings up this one, which is similar to what I do—it suggests 275° for 3-4 hours:


    1 Reply
    1. re: RelishPDX

      Here's a recipe for Rotisserie chicken:

      2 chickens
      2 t. salt
      1 t. paprika
      1/2 t. onion powder
      1/2 t. dried thyme
      1/2 t. black pepper
      1/2 t. cayenne pepper
      1/2 t. white pepper
      1/2 t. garlic powder
      1 onion; quartered

      Mix seasonings together. Place 1/2 onion in cavity of chickens. Rub chickens w/ seasonings. Place in ziploc & put in frig for several hours or overnight.

      Bring to room temp, place chickens on rack in baking pan. Oven to 250* and cook for 5 hours. You can baste or not......comes out nice & moist.

      1. re: seamunky

        I've made that roast sticky chicken recipe and even though it has many rave reviews, I wouldn't chance it for a dinner party. I followed the instructions exactly and the while the dark meat was extremely moist and tender, the white meat was dry and mealy, and the skin was completely leathery and inedible.

        1. re: gmm

          Thanks for the feedback. That doesn't sound like a good roast chicken at all.

      2. Id rather go hot and fast. Did the milk JO recipe wasn't good imo. Depends if its a big fat roaster or the small fryers, 2 small fryers can be cooked hot and fast in and hour. Big one the breast will get dried out and can't be cooked as fast. I would do breast down 3/4 of the time flip the last 15 mins to brown the top. Stuff with some lemons to keep the interior basted. They will be very brown well done kind but a lot of people like that. Or do big roaster and do low and slow and crank heat to brown last 5 mins. or how about turkey? that would take about 4 hours.

        1 Reply
        1. re: daislander

          I'd sooner go hot and fast as well. If the OP has any wiggle room at all, either of these recipes, each getting consistent raves from Chowhounds, would work; the second one has an advantage in that prep occurs 24 hrs. prior to roasting.

          Thomas Keller's Roast Chicken:

          Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken:

          Of course, the flip side of the argument is that it's a high-wire act to try making a new recipe to serve to company. It might be far more desirable to change the menu to a tried-and-true recipe for a different meat entirely.

        2. My mom used to roast chickens for hours- they were always moist and made fabulous gravy. She would stuff lemon and butter under the skin. Lemons and garlic in the cavity, rub with olive oil, salt and pepper. She would cover with foil, and remove the foil and crank up the heat at the end to get crispy skin. So good.

          1. If you want the fast lane, Sara Moulton's "45" rule is 4.5# chicken for 45 minutes at 450F.

            2 Replies
            1. re: greygarious

              I love this recipe. It's so dead simple, it's hard to call it a recipe, but it's also foolproof!

              1. re: greygarious

                That's what I use. You could also spatchcock it and it will cook faster.

              2. Hard to see the point of "low and slow" for chicken. Unlike some cuts of beef and pork, chicken (and most other poultry, like turkey) is very lean for the most part and there's little benefit. The idea of "slow and slow" is to gelatinize the fat in a brisket or pork shoulder rather than sear it in. You don't need to do this for poultry, it is much better to roast at a higher temp (350-375) for a shorter time period.

                4 Replies
                1. re: FoodMan88

                  Yes, with the exception of duck, which DOES need to have its fat rendered. I recently threw out all of the duck advice I've ever seen and braised my duck for a few hours, covered, then crisped it afterward.


                  1. re: FoodMan88

                    The benefits I find to low and slow for poultry are:

                    1) The bird cooks all the way through the bones, making joints pliable (I like wings and drumsticks to easily separate from the carcass)

                    2) Juices caramelize better in the roasting pan

                    3) The meat is exposed to heated seasonings for longer, without the risk of spices burning off

                    I've never been happy with the hot-n-high method, but different strokes for different folks.

                    1. re: RelishPDX

                      I haven't resolved this issue for myself yet, having had less than stellar results from the "best" methods.

                      I think you have excellent points, Relish.

                      Low and slow next time for chicken, as well as duck.

                      BTW, we finished the duck in a foil pan on the grill, and it was amazing.

                    2. re: FoodMan88

                      Since I consider myself open-minded and adventurous, I decided to roast tonight’s chicken at a higher temp to confirm my feelings about hot-n-high.

                      I spatchcocked a 4.8 lb. whole chicken, rubbed some butter on it, and seasoned with S&P. Just a basic roasted chicken. The oven was preheated to 350°, then I turned on the convection fan and roasted the chicken for 90 minutes.

                      When the time was up, I tested a thigh, and its juices ran clear, so I removed the chicken from the oven, lifted it onto a plate so I could get to the goodies in the pan, and tented it with foil.

                      After the gravy and sides were done, I wiggled a drumstick off. The bone came right out of the chicken without any meat on it!

                      Next I cut a thigh off, and the meat seemed “tight”, that’s the only way I can describe it. It was cooked, it just didn’t have that same tenderness to it that I’m used to. Overall, I’d say it was about 75% of the chicken on the satisfaction scale that a chicken roasted more slowly has, at least for me.

                    3. I think 8 people will need two chickens...at least. That will give you a quarter chicken per person.
                      If the guests are friends, pick up a couple or three roasted chicken on the way home. You can do the sides in the morning, plate it and enjoy. They will understand if they are friends.
                      Otherwise, gas up the car and get going.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: genoO

                        I'd go with three to be safe. Depending, of course, on how well you know their appetites, number of sides and apps, etc.

                      2. Can't you roast them tonite? Then you can portion, arrange on a large platter, cover then refrigerate. The day of you can use that hour to re-heat slow, and low on that same platter, garnish and voila!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: letsindulge

                          I would not do that. Reheated roast *anything* does not taste the same, or as good, and in the case of chicken, reheated skin will never replace just-roasted.

                          Agreed that for 8 people, you need two chickens. Put them either in separate pans, or as far apart as you can get them in a single pan - at least 4" between them and aim legs toward the oven walls.

                          1. re: greygarious

                            Matter of opinion. My chicken always taste good either way. Lol.

                        2. I have made JO chicken in milk - it was OK but I would not make again - it seems that a lot could go wrong trying to cook it for hours and horus

                          As far as roasting chicken for four hours maybe stuff em - that could help keep them juicy and slow down the cooking time

                          another thought would be to place the chicken on a rack over a bath of beer or wine or broth (or mix) to keep the oven moist - a local restaurant makes the chicken for their "beer can chicken" sandwich this way it seems to work

                          1. I'd switch to beef or pork, using a recipe you've made before. In my experience "urgent meetings" run long, and traffic invariably is snarled when timing is tight. I'd even be sure someone else can take the meat from the oven and serve as host/hostess, just in case.

                            1. My SIL is a fan of P's oven-stuffer roasters. When they occasionally go BOGO, she'll buy as many as she has space in freezer for. She removes all the "presents" from cavities, wraps REALLY well and freezes. She'll pull out a rock hard, frozen bird, put it in crock pot, pour over a bottle of fat-free Italian dressing and head to work. She adds NOTHING else. It's REALLY falling apart by the time she gets home, tho breasts kinda keep their shape. She ends up with a crock pot nearly FULL of very tasty broth. Dinner will generally be the breast meat with sides. She strains broth and picks out meat... discarding bones. Next day it becomes soup with rice or some kiinda pasta/noodles... or freezed broth for some other tme. Even tho it cooks a LONG time, it's not dry!?!

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: kseiverd

                                So many questions here...

                                Fat-Free Italian dressing? Really?

                                And isn't the chicken kind of tasteless after being stewed for so long?

                                Isn't she afraid that a frozen chicken/low crockpot temp will create a biology experiment?

                                1. re: sandylc

                                  Perdue chickens have virtually no flavor to begin with. I liked them maybe 20 yrs ago but within the last several years, I have done an oven stuffer twice. Each time, the only flavor was in the stuffing. The breast meat had no more flavor than Wonder bread. I won't buy them anymore.

                              2. OP here- thanks for all the feedback & suggestions, very helpful! I've decided to use my time pre-meeting to prep the salads & veggie dishes, & I've also prepped the chickens for a straightforward roast & they are waiting in the fridge. I have enlisted an accomplice to heat the oven & put them in before I get home so hopefully it will all go fairly smoothly!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: glittertrash

                                  I guess its too late for today, but you should spatchcock the chickens as part of your prep. The hour between the time you get home and dinner would be sufficient to cook a spatchcocked bird.