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Secrets to baking the perfect chicken.

 
pollinator
Posts: 128
Location: South Carolina 8a
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Throughout my exploits in my favorite room of the house, I often times find myself fixated on perfecting one thing at a time.
Most recently, I have become obsessed with baking the perfect chicken.
What makes a perfect baked chicken, in my opinion?
The chicken should be seasoned well, with crispy skin, and tender, completely cooked meat.
Here are some tips from my personal experiences that I hope can help any fellow culinary adventurers.




The first thing you need to do is find a good looking bird that weighs close to 5 pounds.

I prefer organic to conventional, and free range to conventional organic.

We'll assume the butchering has already taken place. Regardless, you will want to make sure the bird is free from feathers and that nasty oil gland on the tail.
Also be sure you have all the goodies removed from the center cavity.

Next you will want to make sure you are prepping at least 8 hours before you want to start cooking.

Now, you will want to get some salt on that bird. Garlic, onion and many other powders will char an ugly color, so I would choose to avoid these ingredients. Otherwise, season with what you like, just make sure there is some salt on that skin.

Next is one of the most important steps: Dry the bird! I like to either hang mine in my meat fridge or just stick a grill rack on a cookie sheet if you lack vertical fridge space. I like to dry the bird about 8 hours, but you can experiment with more or less.

There has been much debate on the subject of trussing, and I am going to share what works best for me. The advantage of trussing is that it gives you a nice moist breast. Through much trial and error, I have concluded this is due to changing of the shape of the breast, and not the reduced proximity of appendages to torso.
The major disadvantage to trussing is that it reduces the surface area of the skin on the thigh of the bird. Let's be honest, everyone knows the thigh is the star of the show, and to muck any of it up is a travesty. (Hehe, I know some may disagree, but you're wrong ;) )
Anyways, considering this, I have found a compromise that works well for me. I simply truss the wings and leave the drumsticks alone. This gives that breast the brassiere it needs to stay supported and plump, while also allowing those thighs a full exposure!

I will usually end the prep by stuffing a medium peeled onion in the cavity.

I live my life near sea level, so adjust accordingly. I prefer to roast my chicken on a grilling pan, but many will roast on a bed of root vegetables, either will work, but cook time will be effected.
That being said, I set my oven at 400 for a 5 pound bird. I adjust a few degrees down if I have a bigger bird, and up a few degrees for a smaller bird.

Cooking time will be a little over an hour, but I pull the bird based strictly on internal temperature. I pull the bird when the socket behind the drum stick is between 165 and 170.

Finally, I let the bird sit for at least 10 minutes before carving.

This has been producing what I consider a perfect bird, consistently.

What other tips does everyone have?
What did I do wrong?


Thanks!

 
author
Posts: 19
Location: Wyoming
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Sounds like perfection to me! I've recently been experimenting with the simple method that Samin Nosrat outlines in her book (spatchcock the bird, heavily salt, and let dry in the fridge overnight before oven roasting), and it is BY FAR the best we've had!
 
Hamilton Betchman
pollinator
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Location: South Carolina 8a
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Jill Winger wrote:Sounds like perfection to me! I've recently been experimenting with the simple method that Samin Nosrat outlines in her book (spatchcock the bird, heavily salt, and let dry in the fridge overnight before oven roasting), and it is BY FAR the best we've had!




I have spatchcocked turkeys before bbq'ing, but I never thought about doing it for a chicken. I will have to give this a try, thanks!
 
gardener
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Location: Cascades of Oregon
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The salt and drying the skin seem to be the crispy factor. I use a lemon in the body cavity. I also sometimes slip herbs under the breast skin..
 
gardener & author
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Location: Tasmania
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I am pretty lazy about it, but it still turns out great.

I just make sure the chicken has been defrosted or stored breast-side-up, as this helps to dry the skin. I cut a slit in the breast skin, put some butter there, sprinkle the whole chicken with salt and pepper, and start it off at a high temperature (220c/450f) for the first 20-30 mins, and then reduce the heat for the rest of the cooking. I'm guessing the reduced heat is around 150-180c (300-350f). It varies depending on what the stove is doing.

I don't truss it, stuff it, or anything else, it just goes in the oven, seasoned and breast side up.

I am using a wood stove where the bottom of the oven is colder than the top, so I usually just move the chicken to the bottom after that first high heat blast, put a pan of vegetables up the top, and it all cooks beautifully - crispy skin and tender meat.

And I rest the meat on the chopping board before carving for around 20 minutes, and make gravy in the pan with the leftover scrapings and juices while it's resting. Yum.
 
gardener
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I like to brine the bird overnight in a simple brine that's a half-cup salt, a couple of spoonfuls of sugar, pepper corns, bay leaf, half a lemon, and about 3 gallons of water.  Pull the bird out of the brine in the morning and dry it off well.  

I spatchcock the bird and squash it down with the heal of my hands to break the little bones in the back so that it lays relatively flat on the roasting pan.  Then I'll return it to the fridge to air dry for at least 4 hours.  An hour or so before putting into the oven I"ll pull it from the fridge and continue to let it air dry and let the temp come up to room temperature.


I'll loosen the skin on the breast with my hands (gently pushing a finger under the skin) and smear some butter between the skin and the breast.  I like to put a piece of fresh rosemary under the skin on each side/each breast.

Salt generously, even on the inside/backbone side.  

Bake breast side up, but I've been known to put a couple of pieces of bacon over the breast to give it a little buffer from the high heat.  If I've got fresh root veggies, I'll make a bed of these across the roaster and set the bird on them, but if you do this, it adds a LOT of extra humidity to the oven so the bird will not crisp up as much.  Carrots and onions make the drippings sweet, so if you're not a fan of that taste in the gravy, then just roast the bird without the veggies under it.

Pull the bacon off with 20 minutes to go.  They give the drippings a lovely bacon-y taste and some extra fat for the gravy (if you're making gravy with your bird).  If the skin isn't as crispy as you want it, turn on the broiler and give it a sun-burn for the last minute or so.

Spatchcocking allows the bird to cook much more quickly.  A 5-lb. bird will cook (at 400) in about 45 minutes.  Doneness is determined by the thigh.  Nothing worse than a slightly undercooked thigh.  I'd rather have a slightly dry breast than an undercooked thigh.

Great thread!

m
 
pollinator
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Location: Near Philadelphia, PA
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Not to take us too far off topic, but on a whim over Thanksgiving I heard about coating a turkey with mayonnaise and did it.  Probably the best roast turkey I ever had!  Am going to try on a chicken next.
 
Robert Ray
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Once you perfect the perfect roast chicken you should try chicken baked in heavy cream. Cut up chicken and cover with heavy cream, you can add vegetables if you want but I usually just use onions salt and pepper the cream thickens and develops a crust on its own. I don't like sugary sweet potatoes so I do the same thing for a sweet potato dish on holidays.
 
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