Remember last week when I shared the roast chicken recipe that changed my life? Well, it turns out I have more to say on the subject. Since I went to so much trouble convincing you to learn how to roast a chicken, it’s only fair that I do my best to demystify the process and set you up for success.
If you’re a perfectionist like me, feeling like you can’t do something right the first time is often reason enough not to try it at all. Ridiculous, I know. But it’s real! Especially when it comes to new and tricky kitchen projects, it’s so easy to let Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods do the work for you.
But I urge you not to let perfectionism stand in the way of discovery! Learning to roast a chicken is incredibly empowering and definitely worth it. From the get-go, accept the fact that there’s a learning curve (I’ve roasted close to a dozen and I’m just now starting to master it), and know that the only way to learn is to practice.
If you’re attempting your first roast and in need of some extra reassurance, here are a few tips to make sure your bird comes out perfectly:
// Don’t scrimp.
Chicken is one of the most inexpensive proteins there is, and the impact of quality on flavor is huge. I give you permission to splurge here — buy free-range and organic. I can almost always find them at Trader Joe’s for about $2.50/lb.! The flavor doesn’t even compare to conventionally-raised meat.
// Season aggressively.
You’re in no danger of over-salting here. As Thomas Keller says in his impeccable recipe, “rain the salt over the bird.” Don’t forget the space beneath the wings, between the thighs and inside the cavity. Not only does it pump up the flavor, it also helps render the skin to a delicious, crackling golden brown.
// Bring it to room temperature.
Taking the bird directly from the fridge to the oven can cause the meat to “seize up” and cook unevenly. Let it rest on the counter for about 45 minutes before cooking. Or if you’re in a pinch, run it under warm water for a minute or two.
// Dry it well.
Another common mistake newbie roasters make is failing to properly dry the chicken before seasoning it. As I mention in the recipe, reducing the moisture in the oven as much as possible is key to creating crispy skin. Use paper towels to thoroughly blot the chicken inside and out.
// Don’t stress about trussing.
I definitely stressed at first. When I researched how to do it online, I found that literally every single tutorial/video/how-to article taught it differently. Which means there’s no wrong way! Your goals are to a) keep the bottom cavity as tightly closed as possible by binding the legs together, and b) keep the wings in close. How you accomplish them is up to you. Here’s an excellent slideshow with great images, and a step-by-step video.
// Know when it’s done.
According to food safety guidelines (Fun Fact: I have a Washington State Food Handler’s Permit!), chicken is done when the interior reaches 165 degrees F. But there are other ways to determine its doneness without using a meat thermometer: 1) when the wings and legs wiggle loosely from the body, and 2) when the juices run clear. (See below for more on that one.)
If after the suggested cook time you determine your chicken still isn’t done, continue roasting, checking it every 10 minutes. The exact cook time will vary based on the size of your bird and the strength of your oven.
// Don’t slice until you serve.
We’re often told to cut between the drumstick and the thigh to see whether the juices are running clear (done) or are still bloody (not done). This not only releases the precious moisture we’ve worked so hard to keep inside, but it also makes the presentation less stunning. Instead, simply lift the legs, tilt the bird downward and observe the juices that run out from inside the neck cavity.
// Let it rest!
Yes, holding back will be torturous once you pull that beauty from the oven, but have patience. The juices need time to reabsorb or else they’ll wind up on your cutting board and you’ll wind up with dry meat. 10 to 15 minutes is usually long enough.
// Chill out about carving.
Especially if you’re the only one eating it! Carving definitely takes practice. Do some research beforehand (read this article or watch this video) and remember that it doesn’t have to look pretty. Just get the meat off of the bones.
Don’t suffer the plight of the perfectionists! Venture a little outside your comfort zone this weekend and give my favorite recipe a try. Trust me, it will be so worth it.
You got this.
How do you make sure your chicken comes out perfect every time?