I bet you think I forgot about this, didn’t you? I have been known to make a broad proclamation or two about projects or goals, and then totally forget about them, but in this case since I decided to tackle the search for the perfect roasted chicken I have had a bridal shower, a major holiday, another bridal shower, a bachelorette, a wedding cake to make, another major holiday, a wedding in which I had a prominent (though certainly not the prominent) role and a significant recovery period, so I only now find myself able to embark once again on this epic journey.
This time it was, once more, with America’s Test Kitchen as my guide. Just so happens I was watching about 10 days ago (Saturdays on PBS) and they were tackling the problem of roasted chicken, because Chris Kimball loves good crisp skin. My ears perked up.
Their method was similar to the Zuni Cafe method. They salted it and left it uncovered overnight in the fridge, but they also took the extra steps of adding a teaspoon of baking powder and some black pepper to the mix. They poked holes in the skin over some of the fattier pockets on the bird, so the fat would have a place to escape when it melted. I did as I was told, and then stuck Mr. Cluck in the fridge.
24 hours later I preheated the oven to 450 and took my friend out of the fridge. He (I guess she, actually) did indeed look dry, as they promised she would. The baking powder did not mess around.
Since the chicken was being roasted at such a high heat, ATK recommended lining the bottom of the roasting pan with a piece of aluminum foil with slits cut into it, so the fat would melt and drip down through the foil, and wouldn’t spatter and smoke up the inside of the oven or the inside of my apartment because just outside my apartment is the most sensitive smoke alarm in the history of smoke alarms, and if my oven needs to be hotter than 400 degrees and I am having company, I better hope to goodness that the company is already present, because if the front door opens when the oven is that hot, it sets off the outside smoke detector and riles up the building. The foil helped. I will totally be doing that in the future. Easier than moving to a new apartment.
After 25 minutes, my fine formerly feathered friend looked like this.
Now, please note, compounding the previously noted ill effects of a point and shoot camera and a sub standard photographer, the chicken was in the oven, and I was not, which made both lighting and focus a problem. This photo is the result. I am particularly chagrined, as I am posting this on the very same day that I went with good old Meredith to meet with her potential wedding photographer, and being the fantastic friend that she is, she suggested he check out this little blog. I was flattered until it hit me that this unbelievably talented artist would be checking out this shameful display of photographic documentation. I mean, I do alright with the equipment I have, but it isn’t exactly show quality. Onward.
I flipped the bird over breast side up, and cooked for another 20 minutes or so. I then cranked the heat up to 500 for a final browning, and waited for it to finish cooking.
My first thought was that it didn’t get as brown as I would have liked. I was kind of disappointed in how it looked, and I sort of wrote it off right away as not the best roasted chicken. But honestly, that was much harder to do once I tasted it. The skin was very, very crisp, and it was salty and delicious. The meat was really juicy and well-flavored (I actually stuck a half a lemon and some thyme in the chicken cavity while I roasted it, so there was a lemony tang that I liked. That was an adjustment I made from the ATK version.)
Still though, for some reason, there was something about this that makes me hesitate before I universally praise this method, but I am not sure what that is. There are still more chickens to roast and more comparisons to make, and hopefully I’ll figure it out. I want to try the Zuni method again, I want to roast it like my dad does, with a paste of garlic, herbs, oil and vinegar on the skin. I would like to brine one, even though that probably won’t crisp up the skin the way I want.
But let’s start a tally:
Pros: crisp, salty skin, well-flavored meat, quick roasting, not too much hands on work.
Cons: didn’t brown well, prep needed to happen 24 hours in advance.
So until next time, here is the recipe. Give it a try.
Crisp Roast Chicken from America’s Test Kitchen.