The breast can dry out, those little wing tips can burn to a crisp, the thigh might not get cooked all the way. These are easy problems to overcome. It’s all about method. Knowing some tricks can make roasted chicken easy and relatively quick.
How to brine a chicken
The first trick is brining. Brining your chicken will make juicier, help with more even cooking, and enhance flavor.
And it’s really very easy to do. All you need is a few ingredients you probably already have and a container or sealable plastic bag big enough to hold a whole chicken.
This is important because the chicken needs to be completely submerged in the brine. Here is a basic recipe for brine. The ratio for salt to water is 1 part salt to 8 parts water, so if you need to adjust that is the basis for brine.
Brine for Chicken
½ cup salt
2 cups water
2 cups ice water
1 lemon, quartered
3 bay leaves
3 sprigs rosemary
3 sprigs thyme
1 teaspoon black peppercorn
4 cloves garlic Place
2 cups of water (not the ice water, that’s for later), salt, bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, garlic, and peppercorns in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil.
Add lemon quarters and allow to steep for 20 to 30 minutes, then add the ice water and stir well. See how easy that was. Orange slices, juniper berries, even grapefruit can be added to give more flavor. Now, on to the chicken.
Roast Chicken Recipe:
1 whole brined chicken
¼ cup butter, cut into pats
3 cloves garlic, cut in half lengthwise
Salt and pepper
Place the whole bird in the sink. Rinse very thoroughly, being careful to remove any internal organs. Save the organs to make a stock for gravy, if desired.
Pat the chicken dry. Place the whole bird in a container large enough to submerge it in the brine, or you could use a sealable plastic bag. Add the brine. If necessary, weigh the chicken down with a plate to keep it fully submerged. Refrigerate over night.
Preheat your oven to 475. While that heats up remove the chicken from the brine and rinse well, inside and out. Pat the chicken dry and place in a roasting pan, with a rack, breast side up. This next part is important for the wing tips not burn.
Twist the wing behind the chicken’s back. It looks uncomfortable, but the bird won’t mind. At this point I like to let the bird sit at room temperature for a few minutes. I don’t know why I do this, but I was told to do so by one of the first chefs I worked for and have always done it since.
I think it helps the skin relax so that it doesn’t shrink too much butter. Rub the chicken with the garlic. Slip pats of butter and garlic cloves under the skin of the chicken. Sprinkle the bird with salt and pepper.
Place the chicken in the oven and roast for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven heat to 350 and roast for 15 minutes more. At this point I like to flip the bird over onto it’s breast to finish.
This method allows the breast to stay moist and the thighs to cook more evenly. Roast for 30 minutes more. Remove the pan from the oven, flip the bird back over onto it’s back. Place a probe thermometer into the fattest part of the thigh. You want the thermometer to read 165 degrees.
The thigh takes longest to cook, this is why we temp the chicken there, and we don’t want a lot of unnecessary holes in the breast letting juices escape. When the temperature reaches 165, allow the chicken to rest, on the rack, for 15 minutes. This let’s all the juices settle. Place on a large cutting board.
A few tips for those who are unfamiliar with carving a bird, make sure your knife is sharp, give yourself space to move around the bird. To get the most meat off the bird the first time, start slicing at the top of the breast where the breast bone peaks. Slice downward, keeping contact with the rib cage.
AND DON’T SAW, try to use smooth strokes, sawing will tear the underside of the bird up.
On the thigh I try to pull the leg away from the bird, gently, and use the knife to help release the thigh from the body. This does take practice, but I’ve taught servers how to do it tableside, so I’m sure you can do it too.