In her classic book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (vol. 1), Julia Child states “You can always judge the quality of a cook or restaurant by roast chicken.” Roasting a chicken is certainly an important skill to master. Your own home cooked roast chicken will be miles better than any supermarket or deli chicken.
Julia’s method results in an excellent roast chicken. However it requires turning the chicken 4 times and basting every 10 minutes. Just reading the directions can be off putting. My own method doesn’t require any basting at all and only 1 turn. It results in crisp skin and juicy meat. I don’t truss because tying the legs close to the breast results in undercooked thigh or overcooked breast meat.
Here is the trick. I take advantage of the newest information on brining, and borrow a technique often used when roasting duck. I pre-salt the chicken and let it sit in the fridge (uncovered and breast up) for several hours or overnight. That’s the only preplanning that is required.
The perfect roast chicken starts with the quality of the chicken. Buy the best you can afford, preferably free range organic and air chilled. Water bath chilling results in the bird absorbing a lot of that soaking water. I also prefer the air chilled for food safety reasons, dozens of birds are not sitting in a vat of water. If one of the birds is contaminated it increases the chances that all will be contaminated as well.
These are general directions.
Adjust the cooking time according to the weight of your chicken. I find it is done when the leg moves easily in the socket when jiggled. For a 4-5 pound chicken that will be somewhere between 50 and 70 minutes. There will be some personal preference determining the time. I don’t mind if the white meat has a very slight pink tinge, you may want to cook your own longer. Your oven temperature will also play a part. My oven runs hot, your own may run cool. It’s best to know those things, check your own with an oven thermometer. They are cheap and it will save you a lot of grief in the long run.
You can use an instant read thermometer for more precise measurements of doneness. Insert it into the thickest part of the thigh without hitting the bone. The FDA recommends cooking chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. I take mine out just before it reaches that temperature. The bird will continue to cook with the residual heat after it comes out of the oven. Allow it to sit on your carving board or platter for 15 minutes, that allows the juices to settle back into the meat.
So here we go…
There are two methods for brining a bird. The first, and older method, is to submerge it in a salt water solution. The second is a dry brine, simply rub the chicken inside and out with a generous amount of kosher salt. I don’t use method the first method anymore, I am not partial to a vat of salty water taking up space in my fridge (a spill will create a big mess…I’ve been there). In addition, a water chilled bird is what I am trying to get away from. I want to intensify flavors, not dilute them.
Dry brining intensifies flavors and will give you crisp skin. I use kosher salt because it doesn’t contain any additives and has a clean flavor.
Remove the chicken from its wrapping and dry it with paper towels. The latest food safety recommendations are to not rinse it. Rub it generously with kosher salt, both inside and out. Put it on a rack in baking dish, breast side up, and place it in the fridge for at least an hour. If you have 24 hours you will be amazed at the result. Don’t go longer than 24 unless you are brining a turkey.
Take the chicken out of the fridge while you preheat your oven to 425 degrees F (218 degrees C). I don’t use the convection fan. Rub your chicken with olive oil and any flavorings you may want (I don’t worry about the salt). I have used my confit lemon oil and lemon slices with herbs to Provence (the aroma as it roasts is incredible), paprika, chili powder, roasted fennel spice, zatar, fresh herbs, etc. You can let your imagination run wild. But you will find this chicken is delicious with only a simple coating of olive oil.
Poke a few holes in a whole lemon and place that inside the chicken. You could also add a few sprigs of whatever fresh herb you have handy. The lemon adds additional flavor. You could even use an orange or a couple of limes (especially nice if you are giving the chicken a Mexican vibe).
Line your roasting pan with foil to make clean up easier. Rub a rack (V shaped if you have one) with oil and place the chicken breast down on the rack. Once your oven has reached 425 degrees F, place the chicken in the middle of the oven and roast for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove it from the oven and turn it breast side up, roast for an additional 25 minutes or until done.
Let the chicken rest for 15 minutes before carving.
Look at how moist and juicy! And the skin is super crisp.
I often serve the chicken with a simple salad, I pour some of those chicken juices over the salad as a dressing with an additional squeeze of lemon juice. The fresh salad below had sliced peaches and red onion as well as some avocado. The combination was delightful.
Perfect Roast Chicken Thigh
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