The best test for any good cook is a simple meal done to perfection – for example an omelet, fried chicken, preparing pork chops or a mouth watering roast chicken. Many people prepare roast chicken regularly in their kitchens, but only a few are aware of some of the simple steps that can make the difference between an everyday dish and a scrumptious one!
What makes a seemingly simple roast chicken great? It may be hard to explain, but it all boils down to flavor, crispy, golden brown skin and a plump appearance. First, the chicken should have a good roasted taste, not a baked taste. Although pretty obvious, a good roast chicken should also taste like chicken. The roast should stand on its own and not be overpowered by any strong seasoning, although a very simple sauce by deglazing the roasting pan is a suitable accompaniment or can be made into a gravy. And lastly, the meat should be flavorful, moist and tender.
Roasting is defined as a cooking method that uses dry heat whether using an open flame, an oven or other sources of heat. Roasting can enhance the flavor by way of caramelization or by Maillard browning on the surface of the meat. Roasting uses direct, indirect or diffused heat and is very suitable for cooking larger cuts of meat and whole pieces of poultry. Root vegetables can also be roasted. When roasting, the food can be placed on a rack, but if you want to ensure an even distribution of heat, the food can be rotated on a rotisserie or a spit. The juice or dripping can be used as gravy if a pan is used when roasting. There are several ways to roast meat; either by low temperature roasting, high temperature cooking or a combination of both methods. Each method is suitable for roasting and depends largely on what food you’re cooking and the flavor you’re going for.
Many cooks say that we should never underestimate the power of a perfectly roasted chicken. They say that it is an example of the beauty of simplicity and has the ability to impress, comfort and satisfy any person. Roasting a chicken may be simple, but it takes longer as compared to other cooking methods, but the preparation takes little time. Roasting 2 whole chickens is as easy as roasting one whole chicken. Any leftover chicken can be used to make other dishes like soup, pasta, salad or pies. You can also make sandwiches out of leftover chicken. Plus, whole chickens are cheaper than packs of thighs, legs or breasts.
Identifying Chickens For Roasting
There is a lot to choose from when buying fresh chicken. Below are the types suitable for roasting and are commonly available in many butcher shops and supermarkets
- Rock Cornish Game hen. A special breed of small chicken about 6 weeks old and weighing between 12 ounces to 2 pounds
- Broiler. A nice and tender chicken between 9-12 weeks old and weighing between 1 ½ lbs to 2 lbs.
- Fryer. Another tender chicken between 9-12 weeks and weighing from 2 ½ lbs to 3 ½ lbs.
- Roaster. A tender chicken between 12-20 weeks and weighing from 3 ½ lbs to 5 lbs.
- Capon. A tender and castrated male chicken that is under 32 weeks old and weighing between 5lbs to 8 lbs.
Simple Tips When Roasting Chicken
A perfectly roast chicken should be experienced by everyone and, with these simple tips, you can enjoy a delectable, tasty and juicy roast chicken anytime.
1. Crispy Skin
A crisp, fragrant roast chicken skin is very delicious and most people insist that the skin is the best part of the chicken. Since the skin contains a great deal of fat, many people may remove it for health reasons. Whether you choose to leave or discard it, always remember to leave the skin during roasting because it will hold the moisture and will prevent the chicken from drying out.
To achieve maximum crispiness, the chicken should be dry, because if water is present it will just create steam. Many cooks suggest to start a day before by rinsing the chicken thoroughly and then drying it inside out using a paper towel. Separating the skin from the meat will also help in making the skin crispy. Some use butter or margarine, but they contain water. You can substitute with duck fat and apply it in between the meat and skin of the bird, as well as over the outside. Add kosher salt outside and refrigerate overnight. You can do this if you have brined the chicken.
2. Brining The Chicken
This is one secret to a really flavorful chicken. To brine a chicken, you need to dissolve 8 tbspn of coarse sea salt or kosher salt in 2 liters of water. Immerse the chicken into the brine and place it immediately in the fridge. Soak the chicken for an hour, but not longer than 5 hours. After the preferred hour, take the chicken out of the brine and rinse it under a cold, running water and pat it dry. If you want the skin to be more crispy, place the bird again in the fridge and let it air-dry for an hour. If you want to continue immediately after brining, make sure to dry the chicken to make the skin brown.
3. Additional Flavor
You can roast a very tasty chicken with a simple mixture of salt, pepper and butter, but you can also build on these superb flavors. Just chop some herbs and tuck them under the skin with a few knobs of butter or margarine. You can also stuff cloves of garlic and quartered onions, or fruits such as lemons or oranges that can add aroma to the chicken and enhance its flavor.
4. Dry Rub
If salt, pepper and butter are not enough for you, you can use a dry rub. Blending dried and ground spices and then rubbing them under the chicken’s cavity and under the skin can give great flavors. The rub under the skin will not burn and will infuse into the meat. If you want the chicken to be a bit spicy use cumin, sage and dried chili powder. If you want to have an Indian spice bird use equal parts coriander, turmeric, cumin and garammasala as your dry rub. The combinations are endless!
5. Trussing The Bird
You can truss the chicken before having it roasted although this is not an essential step. However, it makes the chicken easy to handle and helps to hold in any stuffing. To truss a chicken:
- Cut about 3 feet of heatproof butcher twine.
- Lay the chicken on a flat, clean surface with the back flat on the surface.
- Hold one end of the twine in each hand and loop the center of the string underneath the tail of the chicken.
- Catch the two ends of the legs inside the string and then cross the string over the breast making an X.
- Loop the twine under and around the wings and then tie it snugly in a knot across the chicken breast.
6. Roasting The Chicken
There are two roasting methods for a whole chicken:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F or 175 degrees C.
- Roast the whole chicken for 20 minutes/pound, plus an additional 15 minutes.
High heat method
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F or 230 degrees C then cook for 15 minutes.
- After that, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F or 175 degrees C and roast for 2o minutes/pound.
With both methods, the chicken is ready when your meat thermometer reads at least 165 degrees F or 74 degrees C without touching the bone. Cover the chicken loosely with aluminum foil for 10 minutes before slicing. This will redistribute the natural juices of the chicken and results in a tender and moist roast. For the required time of unstuffed chicken roasting, refer to this guide. If you’re roasting stuffed chicken, add 15 minutes to the total cooking time.
Now you have the know-how to roast a tasty chicken! Invite your friends and family over for a great meal.