Roast chicken embodies comfort. It’s a meal that’s meant to be shared and devoured. The three tricks I’ve picked up that guarantee a delicious bird are trussing the chicken, butter—lots of it, and vigilance. With these three tools you are on your way to a classic comfort meal.
HOW TO ROAST A CHICKEN:
1 gallon water, room temperature
1/2 cup kosher salt
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
5 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf, torn
INGREDIENTS (ON THE CHICKENS AND IN THE CAVITIES)
1 chicken, 3-4 pounds
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 head of garlic
1/2 whole lemon
1 fresh thyme sprig
1 fresh rosemary sprig
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
INGREDIENTS (BUTTER FOR UNDER THE SKIN)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1/4 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
First, the brine. Why brine? Well, brining makes meat juicier. When you brine meat the salt water softens the muscle fibers, so less water is forced out during the cooking process, leading to a juicier piece of meat. For the brine, combine all of the ingredients in a large container. Add the chicken so it’s fully submerged and put the container in the fridge. Let it sit overnight or for at least 6 hours. When you’re ready to start cooking, pull the chicken out, rinse it off and thoroughly dry it off. Water = steam, so the dryer the chicken, the crispier the skin.
Preheat the oven to 375. Mix together all of the butter ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Gently loosen the skin over the breasts and stuff with half of the butter mixture under the skin of each bird. Slice the garlic head in half, width-wise. Roll the lemon on the counter with your hands pressing onto it, to release its juices, and cut in half. Stuff the garlic, herbs, and lemon into the cavity of the chicken. Rub the salt and pepper into the skin of the chicken thoroughly.
Truss the chicken. Trim about 3 feet of kitchen string. Run the center of the string under the neck to the front of the bird. Tuck the wings in as you bring the string around towards the legs, roughly following the edges of the chicken breast. Bring the ends of string down between the chicken’s legs, then cross the legs. Loop the strings around the outside of the chicken ankles, and tie in a knot. The chicken should be compact, with the legs and wings close to the body. By trussing, the chicken will cook more evenly and prevent the dilemma of dry breast meat and undercooked dark meat.
Pop the chicken in a roasting pan and into the oven. Cook for about an hour and a half or until a instant-read thermometer stuck into the thigh reads 165.
About 30 minutes in, check on the chicken. Baste the chicken with the melted butter and juices about once every 30 to 45 minutes.
After one hour, check the temperature of the chicken and baste again. If the chicken is perfectly golden brown, but still need to reach 165, cover the chickens in foil as they finish cooking.
When the chickens have reached 165, place them on a platter, cover them in foil, and allow them to rest for at least 10 minutes. This allows the juices to settle in the meat and provides for a moister chicken.
Carve up the bird. Start by pulling the legs away from the body so that the joint pops up. Slice through the joint with a knife to cut off the whole legs. Cut through the joint between the thigh and the drumstick to separate them. Separate one breast by slicing along the breastbone. When you hit the wishbone, pivot the knife and slice towards the wing. Slice under the entire breast to separate it from the rib cage. Repeat with the other breast. Pull the wings away from the body and slice through the joint. All done!
Enjoy that gluttony induced food-coma!