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Fear Conquered: Roast Chicken
If someone had asked me a year ago to roast a chicken (or any bird for that matter), I would stared at them for a long moment, stammered something about only eating chicken breasts, and shamefully changed the subject to something less booby-trapped. Like pasta dishes or beans.
But a delicious and moist roast chicken (or turkey) really isn't that tough to achieve - despite the bitter horror stories some people may recount. In fact, I'm proud to say I've successfully roasted a half-dozen chickens (and one big turkey) over the past six months without drying out or seriously undercooking a single bird (i.e. no food poisoning).
No, I didn't brine the birds for 12 hours. No, I didn't use any special pans. And for most of the birds, I didn't even use a thermometer (because I didn't have one until very recently)! Before you start gasping in protest or scolding my carefree treatment of chicken, my whole point is that roasting your own chicken (or turkey) doesn't have to be a once-a-year occasion filled with dread and hours of special planning. You can roast a chicken once a week (if you've got a lot of hungry mouths to fill) and why not make a juicy turkey every time the in-laws come for a visit?
You don't even need a recipe (although I'm providing my preferred technique below). As long as you remember a few key things, you can easily create your own chicken masterpiece with the flavors you prefer.
- Bird must be completely thawed before roasting
- Bird should warm at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before roasting
- Start uncovered in a really hot oven, then cover and drop the oven temp (this locks in the bird's juices)
- Never truss the bird (letting the bird hang open allows the heat to circulate better inside the cavity)
- Roast the bird breast-side down (don't argue, just trust me)
- Slide the thermometer between the leg and thigh to test - if you hit bone, reposition the thermometer
- ALWAYS LET THE BIRD REST covered after roasting
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|Mince 4 cloves of garlic and add to a mortar.|
|Add 2 teaspoons of kosher salt.|
|Mash the garlic and salt into a paste.|
|Add 2 Tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves.|
|Add the zest from one lemon.|
|Mix the thyme and lemon zest into the garlic paste.|
|Melt or soften 4 Tablespoons of refined coconut oil.|
|Add the coconut oil to the garlic and herb paste and mix.|
|The paste should thicken after a few minutes.|
|Prepare onion, garlic, lemon, thyme and chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley on a plate.|
|Mix 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 3 teaspoons cracked black pepper in a small bowl.|
|Remove chicken from packaging, remove giblets from the chicken and pat the chicken dry with paper towels (inside and out).|
|Sprinkle chicken cavity generously with salt and pepper mix.|
|Stuff chicken with prepared aromatics.|
|Gently work garlic and herb paste under the skin on the chicken breasts; rub remaining paste over the outer skin of the bird.|
|Sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper mix.|
|Position the bird breast-side down in the roasting pan and cover with a fitting glass lid; if roasting without a glass lid, do not cover the bird at this point.|
|Let the chicken rest 30 minutes, covered, before slicing.|
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Herb Roasted Chicken
Prep Time: 1 hr
Cook Time: 1 hr 45 min
Ingredients (serves 8)
- 1 all-natural chicken (7-8 pound bird)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 lemon, zest of and quartered
- 2 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 4 Tablespoons refined coconut oil, melted
- 1 head of garlic, halved
- 1 small yellow onion, chunked
- 1 handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 3 teaspoons cracked black pepper, divided
- Preheat the oven to 425℉ and prepare a roasting pan with a covering; bring the chicken out of the refrigerator to warm at room temperature before preparing the aromatics
- Add the minced garlic and 2 teaspoons of kosher salt to the mortar and mash into a paste with the pestle; stir in the lemon zest, thyme leaves and coconut oil; set aside
- In a small bowl, mix together the remaining kosher salt and cracked black pepper; set aside
- Remove the chicken from the packaging (if packaged), remove giblets from the bird (generally in their own pouch), drain out the juices and pat the bird dry with paper towels (inside and out)
- Sit the bird up to open the chest cavity and generously sprinkle the inside of the chicken with half of the salt and pepper mix; stuff the chicken with the thyme, parsley, garlic, lemon quarters and onion pieces
- Very gently work half of the butter/herb paste beneath the skin of the breasts of the chicken; rub the outer skin of the chicken with the remaining paste, then sprinkle the bird generously with the remaining salt and pepper
- Position the chicken breast-side down in the roasting pan and cover with a glass lid (if unavailable, do not cover at this point). Roast the chicken for 1 hour and 45 minutes, rotating the pan after an hour. If roasting uncovered, roast the chicken for 45 minutes, then rotate the pan, cover the bird with foil and roast for another 50-60 minutes. The internal temperature of the roasted chicken should be at least 165℉ at the thickest point (test the thigh and breast)
- Let the chicken rest, covered, for at least 30 minutes before slicing to serve
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Hungry for Tips?
- Smaller or larger bird? The concepts for roasting remain the same, but the bake-times and temperatures will need to be adjusted. For example, when I roast a large 15+ pound turkey, I roast at 400℉ for 45 minutes to crisp the outside and seal in the juices, then I cover with foil and roast at 350℉ for another couple hours.
- To avoid washing your hands every 30 seconds, prepare the garlic and herb paste, aromatics and the salt and pepper mix before handling the raw chicken. I even transfer my aromatics to a separate plate avoid contaminating my cutting board and similarly I use a separate bowl for the salt and pepper to avoid contaminating my grinders.
- If you don’t have refined coconut oil, you can use softened butter instead. Just don’t use unrefined virgin coconut oil as it has a strong coconut flavor and a lower smoke point.
- Covering birds during the second half of the baking helps to ensure the bird does not dry out. Forget about basting the bird - just keep it covered after crisping the outer skin. If you want to re-crisp the skin at the end, uncover for the last 15 minutes.
- I use a 4-quart CorningWare dutch oven to roast chickens, but a conventional roasting pan would also work well. If your dish does not include a fitting glass cover, you will want to leave the bird initially uncovered so the skin has a chance to crisp and seal in the juices.
- If you insert your thermometer too close to a bone, it will give you an inflated false temperature reading. So if you hit bone, you need to remove the thermometer, let it cool slightly, and then re-insert at a different location.
- Save the bones, skin, giblets and roasting juices from the bird to make stock. I seal mine in airtight freezer bags and save them until I'm ready to make stock. Check out my technique and tips on making your own homemade chicken stock.
- Pondering what to do with leftover chicken? You can make chicken soup, pot pies, chicken salad, chicken sandwiches, casseroles, etc. The possibilities may be endless.
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