Monday, April 15, 2013

Technique Tips: Roast Chicken - Oh Right, Gravity

I've mentioned this before, but I do a fair amount of cooking in general, especially on weekends/Sundays, to prep food for the weekdays in advance. Hence, the tupperware of carved roast chicken pictured above. There were a couple things I learned this time around:
  • Kosher chickens are handy because they've been pre-brined as part of the kosher preparation process
  • Kosher chickens are also not handy (or at least this one wasn't in this regard) because of stubs of feathers still stuck in the skin...had to pull them out one by one. Know a better way? Please do tell.
The other thing is technique related--about getting the dark meat to doneness without overcooking the white meat. America's Test Kitchen has you roast the chicken on one side for 15 minutes, then the other side for another 15 minutes, and then the last stretch breast up. Thing is, they also just call for roasting turkeys breast down and then breast up, apparently because for turkeys you have to else the breast overcooks and dries out. (I've done chicken the side-side way and turkey the down-up way and results were good in both cases.)

Well, I thought I'd cut out the intermediary side-side steps for the chicken, too. So how'd it turn out? Great! But...well I think I see why they didn't want to do the breast down-up method for chickens. You see, when I flipped the bird breast up, the meat had flattened and didn't look as pretty. A minor detail if your primary concern is flavor and texture. On the other hand, I don't remember that happening with my turkey...hmm. Not sure. But in any case, you can definitely save yourself a step by just doing the down-up technique with roast chicken.

Furthermore, you don't even have to do any temperature adjustment for great results. Some recipes call for starting hot (400+ F) and going cooler (350-375 F). Some call for going the other way. Some call for blasting it at 400 F all the way through. But as Tom Colicchio notes in his book, Think Like a Chef (I've started reading through it gradually; it's great so far), you actually don't need to, and can usually do better treating the meat gently, staying constant in the 325-375 F range (depending on what you're cooking). 375 F for roast chicken.

I roasted this one at 375 F, 30 minutes breast down, followed by 40 minutes breast up. The skin was nice and crisp at the end. But I then tented it with foil for 10 minutes to allow the juices and temperature to redistribute, which of course meant the skin wasn't so crisp afterward being tented with all that moisture coming out of the chicken. Not sure what to do about that. Maybe breast-down time should be longer and breast-up time shorter so that you can cook the dark meat to doneness right at the same time as the white and not need to tent while letting the roast rest? Or--maybe the skin will soften regardless because of the moisture coming out of the meat...


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