Roasted Chicken Perfected
I’ve been making this recipe forever. I just discovered that I have never posted it here. So here is, courtesy of my late, lamented Lancaster Sunday News and America’s Test Kitchen, the best AND simplest roasted chicken recipe you’ve ever seen.
Roasting chicken: Everyone’s got an opinion
The other night I wanted to roast a chicken.
OK, OK. I know how to roast a chicken. Everyone does. So they think.
I wanted to know how other people roast their chickens, so I turned to the Internet. I Googled “How to roast a chicken,” to see what I could learn. The results were, to say the least, surprising.
I viewed each of the first 15 returns to my search and discovered 15 different ways to roast a chicken. No two were the same.
You’d think that roasting a chicken is a simple task; simply season the chicken and stick it in the oven. Apparently, there are as many ways to roast a chicken as there are ways to, if you’ll pardon the expression, skin a cat. (And where did that idiotic metaphor come from?)
Depending on which recipe you subscribe to, the oven gets preheated to anywhere from 325 degrees to 500 degrees. In my sample, each 25-degree increment was represented.
I learned that the roasting pan gets some variation of onions, carrots, celery, leeks, potatoes, scallions, garlic, shallots, fennel, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, cabbage, bok choi, oranges, lemons, apples and pears.
I discovered that the process can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours, and that the resting period after cooking can be anywhere from 20 minutes to no resting time at all.
I learned to insert a meat thermometer during roasting, after roasting, or not at all, and that the temperatures registered on these devices could range anywhere from 115 to 185 degrees, depending on where and when you insert the thermometer.
Crisp skin or no skin? Brined or not? Water or broth or wine (white or red?) or orange juice or ginger ale or nothing in the roasting pan? Garlic or no garlic? Herbs or spices? Stuffing? Gravy? Upright over a beer can? And then there was the matter of oven or grill. How about a rotisserie?
It’s just so confusing. All I wanted was a roasted chicken.
What I finally decided was to keep it simple. I want a roast chicken that is tasty, done but not overdone, and without a lot of muss or fuss.
So naturally, I turned to my personal cooking bible, Cooks’ Illustrated, from America’s Test Kitchen. I can depend on them to have roasted about a zillion chickens, trying a zillion different methods, to determine which one is worthy of their publication (which I trust implicitly), and which is simple, direct and accessible.
The important thing I knew going in was that my choice of chicken makes a huge difference. So I choose my chickens carefully. I prefer fresh, local chickens, from any of the fine chicken farmers here in Lancaster County.
Today’s chicken came from the Shenk’s Poultry stand at Lancaster Central Market. It costs a little more than grocery-store chicken, but hey – I’m feeding my family, so it’s worth it to me to know that these are grass-fed, hormone-free chickens.
So here it is, with a small twist or two of my own: my simple, foolproof version of the perfect roasted chicken.
WEEKNIGHT ROASTED CHICKEN
1 chicken, 3 1/2 to 4 pounds
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Place a 12-inch oven-safe skillet on the rack and preheat the oven to 450°F. (Turn on the exhaust fan!)
Combine the salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rinse the chicken inside and out and pat completely dry with paper towels.
Rub the entire surface of the chicken with olive oil. Sprinkle evenly with salt/pepper mixture and rub it in with your hands to coat the chicken evenly. Cut the rosemary sprig in half and insert both pieces into the cavity. Tuck the wing tips behind the back under the chicken.
When the oven reaches the preheated temperature, place the chicken into the preheated skillet in the oven. Set the kitchen timer for 35 minutes and walk away. When the timer beeps, turn the oven off and set the timer for 35 minutes again and walk away.
Do not, under any circumstances, open the oven.
When the timer beeps the second time, transfer the chicken to a carving board and allow it to rest, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
While the chicken rests, prepare a pan sauce. The pan will be very hot so handle it carefully.
ROAST CHICKEN PAN SAUCE
1 shallot, finely minced
1 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons fresh minced or 1 teaspoon dry tarragon
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons capers (optional)
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Using a large kitchen spoon, remove all but one tablespoon of fat from the skillet, leaving the brown bits (the fond).
Place the skillet over medium-high heat, add the shallot and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the broth and mustard, scraping the skillet bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen the fond from the pan.
Turn the heat down and simmer the broth until reduced by one-third, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and whisk in the butter, tarragon and lemon juice until the sauce begins to thicken, about 2 minutes. Add the capers and season with black pepper. Cover the pan to keep warm.
After resting for 20 minutes, carve the chicken and serve with a spoonful of the pan sauce drizzled over each serving.
If you opt for a grocery store chicken, it will be larger than fresh, local chickens, so increase the timer settings to 40-45 minutes roasting and 40-45 minutes with the oven turned off (depending on how much over 4 pounds your chicken is).
Jeff Thal welcomes questions and comments at his blog, jeffskitchen.net.