On this blog I have a bunch of chicken recipes. Two reasons. It’s delicious but it’s also tricky, right? Anyone can overcook a chicken. I do it all the time. By proper standards the chicken above is overcooked. The only way to not overcook a chicken is to break it down and cook the different muscle groups in different plastic bags and off they go in the sous vide bath at their respective temperatures and cooking times.
Not everybody has sous vide equipment but it’s slowly becoming mainstream. I remember when I started cooking, I had to buy my first immersion circulator second hand on Ebay and it still was a lot pricier than the super cool ones they sell in stores today.
Not everybody has the patience for sous vide cooking. It takes a bit more planning. We live in a world that spins a little too fast constantly. Takes time learning about cooking sous vide and takes longer than traditional techniques to cook things sous vide. Probably not fish but definitely chicken and any other land animal I can think of. Ok Mr Octopus, we won’t leave you. You too take forever for a sea creature.
The chicken in question today is the product of a few years of trying things and messing up a whole bunch of time, looking for a simpler way to roast a whole chicken. Reduce handling time to a minimum but yet end up with something delicious. The chicken above still takes about 2 days to make but that’s mostly curing time in the fridge. Yeah, don’t freak out, it’s not like salmonella is gonna take over your house. Just, sprinkle the chicken with a generous amount of salt, inside and outside, put the thing in an open container, place it underneath everything else in the fridge and let it be for 24-48 hours. Yeah, you could brine it. Overrated it. I like dry curing without a lid. The skin gets dry (that’s a good thing). It will brown faster. Get crispier.
The cooking. No need to bother with letting the chicken get to room temperature or preheating the oven, in fact. These 2 only get in the way in my opinion. If you have been blessed with owning a cheap black cast iron pot, USE IT. Put your chicken in there. Add some vegetable oil at the bottom. Tie the legs if you want. Not a deal breaker. I did because it photographs better. Throw the pot in the oven at 400F and wait until it looks awesome. It’s about an hour and 20 mins. Run the broiler if you want extra browning. A few minutes, turn the pot around, a few more minutes and done.
Why would anyone start roasting anything in a cold oven? I don’t think I have an actual explanation but it does seem to render a juicier result. One theory might be the chicken muscles have had time to acclimatize to the brutal heat in the oven and therefore less fibre tension is created from the heat-shock which is the main cause of water loss. If you worry about bacteria, you shouldn’t with this approach. The oven will reach 212F and kill everything on the surface within minutes. You can also blanch the chicken in boiling water for a minute before roasting but that would be a lot of extra work. Trust me, your oven will destroy any living thing that goes in there in a matter of a few minutes.
And that’s it. Chicken, salt and an oven.
Without any babysitting you can end up with a fantastic result in the end now imagine what you could end up with if you actually babysat (?) this thing. I would love it if you could tell me about it. Ok chicken fans, Im out. Start looking into sous vide equipment too. You won’t regret it. My understanding of cooking changed the moment I used one forever.
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Great post, Paul. Really good point about sous-vide helping to understand cooking. I don’t do whole chickens often for the reasons you mention. Best chicken I’ve done was grilled on a makeshift rotisserie over an open fire, after brining. I’ll dry cure when I do it again, although in this case the brine was more practical as that way I could defrost a dozen of chickens in the brine in a beer cooler 🙂
thanks for reposting your comment Stefan! Your rotisserie chicken sounds great. I would like to try and deep-fry a whole chicken after cooking sous vide. It would require a bit pot (like a turkey fryer) of really hot oil and a backyard. I’ve tested deep-frying in a regular deep fryer and it only proves that chicken skin is really tough! By the time it develops some color the meat is way overcooked. You can freeze the meat, but even that really doesn’t help. One day I will cook for more than 4 people and I’ll brine my chickens in a beer cooler 🙂 take care!!!
Hi Paul, to avoid tough chicken skin, it is essential to dust it with flour or corn starch, and to allow it to dry. I’ve had outstanding results with chicken pieces cooked sous-vide and then deep fried. I should try this with a whole chicken! Check out this post: http://stefangourmet.com/2012/12/16/crispy-deep-fried-chicken/
PS be very very careful when using a turkey fryer, those things are crazy and cause lots of fires.
Hi Stefan, I mean… tough as in, it doesn’t brown easily. I’ve done coated skin in starch to get that crunchy layer, but I’m referring to that beautiful deeply browned chicken skin that can only be achieved by applying a ton of heat. I’ve I baste the chicken skin in butter I can get that finish but takes extra work 🙂 I wonder If by adding sugar to the curing mix I could accelerate the browning. Maybe I need to add a bit of baking soda too. I would be super careful with a turkey fryer. I’m pretty aware of how dangerous they are but I’ve never used one. I’ll experiment some more and report back! 🙂
I love roasted chicken. What could be more ubiquitous? And yet, getting it right is something of an art. I love your ideas.
Thank Jeff! Yeah, chicken… I mean… yes 🙂 love it and getting it right is definitely not easy. Getting it perfect is impossible but getting it close… yeah, definitely a possibility.