Deceptively complicated to perfect, Chef Instructor Bill Briwa shares tips for creating and carving a delectable Roasted Chicken—a staple of comfort food and home cooking.
Roasted Chicken has a universal appeal due to its power to comfort—from the homey aroma that fills your kitchen to the appearance of golden brown, gleaming skin, to the tender and juicy cuts—the essence of Roasted Chicken is that of satisfaction and fulfillment.
Roasting is a dry-heat cooking method without fat. The circulating air in the oven chamber is actually what does the cooking. Air is not a great conductor of heat, so roasting is a gentler cooking technique. There are many benefits to roasting, but perhaps the best is that it seems like there are always leftovers on hand for a sandwich or a roast beef hash. There are also the benefits of the warmth of the oven and the captivating aroma in the house that develops as you are roasting.
Learn more about grilling and broiling—dry-heat cooking without fat
How to Truss a Chicken
In order to avoid burning the wing tips and legs of your chicken while it is roasting, take the wings and fold them under the body of the chicken and then pull the legs in tight to the breast.
Place the middle of a piece of string that is about ve feet long under the bird on either side of the legs. Bring the strings up and cross the legs, capturing them tightly.
Then, take the string on the left, cross it over to the right, and run it between the breast and the leg. In addition, take the string on the right, cross it over to the left, and run it between the breast and the leg.
Once you have captured both of the wings, bring the string under the neck and then tie the string and cut it off. A trussed bird roasts as one entire unit rather than as two opped-out legs and two flopped-out wings.
This is a transcript from the video series The Everyday Gourmet—Rediscovering the Lost Art of Cooking. Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus.
Equipment Check for A Roasted Chicken
If your oven smokes when you preheat it, you must clean it before you begin. If smoke builds up in your oven, it will fl the food that you are roasting.
There are two types of ovens: a conventional oven, which has no fan, and a convection oven, which has a fan that circulates the air inside the oven.When the air circulates in a convection oven, the cooking becomes more efficient, so you can turn the oven down 25 to 50 degrees.
Every oven has a thermometer in it, but there’s no guarantee that the thermometer will be accurate. Therefore, buy a small oven thermometer as insurance that the temperature is what you expect it to be.
When roasting, place the oven rack in the middle or in the bottom third of the oven so that the hot air of the oven can be circulated all the way around the food that is being roasted.
You need a pan that’s the appropriate size for what is being roasted. If it’s too large, portions of the pan will burn. If it’s too small, air can’t circulate around the food. Cast-iron pans are great for roasting.
Learn more about the ins and outs of sautéing
Roasted Chicken with Roasted Potatoes
Make a Delicious, Golden Brown Roasted Chicken with Roasted Potatoes
proportions to taste
- duck fat or oil
- potatoes, cut
- ground white pepper
- whole chicken
- mirepoix (onions, carrots, and celery)
- sage or parsley
Before you put any food in the oven, it’s important to get everything prepped and seasoned. To roast the potatoes, start by preheating the oven to 450 degrees. At this temperature, the potatoes will take about 35 to 40 minutes.
Heat the pan, adding a little bit of duck fat. If you don’t have any, regular oil is fine.
Once the pan is hot and the fat or oil is just beginning to smoke, add some cut potatoes—in just one layer. Then, they are ready to go into the oven. The potatoes are done when they are a nice golden brown and are tender if you pierce them with a knife.
Take the potatoes out of the pan, removing them from the fat, and keep them warm until you are ready to serve the chicken. Add a little bit of salt and pepper.
Season both the inside and outside of the chicken with salt and pepper. At 450 degrees, the chicken will brown very quickly. Leave it at that temperature for about 15 minutes, and then turn it down to about 350 degrees, allowing it to roast until it is fully cooked. If you leave the temperature too high, the heat is too aggressive and will dry the bird out.
Once the chicken is browned, turn the oven down and add a selection of vegetables—such as onions, carrots, and celery—to the roasting pan. These vegetables are often called a mirepoix and will roast along with the chicken drippings that are collecting in the pan to lend flavor to what is going to become the gravy.
Once the chicken is done, remove the trussing. Cut the twine that you trussed it with in only one place so that you know that you got all of the parts of the string off. If you cut the twine in more than one place, sometimes a little bit is left behind.
Move the chicken over to a platter. Strain the sauce that is left in the roasting pan and set it aside. Make sure that you get all of the goodness out of the vegetables by pressing on them slightly. Add a little bit of salt and pepper to the sauce. You can also chop up a few leaves of sage or parsley and add them to the sauce.
How to Determine Doneness
Learn more about everything you need to know to fry food like a pro
The most dependable method of determining when a chicken is fully cooked in the oven is to use a thermometer. Put the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat and take the internal temperature of that meat. You are aiming for an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. At that temperature, you no longer have to worry about salmonella, and at the same time, the meat will still be juicy and moist.
Making Gravy from a Roast Chicken
Gravy is nothing more than a sauce that is made from the pan drippings of a roast—whether it is a beef roast or a roasted chicken. After removing the chicken from the oven, in the bottom of the roasting pan is the mirepoix that you added that has had a chance to cook and flavor the juices that have come from that chicken.
Turn the temperature of the oven up a little bit. There’s a certain amount of water in the chicken’s juices, and if you cook it over high heat, the water will boil away, and the essence of the chicken and the vegetables will remain.
Once the water has boiled away, all of the juice will cling to the pan, and you can pour the excess fat off. As long as you
hear sizzling, there’s probably a little water left.
At no point do you want to see the bottom of the pan burning. If it’s burning, you’re destroying your sauce. Once the fat starts to become clear, it means that the water has cooked out of it.
Set the fat aside. To thicken the hot fat, mix some flour into it and cook the flour in the hot fat until it loses its raw avor— which will take about 10 to 15 minutes. To keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan, keep stirring it. You have just made a roux.
Once the roux is made, add some chicken stock. You will notice that as the chicken stock comes up to a boil, it will thicken almost immediately because the starch granules in the flour expand as they absorb the liquid. Because you worked hard to get a nice, crispy, golden crust on the chicken, serve the gravy on the side of the roasted chicken.
Carving a Roasted Chicken
Place the chicken on a cutting board. Pull the leg away from the breast and cut the skin between the breast and the leg.
As you open the area between the breast and the leg, follow the seam between the breast and the leg, and then you’ll see the hip joint. If you pull the leg back far enough, it will come off. Then, cut through the skin to detach the leg from the body.
Do the same on the other side. Then, cut each leg in half.
Flip the chicken over and cut between the drumstick and the thigh. In every joint, there is a little sweet spot where the knife will slide right through. Then, you are left with the rest of the carcass.
Cut both wings off, using the same method of cutting.
Next, you have the two breasts, which are separated by the sternum. On a chicken, this is called a keel bone.
Cut on either side of the keel bone, pushing the meat off the carcass. The wishbone will be at the end; just cut through the wishbone (which would be the collarbone on a person).
Follow the rib cage around, and pull off the entire breast.
The shoulder joint, like all the other joints, has a sweet spot. Follow the keel bone until you reach the rib cage and then follow the rib cage around, pulling the breast meat off.
Once you get down to the shoulder joint, cut through the skin to reach the other breast. Each breast is a large portion, so each one should be cut into a few separate pieces.
The leftover carcass is the basis for a really delicious stock, which could then become a soup. Don’t throw the carcass away. Either simmer it or throw it into the freezer. If you put it in the freezer, you can retrieve it later and simmer it.
Learn more about a popular method of moist heat cooking: poaching
Common Questions About Roasted Chicken
You do not have to put water in the pan for a roasted chicken. You can put water and it will create extra steam, which can affect the crispiness of the skin. The best roasted chicken is roasted without water in the pan, leaving the drippings tastier and more concentrated.