When it comes to roast chicken, crispy skin and juicy, well-seasoned meat is a must, but it can be tricky to get this classic dish just right. Ever wondered why chicken ends up dry and bland instead of succulent and tender? Cooking temperature, seasoning and roasting method are all factors that can make or break a roast. Understanding the fundamentals of roasting chicken will ensure a delicious meal and help troubleshoot your common roast chicken blunders.
Here are five essential tips to make sure you roast the perfect chicken every time:
1. Pat dry.
If you’re looking for that elusive crispy skin, patting a chicken dry with paper towels before cooking is key. Doing this will remove any excess moisture from the chicken, which is what gives you soggy skin. That moisture creates steam in the oven, and the more steam, the less crisp the skin and drier the meat. Keep in mind that it’s important not to rinse the chicken first, as this is a food safety issue. When rinsing raw chicken, the bacteria from the meat can spread through water droplets contaminating work surfaces, clothing and cooking equipment.
2. Season liberally.
Liberal seasoning is integral to bringing out the flavour of the chicken. The most basic seasoning is a combination of salt and fresh pepper. Start with salt and sprinkle uniformly all over (don’t forget to season inside the cavity), then add fresh ground pepper. Salt not only builds flavour, it also helps retain moisture in the meat, allowing for crispy skin and juicy, well-seasoned meat.
Note: If you’re more concerned with taste over a crispy skin, try stuffing the chicken with aromatics such as lemons, garlic and fresh herbs like thyme or rosemary. Stuffing these ingredients inside the cavity will infuse flavour into the meat as the chicken cooks. Another option is to sprinkle the skin with spices like in our Portuguese roast chicken.
3. Use a rack.
Cooking chicken on a rack, set in a roasting pan, suspends the chicken in the oven and ensures it won’t burn or stew in its own juices. This technique also helps the heat circulate evenly around the bird, allowing the skin to crisp up all over and the chicken to cook evenly. You can find both flat and V-shaped racks which are both great options for roasting chicken.
4. Use the right heat.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a properly heated oven when it comes to roasting chicken. In order to achieve that beautiful golden crust and a perfectly cooked bird, the temperature is necessary. Try roasting chicken at 350F.
Note: When roasting chicken, don’t baste the bird. Every time you open the oven it lets out hot air and you’ll end up with a soggy instead of crispy skin.
5. Let it rest.
While it can be tempting to cut into the chicken the minute it’s out of the oven, let it rest for at least 15 minutes for moist, tender meat. Resting allows juices to redistribute into the meat giving you a juicy bird every time, plus it allows the chicken to cool enough for you to carve safely. If you don’t let the meat rest, you run the risk of ending up with dry meat.
Note: Always check doneness using a meat thermometer, inserting it into the thickest part of the meat; a whole bird should reach an internal temperature of 185F.