There are plenty of stories that I could share with you about roast chicken. My memories of eating it as a child, as an adult, and in-between – are plentiful. But that’s really neither here nor there, and would be distracting to the missive – you need to make this. Soon. As soon as possible, in fact. And I want to tell you that there is a way to get your roast chicken perfect every time. In fact, this chicken sort of just cooks on its own with very little hands-on work. You know, I am having a hard time writing this post. I think what I want to say to you is this.
There is nothing more perfect than a perfectly roasted chicken.
Nothing more sublime. Nothing more attainable, accessible, every-day-comforting and yet luxurious and decadent. It’s the alpha and the omega of meals. It’s a meal fit for a regular-weeknight supper or a festive, celebratory feast. It’s like that amazingly, fabulous pair of jeans hanging in your closet. An every day must-have, that’s also great for a fabulous night on the town. And just as a pair of jeans is an essential wardrobe staple, roast chicken is its kitchen equivalent. It’s a classic everyone should master. And it is easier to make than you think.
I have, in my lifetime, attempted my hand at roast chicken with as much success as failure. I finally figured out a few things that, I think, make a nearly fool-proof system of getting your chicken just perfect every time. Besides this method, what it takes is just a few times’ making it. Getting a feel for the bird, for the roasting process, getting some courage in calling it when it’s done. Courage is huge here. I mentioned once that pie crust smells fear. I think it’s kind of true for cooking food in general. Or attempting something new. That something will intrinsically know your fear, so I suggest just charging on. What’s the worst think that can happen? You will eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for dinner – and is that such a bad thing?
Here are some of my thoughts on roasting a chicken.
First off, you want your chicken to be on the smaller side. You want that magic perfect proportion of skin to meat, i.e. fat to leaner meat. More fat equals tastier chicken. Also, more moist chicken, since this fat will guard your chicken from drying up. Larger chickens are, well, larger, and so somehow that fat distribution doesn’t quite work. So aim for a chicken between 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 pounds.
Secondly, it would help you a great deal if you prepped the chicken one to two days in advance. This means, salting it, putting appropriate herbs and whatnot, and letting it sit in the fridge, covered, absorbing this lovely salt. It’s really worth it.
Third, high temperature, is your friend. In fact, it is your right hand man when it comes to roasting a chicken. Don’t fear it, thinking that it’ll render your chicken dry. It won’t. I promise. In fact, you’ll be amazed what blasting your chicken with such high temperatures will do for the bird. It will melt in your mouth. It will not taste like pressed wood composite.
Fourth, you want to make sure that before you place the chicken in the oven you want to make sure it is as dry as possible. Dry chicken means it will get crispy and sizzle. Wet chicken means, it’ll steam and steamed chicken isn’t nearly as exciting-sounding or tasting as roasted chicken. Don’t you think?
Finally, and just as importantly, once your chicken is done, you want to let it rest. Give it about 15 minutes so that it absorbs the juices and hangs out for a bit. Besides, after pulling it out of the oven, you’ll be compelled to pull up a chair and admire it – it will be terribly pretty to look at (and even better to eat, when you get around to it)!
But don’t admire it too long – you’ll have hungry guests and a meal is best admired when it is consumed and savored.