Roasted chicken, second try

Why can’t I roast chicken without freaking out? The first time I tried, in December of 2006, was so traumatic that I never did it again. After taking a year to recover, I finally tried again a week or two ago, and once again didn’t have the best of luck, despite a tasty outcome.

I saw Zuni Cafe’s salt-roasted chicken technique on AT’s The Kitchen and thought it looked great and easy. I acquired a small chicken. I gave it a nice salt massage and stuck packets of herbs under the skin, as directed. I may have stuck those packets under the skin on the wrong side of the chicken, I’m still not sure.

I let it sit overnight in the fridge, and followed all the cooking directions (except, possibly, putting the chicken right-side up to begin with?)… I flipped it one extra time when I decided it was upside down, but that can’t account for it taking 20 extra minutes to cook, can it?

I did a bad job of cutting the poor thing up, but the meat was juicy and flavorful–I will definitely try the salt rub again. I honestly think part of my problem is with the new stove–the oven temperature varies wildly (last night I had it on 325 and it was going from 250 to 350, and I wasn’t opening the door). I will call Viking this week to see if they need to calibrate it or something.

I sauteed broccoli and marinated cherry tomatoes in vinaigrette, and made some israeli couscous (Ben’s favorite) to go with the chicken.

Help me stop being so scared of whole chickens! I’m very tempted to just start buying the rotisserie ones, all nicely cooked for me.

12 thoughts on “Roasted chicken, second try”

  1. I’ve had roast chicken trauma too! I’m sitting here right now feeling much less alone.

    (Bittman’s recipe is not bad…after a third try…)


  2. Rather than trying to roast it whole, have you considered butterflying it before roasting? It is an easier way to start the roasting process and you can build up to the whole bird.

  3. Laura, alone about chicken or alone in Paris? E-mail me, darling!

    Kelly- My mom has been doing that lately, too. Do you have a recipe your recommend? I will certainly give it a try!

  4. There are only so many things I have time to learn in this life, and I have decided that cooking chicken on the bone in any form is not going to make the cut. Maybe next life. Besides, I like rotisserie chicken 🙂

  5. Cooks Illustrated had a whole episode about butterflying a chicken (it involves the somewhat shocking step of cutting the spine out with scissors) but seems easy after that.

    I like the rotisserie chickens from the store, too. But they seem to have some weird ingredients…Trying to make stock from them doesn’t work at all.

  6. I have learned to ignore timing on whole roast chicken; it always takes longer than recommended – and I’ve learned to put it on the lowest rack in the oven so the dark meat cooks faster and the white meat slower.

    That said, I much prefer butterflying the chicken. The meat cooks evenly and it’s much easier to carve up. Get a large one, 5-6 lbs, so you have plenty of leftovers. That’s my other gripe about whole fryers; you go to all that work and messy clean-up, pulling the meat off the bones, and there is hardly anything left. Forget serving four people with a 3 lb fryer.

    Kate: recipe for Zuni salt rub chicken? I’ll try it with a butterflied one.

  7. Mom, the link in the entry (with Zuni in it) leads to the whole recipe. But basically you rub a ton of salt and some pepper all over the chicken, slip some herbs under the skin in front and back (four little herb packets) and let it sit overnight. No butter or oil but it came out very juicy and the skin was pretty crispy. The recipe has you flip the chicken twice to keep the breast from overcooking. I flipped the turkey at thanksgiving and it worked perfectly–started it upside down and then flipped it.

    Ok, I clearly need to try the butterflied chicken…

  8. Kate: To start, you have to cut out the backbone of the chicken, which I always do with kitchen shears. It is relatively easy to cut down each side of the bone and then remove it.

    The recipe that I use most is from Nigella where I butterfly the chicken, then marinate it with a sliced red onion, rosemary sprigs, two sliced lemons, olive oil and sea salt.

  9. My recipe is easy too:
    5 – 6 lb. organic bird
    Cut out the backbone, or ask your butcher to; mine will
    Rub some herb paste over bone side of bird
    Flip it over and loosen skin from breast and thigh meat & rub an herb paste under the skin
    Oil bird and season with lots of salt and pepper
    Roast at 400 on center rack until thigh meat registers 170 (I take it out sooner), about 1.5 hours

  10. I love roasting chickens, and do it sometimes just because. My recipe is:

    preheat oven to 500
    liberally salt the cavity of the chicken and then add one or two quarters of an onion and a sprig or two of rosemary
    mash softened butter with garlic and rub under the skin
    salt and pepper the chicken

    the cook time will be about 20 minutes per pound total (including the 500 degree roast below)

    cook at 500 degrees for the first 20 minutes
    lower temp to 350 and cook for the remaining time — and when you lower it you might as well open the oven and baste with whatever juices have collected
    it is done when you can easily shake it’s leg (the skin between leg and breast will sometimes hold it taut even if it’s done so slit it slightly to make it give)

    also nice to add fingerlings, carrots, whole cloves of garlic, other things around the bird to roast with with it.

    I enjoy reading your blog.

  11. That’s so funny because roasting a chicken is my favorite thing to do. I do different things but my favorite is covering it with Kosher salt, Herbs de Provence and roast it at 500 for 20 minutes to make it good and crispy and then bring the temp down to 375. I never pay attention to how long it takes, just use my trusty kitchen therm. Simple and delicious.

  12. I must agree with Nola Mom. The meat from a whole roasted chicken is wonderful. I tend to keep it simple. I rub the cavity with lots of salt. Then stuff it with a lemon, garlic, and any herb I’m in the mood for. It’s fun to loosen and add seasoning. I then rub the skin with butter (or olive oil) and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Throw it in the oven at 500 for a little while and then drop it down to 400 and pull it out when the thigh temp is around 170. I’ve tried the flip method – starting it out breast down and then flipping it midway through – it works well (I love crispy skin).

    I love the blog – I’m turning into a junkie (Jack has just started going to bed earlier – so I’m a free woman for a few hours every night).

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