Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Art of Roasting a Chicken

Have you ever roasted a whole chicken? If you haven't, I highly recommend adding this to your repertoire. It's surprisingly easy, yet looks really impressive. Also, whole chickens are cheaper per pound than pre-cut chicken pieces. And best of all, you will end up with a chicken carcass for making stock (how to make stock, tomorrow).
First, preheat the oven to 375. Next, make sure your chicken is totally thawed if it was frozen.
Are you ready to party? And by that of course I mean stick your hand in raw chicken? Alright! First, you need to check to see if there are gizzards and other prizes in the cereal box. Stick your hand inside the cavity and pull out any thing in there. Sometimes there is a white absorbent pad thingy. Don't be alarmed. Just throw it away. If you are up for some culinary adventures, save the liver and giblets. You can put them in a freezer bag and freeze till you have enough to cook with. Otherwise, throw them away.
Many people recommend rinsing your chicken with cold water and patting it dry with paper towels. I rarely do this. Do as you see fit.
Next sprinkle some salt and pepper inside the cavity. I like to grind some pepper and shake out some salt into a little bowl before I start so I don't have to wrassle with the pepper grinder with chicken on my hands. Next, it's time to violate the chicken. Peel a few cloves of garlic and put them inside the cavity along with a small handful of herbs. You can use one or more of any fresh herbs you like, such as rosemary, thyme, or sage.
Once your chicken is good and stuffed, cross the legs and tie them together for modesty and even cooking. Use kitchen twine, which is white cotton string found probably near the tin foil in the grocery store.
The following is totally optional: I like to shove garlic and more fresh herbs under the skin. You need to create a pocket between the skin and the breast with your fingers. I find this keeps the breast moist and adds more flavor.
Now let's get shallow and love our chicken for its outside. You can rub the skin with butter, olive oil or leave it be. Next, salt and pepper. Last, any other spices you like. My personal blend includes garlic, rosemary, savory, oregano and thyme. Sprinkle this mix over the whole chicken.
Time to roast! You can roast a chicken breast side up the whole time, or for crispy goodness all over, roast it breast side down, then switch halfway through. Put your chicken in your roasting pan. If you want, you can twist the wings underneath the bird so the tips don't burn. Now, Roast Away!
How do you know when its done? Cooking times can vary a lot depending on the size of the chicken, the true temp of your oven, the starting temp of your chicken an so on. The most reliable way to check for doneness is to use a thermometer. I highly recommend you invest in one. They are less than 10$ and so useful for cooking meat. When your chicken starts to get golden brown check the temp at the thickest part of the thigh. Be careful not to stick the thermometer into the bone or all the way through. That will give you an inaccurate measurement. You are aiming for 165 degrees, so when it reaches 160 take out your chicken, because the temperature will continue to rise for a few minutes. Another way to determine if your chicken is done, is to poke it with a skewer or fork and when the juices run clear it's done. You need to let your chicken rest for at least 10-15 minutes. Now it's time to carve and eat! I usually take out and discard the garlic and herbs before I serve it. It's usually pretty spent and not so appealing to eat. Don't forget to save the carcass and the bones so you can make stock! Tune in tomorrow to learn how to make the number one item at the top right corner of the easy to awesome scale. If you try this out, let us know how it goes. Also, there are a million variations on roasting a chicken, please share your version or tips in the comments!

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