Roasted Chicken-The “Whole” Story

Don’t be afraid of the whole chicken.  Embrace the whole chicken.  The whole chicken is your friend.  The whole chicken is tasty.  The whole chicken is juicy.  The whole chicken is much, much less expensive than chicken parts…..

I started roasting chickens several years ago.  I have had many incarnations of my roasted chicken, but this is my favorite.  The potato salad is wonderful, to die for even, but often we just go for simple roasted potatoes.  I always feel like a proper French lady when I roast a chicken.  Julia (Child, my idol) would be proud.

I use my Pampered Chef deep covered baker for roasting my chicken.  If you hadn’t noticed, I love my Pampered Chef stoneware.  I sold PC for a while.  I was not very good at direct sales, so it didn’t last long, but I got LOTS of good stuff out of it.  If you don’t have any stoneware, I recommend you get some!  Anyway, if you don’t have a covered baker, you can use a roasting pan or just a baking pan.  We’ll be going by temperature, not by time.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  I preheat the baker in the oven.

Start by removing the chicken from its packaging and letting any juices that have accumulated in the cavity drain away.  Put the chicken on a plate, and wash your hands immediately!  Now, grab your tongs.  We’re going to try to avoid cross-contamination here.  Use the tongs to remove any body parts (neck, heart, liver, etc.) from the cavity.  In case you can’t tell, I am not squeamish about this.  I don’t particularly enjoy the feeling of nasty chicken juices on my hands (and then there’s the salmonella issue again), thus the tongs, but I am not bothered by this step in the process.  It’s good for people to know that chicken doesn’t just show up in yellow styrofoam containers with plastic wrapped around them, minus bones and skin.  We’re gettin’ back to our roots here, people!  Finally, use a paper towel to dry the skin of the chicken.  This will help to make Ms. Chicken’s skin more crispy and delicious.  I keep a plastic bag nearby for putting all of the chicken parts, the wrapper, and any paper towels that I use in the process.  That way, all of the evidence can be placed in the outside trash can and I can keep my expensive Force Flex trash bag a little bit longer.  Oh, and let me address the cross-contamination issue.  I use about a million paper towels in this process because I don’t touch anything directly with chicken juice on my hands.  I wash my hands constantly, and I disinfect all of my surfaces by spraying them with white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide and letting it dry.  And, of course, wash all of the utensils, cutting boards, and anything else that has touched the raw chicken!

Now, pour a little bit of olive oil into a bowl.  Brush olive oil all over the skin of the chicken, then sprinkle the whole thing with salt and pepper.   I don’t truss (tie with twine) my chicken.  Again, probably losing some street cred there, but I have never, not once, trussed a chicken, and my roasted chicken is better than any I have ever had in a restaurant.  I am all about eliminating unnecessary steps.  I also rarely put anything (onions, herbs, lemons, etc.) in the cavity.  I don’t feel like it affects the flavor at all and therefore it’s kind of a waste of ingredients.

Now, I am a kitchen gadget nerd and if Alton Brown says I need something, I listen.  He said I needed this probe thermometer, and he was right.  It’s great!  I can put the probe into the chicken (dark meat cooks more slowly so you insert the probe into the thigh), set the desired temperature on the display, and turn the alert “on”.  When the meat reaches the desired temp, an alarm will sound.  If you don’t have a probe thermometer, you’ll have to use a regular meat thermometer.  If you have one that is ovensafe, even better, because you can leave it in to keep the juices from escaping from your chicken.  So anyway….I put the thermometer probe into my chicken’s thigh and placed the chicken breast-up in the baker.  I turned the oven temp down to 375 degrees, put the chicken in the oven, and set the temperature on my thermometer.

*This is where it gets tricky.  Because the stoneware holds the heat in so well, at first the temperature was rising very rapidly.   I started with my desired temp at 170 degrees, and when I took the chicken out of the baker to put in the potatoes (more on that in a minute), the temperature dropped by almost 10 degrees.  This is when I got concerned that I was not getting an accurate reading, so I raised my desired temperature to 180 degrees.  I seem to recall that this happened last time and I did not adjust the temp, so we had a little pink meat near the bones and I was not happy.  So, if you are using stoneware, look for 175-180.  If not, 170 is fine.*

When the chicken starts to get near 100 degrees, prep the potatoes (dontcha know you can’t have a roasted chicken without roasted potatoes?  It’s a law.  Look it up.).  I used these tiny little honey golds that I got on a buy one get one free special last week, but use whatever you have.  Red, white, or gold potatoes work best, but I have used Russets and they’re fine.  Wash and dry the potatoes and sliced them into bite-sized pieces.  Put them in a bowl and drizzle with just a tiny amount of olive oil (you won’t need much, and you’ll see why in a minute) then sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss.

When the chicken reaches 100 degrees, take it out of the oven and out of the roasting vessel.  Put the potatoes in and stir them around a little bit to soak up the schmaltz (that’s chicken fat).  Don’t leave me now!  There’s nothing scary about schmaltz.  It tastes GOOOOOODDDDDD.  Put the chicken back in the baker, breast-side down now.  I actually didn’t do this immediately but ended up turning it over a few minutes later to brown the back.  Put it all back in the oven, and once the back is browned, turn it over again.  As the chicken is cooking, take it out a couple of times so you can stir the potatoes.

As my chicken cooked, the rapid rise of the temperature slowed down quite a bit.  The last time I took it out of the oven to stir the potatoes, the temperature only dropped a couple of degrees, so I was a little less worried and took the chicken out when it reached 175 degrees.  Put the chicken on your largest cutting board (this one is by Pampered Chef and has a groove around the edge to catch juices) and let it rest for about 15 minutes while the potatoes finish browning in the oven.  I forgot to take a picture of my beautiful roasted chicken on the cutting board before I started cutting it!

All right, now that your chicken has rested, it’s time to separate the men from the boys.  We’re going to carve this baby up.  Let me warn you, you’re going to have to saw through some bones and pop out some joints.  This is not a game!  Grab a sharp knife.  I used my Shun slicer, but before my wonderful husband surprised me with it, I used my chef’s knife.  Grab a wing and pull it away from the body.  Slice a little bit of the breast off with the wing, making a round cut.  If you can find the joint, you can twist it a little to pop it out and pull it away easily.  No such luck for me…I used my kitchen shears to cut through the bone.  Repeat on the other side.

Now, slice through the skin by the leg to make it easier to work with.  Pull the leg out and slice next to the body.  Again, try to find the joint and pop it.  It worked for me this time and I was able to easily separate the thigh from the body.  Place the whole leg on the cutting board and find the where the drumstick meets the thigh, then slice through.  I used my shears to do this.  Finally, slice the breast lengthwise into several pieces.

*Don’t throw these bones away!  Once the chicken has cooled, you can pull the rest of the meat off, then use the bones-including the ones from all the diners’ plates-to make chicken stock.  I usually have several chicken skeletons in my freezer for said purpose.  Also, I don’t always slice off the meat off the bones.  This was just from demonstration purposes!  Usually I just cut off the legs for us to eat for dinner, then once the meat has cooled we pull it off the bones and shred it to use in other meals.  It freezes great!*

And there you have it!  Perfect roasted chicken, and perfect roasted (schmaltzy!) potatoes (oh, and simple yellow squash sauteed in olive oil with onions and basil).  There are few meals on earth better than this.  It’s 100% Stella-approved (she came in begging as soon as she smelled it out of the oven-we can’t deny her a taste)!


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