The Best Way to Roast A Chicken

This is it! The Roast Chicken Project is DONE. Whew. What a fun 12 months!

I think originally I thought I would explore any and all methods that exist out there for roasting a chicken. I’d spatchcock. I’d roast on cans of beer. I’d even grill! I’d cook at low heat. I’d cook at high heat. I’d baste. I’d brine. I’d dry brine. I’d do any and every recommended technique.  And I certainly tried my fair share of methods, and pulled in some outside help to get it done. But you know, 12 chickens really doesn’t allow for well, more than 12 methods, and once you factor in my desire to get experimental and then falling head over heels for the second method I tried, it think I wound up really trying more like 8 different methods, 9 if you stretch the definition of “different.” Oops. But that’s still a lot! I don’t feel like I failed in my mission by any means. 

Early on found a method i liked, courtesy of Judy Rodgers, and most of these 12 chickens fall under that formula, with only small variations, because other chefs and cooks have discovered the genius of it as well. Just over the last 12 months I’ve given you examples with Zuni Chicken, Moroccan(ish) Roast Chicken, Feta Brined Chicken and Lacquered Roast Chicken. The salt source may have varied, and the roasting temperature, but the core method is the same. I’d even argue that the quick cast iron method is a variation on this process too, just taken to the extreme.

So. (Deep Breath)

(I really didn’t plan to have an answer for this, I really thought the answer was “what works best for you.”Buuuuuuut I have strong opinions now after a whole year of making chicken, so here’s what I’m calling the “Roast Chicken Project Approved Method.”)

What's the best way to prep a chicken?

Season your chicken with a good amount of salt, or a good amount of something salty (feta cheese, preserved lemons, soy sauce). Really, it’s all about the salt content, no matter how you deliver it. A well salted bird is a tasty bird. Then, let it chill, literally. Throw that chicken back in the refrigerator, uncovered, for at least 12 hours. Go about your life and let the salt and cold air work their magic. 

What’s the best way to roast a chicken? 

When you are ready to roast, crank your oven to a minimum of 400 degrees, then plop the chicken in the heat and let it be for about an hour. That’s it. Don’t baste it, don’t flip it, don’t touch it. Take it out, let it rest for 20 minutes, then carve and serve. Eat and be happy, you are a domestic goddess (or god).

Superlatives!

Best roast chicken for a weeknight:

 Easy Cast Iron Roast Chicken

Don’t want to plan ahead? Have minimal time to get dinner on the table? Bittman’s cast iron shortcut is your best choice! Don’t have a cast iron pan? Do the high heat roasting method sans the overnight stay in the refrigerator. The skin won’t be quite as spectacular but your chicken will still be tasty.

Best roast chicken for a weekend project:

 Zuni Cafe Roast chicken

Zuni Roast Chicken! This is quite a production when you add in the bread salad and it does take some pre-planning, but the end result is a spectacular meal worth of a Sunday spent in the kitchen.

Best roast chicken for summertime:

 Grilled Roast Chicken

Go outside and grill it! The grilled roast chicken was the most fun discovery of this whole project! When it’s 90 degrees outside you want all cooking done as far away from inside your house as possible, right? This chicken has your answer.

Best roast chicken for a complete dinner:

 Beer Can Oven Roasted Chicken

Beer can roast chicken. Sure, the Zuni chicken is technically a complete meal, but the roast veggies at the bottom of the pan in this one make a hearty side as well, and for way less effort.

My favorite roast chickens:

Anything using the dry salt brine and overnight refrigeration with high heat and a relatively quick roasting time. It’s really going to be my go-to method from this point on, it’s so foolproof. I even burned the skin on my last try and still ended up with perfectly done meat, so I’m officially vouching for it. It stands up to finicky ovens and the most basic of seasonings and you can’t go wrong. My second favorite method would be a tie between the two alternative brining sources I used, feta cheese and preserved lemons. In terms of flavor, those two methods really brought something special to the table. And then also chicken in milk is always spectacular. 

That's officially a wrap on the Roast Chicken Project! If you've been along for the duration, thank you for tuning in! Hopefully you've had some fun chicken adventures too! Special thanks to Claire for pinch hitting twice for me, and especially for being brave enough to make what was essentially one giant buffalo wing

As I mentioned on Monday, this is it for a few weeks! I'm taking a much deserved and needed hiatus for about 6 weeks, so see you again in March! When I get back, I have fun plans for 2017, including another project! Hint: this one involves a lot more sugar.

In the meantime, enjoy your Super Bowl feasts and Valentines Day baking and Pi Day pies and green St. Patty's Day creations!