Famed Chef Jacques Pepin once said, “When you are at home, even if the chicken is a little burnt, what’s the big deal? Relax.” Here’s what I’d like to know: what if the chicken is also a little pale, sawdusty and tastes like sadness? What do you do then? There is only so much wine.
As readers of my previous posts (hey you two!) might recall, roasted chicken and I have a complicated relationship. And by complicated, I mean that I can’t seem to make one to save my life. I’ve over-cooked it, under-cooked it, made it look weird, made it taste weird, you name it. If you search for #roastedchickenfail on Instagram, you’ll probably find a picture of me, running to the grocery store to buy a pre-roasted one to claim as my own. It hasn’t been easy.
With cool weather times on the way, which, let’s face it, might as well be called Season of the Roasted Chicken, I decided to seek expert advice. I called Sur La Table Senior Resident Chef Joel Gamoran, who, when not wowing Hoda and Kathie Lee on television, makes cooking class dreams come true at our West 57th & 8th store in NYC (he also just so happens to be responsible for one of my favorite culinary puns of all time, “crêped out.” But I digress!). Lucky for me, he was happy to share. Here, then, are Chef Joel’s top 10 tips for perfectly roasted chicken. Get those roasting pans ready!
- Buy kosher chicken. It’s pre-salted, which means that a ton of the water is lost and the chicken flavor is concentrated.
- Take the chill out of the bird by taking it out of the fridge and letting it get to room temp. I do this when my oven preheats; usually it takes about 30-45 minutes. This is key for the chicken to be cooked at an even temp throughout.
- Butter! I never use oil; butter burns faster making the skin crispier. I let the butter sit out until I can smear it under the skin and over every nook and cranny. I usually wear gloves for this.
- Tarragon is a magical, aromatic and forgotten herb that will transform your chicken. Sneak whole tarragon sprigs into the cavity or under the skin as it bakes. People eat my roast chicken and always feel like there is a flavor they cannot quite put their finger on. It’s tarragon!
- Trussing will not make or break your chicken. I know everyone says truss your chicken so it cooks more evenly, but my birds are un-trussed and loving it! Plus you don’t get the tan lines that come with trussed chickens. :)
- Every roast chicken I make has either lemon or orange halves stuffed inside the cavity. Its gives a nice hint of citrus aroma, but, more important, the citrus juices tenderize the meat.
- Always, I mean always, elevate your chicken off your roasting pan. Your best option is a roasting rack or leeks lined up to keep the chicken elevated. If you don’t do this, the bottom of the chicken will be soggy and sad.
- I like to brown my chicken in the oven first at 425 for about 15-20 minutes. Then turn the temperature down, with the chicken still in the oven to 350 F degrees for about 45 minutes to an hour. The slow temp makes for a much more tender texture. Always use a thermometer and try to land on 160 degrees internally to let the chicken carry over to 165F.
- Resting is non-negotiable. A roasted chicken will stay warm for 30 minutes out of the oven, and you need to let it rest for 20 of those minutes. Without rest the chicken is almost impossible to carve and you will lose an incredible amount of juice if you try to carve it too soon.
- Don’t tent your chicken with tin foil. It causes steam to be deflected back onto the skin and creates a super soggy mess. A tent-free roasted chicken is the only way to go.
So there you have it. The expert has spoken! The only thing left to do is put these tips to the test and end this roasted chicken losing streak once and for all. I’ll be in NYC next month, Joel. What do you say? Want to get this poultry party started?
Interested in taking a class from Joel Gamoran live and in person? Check out his store’s Cooking Class calendar to see when he’s teaching next. You can also find him on Twitter and Instagram– @joelgamoran. Not in New York? Find a Cooking Class at a Sur La Table near you. We assure you, every one of our Resident Chefs does roasted chicken right!