The Secret to Restaurant-Quality Roast Chicken

The Secret to Restaurant-Quality Roast Chicken

You can't really go wrong with roasted chicken. It's one of my favorite things to make when I'm hosting just a few guests, and am not feeling particularly inspired. You know those days, right? When all you want to do is curl up on the couch with a good book or movie, and not think? Me too.

For the longest time, I would never order chicken at restaurants; It felt boring. Then I tried the roasted chicken at the NoMad, and well, that changed things. I went on a spree. I ordered roasted chicken at every restaurant that had it on the menu for a good long while. I became obsessed. Why did it taste so much better out? Was it just because of the age old "restaurants drown everything in butter" ideology? Nope. Was it because chefs buy chickens that are better quality than us home cooks? Nope. Can you guess what the secret is? 

It's time. Time and planning are what make for an incredible roasted chicken. Knowing that you'll be roasting a chicken just a few hours in advance can make a world of difference, if you care about moist meat and a shattering, salty skin. Quick confession: the skin is my favorite part. I could eat a PILE of roast chicken skins. Another confession, I have sailed many a sourdough soldier straight into the pan juices, letting each crevice of the bread get soggy, before devouring. No. Shame. 

In a world free of obligations, of full-time careers, of children to care for, you might do as Daniel Boulud does. Wet brine the chicken, truss it, and then dry it out in the fridge, using the better portion of two days. However, that takes the whole thing two steps too far for me. I say to heck with it all. Simply dry brining the bird is more than enough.

A dry brine means that you cover the bird with salt (and maybe spices), then let it rest in the fridge, and then roast it. You can dry brine the night before, the morning of your dinner party, or in a pinch, even just a few hours before. If you dry brine just 4 hours in advance of cooking, you will still notice a difference. Of course, 24 hours is ideal, but whose got the organization for that? I usually don't know my plans for dinner until 2 minutes before I heat up leftovers. But 4-8 hours? Come on. You can do this.  

Next time you're thinking about roasting a bird, try my recipe. Dry brine for anywhere from 4-24 hours; the longer the better. Don't cover the bird at all, or use loose plastic wrap if you're very concerned about germs. Check out more details below, and feel free to ask any questions or share thoughts in the comments below! 

Restaurant Quality Roast Chicken
adapted slightly from this recipe

1 small chicken, ~3 lbs
kosher salt + fresh ground pepper
olive oil or butter
fresh chopped herbs or poultry seasoning

*P.S: If you are using a kosher chicken, it is already brined, so I do not recommend dry brining again. I would recommend you skip to the post-brine cooking instructions as I use a fast, high-heat method. 

Cook your chicken in a pan that's not much bigger than the chicken itself. I adore this Le Creuset that fits my small chickens perfectly, and allows for a great sear. 

1. Salt your chicken liberally on both sides, paying more attention to the thicker portions like the breast, which require more salt than the legs or wings. Place it uncovered in the fridge (or loosely covered) for anywhere from 4-24 hours. As I said, the longer the better. You can add any spices you like.
2. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.
3. After you're done brining, dry the chicken completely with paper towels. No need to wash salt off. Tuck the wings back. Rub the body with pepper, herbs or spices, and a glug of olive oil. I also add a tiny sprinkle of flakey salt because I'm a saltaholic. 
3. Rinse all of the juices out of pan you're using and make sure it's dry. It's critical that you physically remove the chicken and dry the bottom of the pan.
4. Add 1 tbs of either butter or olive oil to the pan and place it into the oven for about 7 minutes to preheat. Remove from the oven once it's hot.
5. Place the bird with it's boobies down onto the hot pan. You should hear a sizzle. Put it in the oven for 30 minutes. Don't open the door! Opening the oven door causes heat to escape and will result in a soggier bird.
6. After 30 minutes turn the bird over. Cook for another 22-30 minutes. 
7. The bird should be a golden brown color and the juices should run clear if you prick it with a fork or knife. The total cooking time is ~53 minutes for a 3lb bird. If your chicken is bigger or smaller, adjust the cooking time by about 8 minutes in either direction. 
8. Last step guys, I promise. You need to let your bird REST. Give the girl a break. Let her redistribute all of the delicious juices inside. Put the chicken on a serving plate, and walk away! Pour yourself a glass of wine. Eat some cheese. I mean it. 10 minutes. 
9. Dig in! I like to serve this with some form of carb (potatoes usually) and a fresh green salad. If I'm feeling particularly ambitious, I'll blitz together a gremolata

I hope you try out this method for roasting chicken. Let me know if you do in the comments, and don't be shy! Share any questions or feedback below :)

photos cannot be shared, downloaded or repurposed for any reason without written credit to Jane Poretsky + Be Like Family

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