Your Burning Questions

How to Roast the Perfect Chicken

By • February 8, 2014 • 7 Comments

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There are so many great conversations on the Hotline -- it's hard to choose a favorite. But we'll be doing it, once a week, to spread the wealth of our community's knowledge -- and to keep the conversation going.

Today: White meat or dark meat, you just can't lose. Here are your strategies for a perfectly roasted chicken.

Whether you prefer white meat or dark, we can all agree that the best chicken has burnished, crackly skin that gives way to juicy, tender meat in every bite. Just one caveat: The feat of accomplishing such a thing at home turns our simple, reliable bird into something more intimidating. Leave it in the oven long enough to get the perfect drumsticks, and your white meat gets desiccated; cut into the chicken when the breasts are just right, and the dark meat is still gummy. Nobody wants a rare chicken thigh.

Yet there's nothing quite as rewarding and soul-satisfying as a roast chicken, for weeknights and dinner parties alike, and it's scientifically proven (or at least it should be) that nothing will make your house smell as good. With the right process, it's easy enough that you'll never again have to buy soggy-skinned rotisserie chickens from the grocery. QueenSashy put out a call for your best strategies, and you all jumped in to help with your favorite roasting methods: 

Breast Side Up

  • Pegeen reports: "If I baste the chicken fairly often, breast up is usually fine." 
  • QueenSashy roasts a generously salted chicken at 475° F, breast side up, and cautions: "DO NOT open the door."

Breast Side Down

  • Breast side down is the wildcard, but QueenSashy explains that her Greek friend roasts his chicken breast side down at 375° F, "supported by the logic that it makes the breast meat juicier."

Spatchcocking

  • Many of you are fans of spatchcocking -- cutting out the bird's spine and flattening it for faster, more even cooking and guaranteed crispy skin. High heat is especially key here, and bigpan "pops a bit of compound butter under the breast skin" to make it that much better.

The Flip

  • Most of you don't like to commit to roasting one side or the other, preferring instead to flip. Chocolate Be swears by Judy Rodgers' method: "breast up, breast down, breast up for final crisping," and petitbleuChefJune, and healthierkitchen all use a similar process. 
  • Creamtea only flips once, about halfway through, and adds: "Sometimes I turn on the broiler at the very end to further brown the top."

No matter your approach, petitbleu says: "it pays to check the temperature in the legs and breasts, and adjust the position of the bird accordingly," since most supermarket chickens have far bigger breasts -- and, by extension, different cooking times -- than their farm-raised cousins.

What's your favorite way to make a juicy, crisp-skinned roast chicken? Tell us in the comments!

Jump to Comments (7)

Tags: how-to & diy, hotline, best question, chicken, dinner

Comments (7)

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17 days ago Ziad

I have used the following recipe from Fine Cooking for years now and it has delivered the best chicken every time, moist everywhere, and crackly skin. Salt and and pepper that bird all over making sure you get the nooks and crannies and inside the bird as well, lay the bird breast side down an drizzle some olive oil on it (I like to brush the whole bird with olive oil), stick in a 450 deg over for 30 minutes breast side down, then flip it by inserting tongs into the cavity and roast if for another 30 minutes. Easy peasy juicy chicken with crisp skin. Tent it with some foil and for 15 minutes before serving.

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about 1 month ago Robert M Fulton

I use Judy Rodgers way of preparing: dry the bird, stuff herbs under the skin, salt the skin & refrigerate for 24 hrs. Then I cook it on my grill in a 450 degree oven, indirect heat, on a rig that keeps the chicken vertical, so I never need to turn it. Comes out very close to her wood burning oven technique.

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2 months ago Robin

I'm not always going for crispy skin above all else, but when I want that, I separate the skin on the breast from the flesh by inserting pieces of onion that are large enough to hold the skin up without tearing. I pat the breast meat dry just before it goes in. If I brush something on the skin, I include some soy sauce in the mixture because it promotes browning to a good color.

Stringio

7 months ago Carol Wyatt

Oops. I roast back on stovetop first. Forgot that. It's the most important part. follow her recipe to the letter; make sure you use cast iron skillet, heating on back before putting in the high temp oven she recommends

Stringio

7 months ago Carol Wyatt

I use Judy Rodgers recipe, except as she places the chicken in a pan to fit the chicken snuggly, I choose cast iron and place the bird on its back and then roast in oven.

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9 months ago Rkelly3042

Barbara Kafka's recipe is all I need... Sometimes use lime and cilantro or Rosemary with the lemon, but no matter-the simplest way to deliciousness!

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9 months ago Annie

Use a combination of salt and cornstarch for the skin. Rub it in and roast. Delicious!