Chicken

How to Get Crispier Skin on Your Duck (or Chicken) Without Adding Anything

September 19, 2016

I have recently begun roasting chickens (for friends, not for my vegetarian self), and I find myself incredibly struck by it. Having been a vegetarian for my entire cooking life, there's so much I don't know. It's a whole new ball game—a strange new anatomy to learn! Seasonings to explore!

And then there's the matter of the crispy skin.

Everyone—even a vegetarian like myself—knows that shatteringly crispy is the holy grail of roast bird-dom. Even though "crispy skin" is sort of gross to say, the contrast of textures and flavors (caramelized skin, melty-sweet meat) is wonderfully pleasing to eat (or imagine eating).

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So how to go about achieving it? Well, getting the skin very dry (even leaving it uncovered in the fridge overnight) helps. But there's another technique for crispy skin, as demonstrated by Tanya on duck legs over on our app, that you may already have been applying to other meats—but not to poultry.

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Tanya
Tanya
30
Duck legs with super crisp skin: With a needle (I use a safety pin). Prick the skin of the duck legs all over, at an angle to avoid piercing the flesh - this will help the fat render. Place duck legs snugly into an oiled baking dish. Season generously with salt (and any herbs or spices you'd like). Cook low and slow in a 300 degree oven for 90 minutes to 2 hours. Crank the heat up to 375 for the last 15 minutes to brown the skin and serve. Do not forget to save the rendered fat to roast your next batch of vegetables.
4 comments

Prick the skin of the bird all over with a needle. Not full-on acupuncture, Tanya reminds. Just do it enough to score the skin rather than pierce it (she finds doing it at an angle is best).

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Top Comment:
“A dry brine will also get you nice crispy skin. Cover the bird in a generous coat of kosher salt and set it on a rack breast down so it can drain for at least 5 hrs (overnight works too). The salt draws the moisture out of the skin. Rinse well before roasting! Get a juicy, herby, crispy-skinned chicken this way: Boil a large lemon till it is soppy; place it inside the bird with as many fresh herbs as you can stuff in (sage, thyme, oregano, marjoram rosemary); pierce the lemon gently once or twice after it's in place; rub the bird with oil and pepper. Cook breast up at 475 for the first 20 mins, then down to 350 for the rest of the hour. The soggy lemon keeps it moist, the crispy skin is divine. ”
— Cookie
Comment

This might sound strange, but it's more or less what you do when roasting a large cut of meat like a ham: You score the skin, giving the fat an exit and rendering the skin all the crispier. (Of course, the skin on a duck or chicken or turkey is much more delicate than that on a ham; thus, pin pricks rather than crosshatches with a knife are a better route here.)

What tips would you give someone roasting their first bird? Tell us in the comments.

9 Comments

Maggie September 23, 2016
I use the above method and season with kosher salt, pepper and paprika. This combo works well with both duck and chicken. Before putting in the oven, I separate the breast skin from the breast with my fingers and put about six peeled cloves of garlic in each side at the base of the breast.
 
Cookie September 22, 2016
Rinsing does not seem to rehydrate! Just quickly rinse the layer of salt off and pat dry with paper towels before you oil the skin.
 
robimayes September 22, 2016
zuni cafe method is the best i've found.....salt generously with salt....leave uncoverd in frig for 2-3 days........this really drys out the skin......preheat cast-iron pan in 450 oven.......roast breast side up for 30 min....turn breast side down for last 30........this creates a perfectly crispy skin and moist chicken..works best for chickens under 3lbs.....if larger use instant read for temp to check for doneness <br />
 
Andi0808 September 22, 2016
I've done the melted butter with cheesecloth, it comes excellent everytime
 
Tammy H. September 22, 2016
I leave the chicken uncovered overnight AND coat it with a mixture of egg white, baking soda and kosher salt. Works like a charm. Saw that over on Serious Eats. http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2013/10/korean-style-chicken-wings-recipe-from-maximum-flavor-cookbook.html
 
Tanya September 19, 2016
Thanks for sharing Food52! Just wanted to add that I learnt of the technique from Simply Recipes: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/easy_duck_confit/
 
Elizabeth I. September 19, 2016
Very good, I'm just now learning about skin pricking and tenderizing... We've been using our convection oven to crisp the skin of our duck, but I am very interested in rendering and saving the beautiful duck fat. Thanks so much!
 
Cookie September 19, 2016
A dry brine will also get you nice crispy skin. Cover the bird in a generous coat of kosher salt and set it on a rack breast down so it can drain for at least 5 hrs (overnight works too). The salt draws the moisture out of the skin. Rinse well before roasting! Get a juicy, herby, crispy-skinned chicken this way: Boil a large lemon till it is soppy; place it inside the bird with as many fresh herbs as you can stuff in (sage, thyme, oregano, marjoram rosemary); pierce the lemon gently once or twice after it's in place; rub the bird with oil and pepper. Cook breast up at 475 for the first 20 mins, then down to 350 for the rest of the hour. The soggy lemon keeps it moist, the crispy skin is divine.
 
RSVPPDQ36 September 22, 2016
Doesn't rinsing the salt - dry brine - off rehydrate the skin?