In culinary school, we had many lessons on chicken, including the various ways to truss one. Doing so, in effect, allows the chicken to retain its moisture while cooking and browning evenly.
One French instructor would show us an elaborate method, wrapping butcher's twine around the entire bird in a swift arrest. (Beloved grand master chef Jacques Pépin does it precisely this way. You can also do it a bit more simply by tying up just the legs at their "ankles," still maintaining the bird's compact shape.
But what if you don't have a spool of twine lying around? Should you go ahead without, roasting with the legs splayed? Yes, of course you should (and I often do, as a non-trussed bird gets me a cooked bird just a touch quicker).
There's a time and a place for a beautiful, round bird. If I'm expecting guests, I will likely go for the more put-together truss. And if I don't have any string handy—or if I'm just feeling too lazy—I will opt for a string-free "trussing." (And by "string-free," that includes alternate supplies like unflavored dental floss, toothpicks, and the like. I'm going for nothing-new-necessary here.)
All you need is a sharp knife tip or a pair of trusty kitchen shears. Here's how to do it:
- Place the bird on a cutting board with the legs toward you.
- Make sure it's nice and dry by patting it down with some paper towels, both on the surface and inside the cavity.
- Tuck the wings under.
- Pull out the excess bit of skin that hangs around the cavity. Carefully cut little slits into the skin, just enough to fit the legs through. Start small, as you can always cut further.
- Tuck each leg into each slit, being careful not to tear the skin. (You can see how it will look in the photo above.)
- Proceed with cooking.
Truly as simple as that!
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