Chicken

Why Haven’t We Been Roasting Chicken Like This All Along?

Leave it to chef and cookbook author Tyler Kord to bring us the most glorious chicken and vegetables we've seen in a long time.

October 29, 2019

“When in doubt, roast a chicken. When hurried, roast a chicken. Seeking simple pleasure? Roast a chicken.”

These are the words of legendary cookbook author, Barbara Kafka, from her 1995 volume, Roasting: A Simple Art. And Barbara is one to know—her roast chicken recipe, from that very book, has stood the test of time; it's the foolproof rendition we turn to again and again.

That's because it's very, very good: its crackly-crispy, golden-hued skin; unthinkably moist meat; silky potatoes peeking up from under the bird, having absorbed the blessings of its schmaltz rain shower. And all this is thanks to a very curious trick: roasting the chicken in a ripping-hot, 500° oven, for a mere 50 minutes, allowing it to develop so much caramelized flavor with nothing more than salt and pepper as its seasoning.

But while we turn to it often, Kafka's is not the only trick-chicken we know and love. There's Shaheen Peerbhai and Jennie Leavitt's Cold-Oven Chicken, a gently cooked, herb-perfumed bird that starts in a ... wait for it ... stone-cold oven. There's this 30-minute bird by my clever colleague, Emma Laperruque, which makes good use of a sharp pair of poultry shears and a preheated sheet pan.

There's a super-moist buttermilk-brined version from recipe-developing star, EmilyC; an ultra-flavorful basted number from Renee Erickson; and a chicken with summer's favorite drink placed directly in its cavity from Grant Melton, steaming it from the inside and infusing it with a sweet–savory, multidimensional flavor.

Just for a minute, though, we want you to leave aside the chicken trickery we've told you about before, and make way for two chicken tricks so basic, so impactful, we wonder why we haven't been doing them all along. They come courtesy of Tyler Kord, chef and author of our new cookbook, Dynamite Chicken: 60 Never-Boring Recipes for Your Favorite Bird.

Both of Tyler's tricks, incidentally, have just as much to do with the chicken as they do with the bed of vegetables that lives underneath the bird as it roasts. The chicken and vegetables are cooked for 65 minutes, all told, making this a Thursday night weeknight dinner—one during which you'll be glad to stir up a martini to sip on as you cook, knowing Friday will come soon enough. (Just watch Tyler and Sam in the video above, where they do exactly that.)

First trick: Tyler wanted to make this dish just as much about the vegetables as he does the chicken, which is why he doesn't whole-roast it; instead, he quarters the chicken into leg pieces and half-breast pieces of about equal sizes. This has two advantages in our world of roast chicken. The major advantage of this is that juicy chicken fat dissipates all over the roasting pan, making its way into the vegetables throughout, rather than concentrating in one area.

"I'm not trying to roast a whole chicken sitting on top of a pile of vegetables," Tyler says, "because that just seems rude, like the chicken's got an attitude. This way, we can spread it all out a little."

This arrangement, too, makes it so the chicken and vegetables don't need much more seasoning than olive oil and salt (and to be sure, that's all they'll get here). Instead, we'll lean on all the schmaltz from the chicken and unadulterated freshness from the vegetables to lend flavor to one another—and who could say no to snappy, schmaltzy veg? Certainly not us.

The second advantage of this quartered situation is a big one: It ensures the four pieces of chicken and the plethora of vegetables underneath are perfectly cooked at the same time, without letting anything burn or get freezing-cold in the process. A whole-roast won't get you that (yep, even when you truss!), since the breasts and thighs have fundamentally different cook times and the breasts will be way overdone by the time the thighs are totally cooked through (aka, when they've reached 165°F at their thickest point and are not-at-all-pink on the inside). Because the chicken and vegetables are sharing the pan (and the heat from the oven), the risk of overcooking the breasts as the thighs and vegetables cook through is greatly minimized.

But if you want to further minimize this overcooking risk, Tyler says you can feel free to take the chicken breasts out midway, at about 30 minutes in. Per Tyler, this is a totally optional move, but is an extra insurance policy to ensure evenly cooked meat. And you won't have to worry about the chicken breasts going cold: At the end of the roast, he has you re-adding the breasts to the pan, turning on the oven's broiling element, and letting it rip for a few minutes to brown and crisp up the chicken skin and vegetables all together.

But, speaking of vegetables, we left something out—and in comes Tyler's second chicken trick: As you roast the chicken quarters with vegetables underneath, cut the veg into fairly even 1-inch cubes and gradually add them to the pan as the chicken roasts, based upon their cook times (veg that needs more time goes in first). By staggering their cooking time underneath the chicken, you end up with shipshape, flawlessly cooked, never soggy or rubbery or mushy vegetables.

In the iteration of this dish shown in the video and recipe above, Tyler uses potatoes, red cabbage, and sweet English peas to round out the chicken. He adds the quartered bird to the pan right away, pretty much immediately introducing the long-cooking potatoes. 30 minutes later, chunks of red cabbage go in and do their thing, and 30 minutes after that, a sprinkling of peas. The broiler goes on for the last 5 minutes, crisping and charring everything to golden-brown amazingness.

And while potatoes, cabbage, and peas are delightful here, feel free to go wild with whatever vegetables you like, or the ones that show up in your CSA—just follow the handy roasting chart below to know when to stick them in the pan as the chicken barrels along.

When you do, we'll be right over, martini supplies in hand.

What's your favorite way to roast chicken? Let us know in the comments.
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The Dynamite Chicken cookbook is here! Get ready for 60 brand-new ways to love your favorite bird. Inside this clever collection by Food52 and chef Tyler Kord, you'll find everything from lightning-quick weeknight dinners to the coziest of comfort foods.

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Brinda is the Books & Special Projects Editor at Food52, where she edits all of Food52's cookbooks and covers the latest and greatest books on the site (drop her a line with recs!). She likes chewy Neapolitan pizza, stinky cheese of all sorts, and tahini-flavored anything. Brinda lives in Brooklyn with 18 plants. Find her at @brindayesterday on Twitter and Instagram.

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