As sort of a “brother” post to my Fried Chicken article from a couple of years ago, I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to make (in my opinion, at least) the perfect roast chicken. And after so many methods and experiments, I think I found it this evening (all while doing a “pilot” live cooking demo on my new account on musical.ly-an app where folks can make mini music videos and also post live videos).
Here’s how you do it:
1. Spatchcock it – There is no better way to prepare a whole chicken that will yield evenly-cooked and easy-to-carve results as spatchcocking it. This method, also known as “butterflying” involves removing the chicken’s backbone with kitchen shears (I mean, you could use a knife but the shears make the task far more effortless) and then removing the breastbone so that the whole bird lay a flat. By the way: don’t discard that backbone and breastbone quite yet! You’ll use them along with the contents of the giblet bag that was stuffed inside the cavity to make the stock for your gravy.
2. Use an herbed or seasoned butter – The best way to infuse the chicken with flavor that really permeates the meat is to create an herbed or seasoned butter. What you do is let a stick of unsalted butter sit at room temperature until it softens and then add your flavorings, along with some salt and pepper. I personally like to use a combination of finely-minced thyme and rosemary along with the zest of a lemon and a couple of grated garlic cloves. Then you simply stuff most, but not all, of the flavored butter underneath the skin and “massage” it for even distribution. Then smear the remainder of the butter over the outside of the bird. The great thing about the use of butter is that it does double duty by not only flavoring the chicken, but it pretty much self-bastes it as it cooks, which also lends the bird to a nicely-browned skin.
3. Cook the bird on a rack – This is another important measure to take to ensure even and relatively quick cooking. By roasting the chicken on a wire rack set inside of a baking sheet, the hot air in the oven can circulate around both the top and bottom of the bird. This is further enhanced if you have an oven with a convection setting. You can usually pick up racks and baking sheets from a cookware retailer like Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table.
Heres the recipe for the above-pictured chicken:
- 4-pound whole chicken, spatchcocked, reserving backbone and giblets for the stock for gravy
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 1 sprig’s worth of finely-minced rosemary
- 2 sprigs’ worth of finely-minced thyme
- 2 cloves of garlic finely grated with a Microplane
- Zest of 1 lemon, grated with a Microplane. Reserve the lemon and squeeze the juice over the chicken when ready to serve.
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
- Reserved backbone and giblets
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 quart of chicken stock (either homemade or store-bought works)
- 1 sprig of rosemary and 2 sprigs of thyme tied together with kitchen twine
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 onion, sliced
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
After spatchcocking the chicken as described above and preheating your oven to 450 degrees, combine the softened butter, herbs, garlic, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a bowl until everything is well-incorporated. Then, stuff about 3/4 of the butter mixture underneath the skin, remembering to “massage” the bird to spread evenly underneath the skin. Do this for both white and dark meat portions of the chicken. Spread the remaining herbed butter evenly over the outside of the chicken. Sprinkle with additional salt answer pepper, if desired. Put the chicken on a wire rack inside a baking sheet and put in the oven to cook for about an hour.
While the chicken is cooking in the oven, in a covered saucepan, sauté the backbone and giblets in olive oil over medium-high heat until well-browned. Then add chicken stock and herb bouquet bring to a boil, reduce heat to a low medium, cover and simmer for about 40 minutes. In another pan, sauté onion in the butter until they just start to brown, add flour and cook an additional minute before adding the stock. Simmer the gravy for about 10 minutes to thicken it. Transfer to a gravy boat and let cool slightly until the chicken is ready to serve.
Once the chicken is done, let it rest with a sheet of aluminum foil ccovering it for about 10 minutes before carving and serving.