I hope you’ll believe me when I say I am a master of the roast chicken. I don’t make that claim lightly; on the first day of my first year at university, our freshman composition teacher had us each interview a classmate with the question “What are you an expert in?” and introduce our partners to the class. Most people claimed mastery of a certain sport or artistic endeavor: football, skateboarding, sketching, guitar.
Frozen with existential angst and the idea that I’d never be a master of anything because there is so much to perfect and learn, I said I had an expertise in smiling. Yes, smiling. Why not? I do it all the time. I’ve been doing it for years. People tell me I have a great smile, and I usually get a smile back in response.
It was an awkward few minutes. My classmate wouldn’t look at me and recited my answers with disdain wishing, I’m sure, that I’d claimed an expertise at skiing like her because she taught the subject to 10-year-olds the winter previous. This is when I knew I was different from my fellow students.
Nine years later, I have another subject to add to my repertoire: smiling and roasted chicken. I’m set for life.
I am unapologetic in my love for chicken skin. I have a friend who dislikes the stuff — it’s rubbery and chewy and gross according to him, and he happily passes it on to the next person who wants it. But then again my friend has never been over for one of my chicken dinners. I’m bragging. As a Master Chicken Roaster it’s allowed, because this chicken skin is never anything but crispy, salty, fall-off-the-chicken good.
The rest of the chicken is first rate too, juicy and hot and tasting like chicken. In my experience, roasted, unbrined chicken tastes mostly the same. A free range, hormone free chicken will taste more gamy while a conventional factory farmed chicken will be bland. For this recipe, I buy antibiotic and hormone free chicken from Stop and Shop’s Nature’s Promise brand. It poses a nice taste compromise without beating up my budget.
I know a lot of people who stay away from roasted chicken because they are intimidated by it. Don’t worry; It’s a simple recipe that’s difficult to mess up, even if you put the chicken upside down. The bird comes out of the oven tasting great and with what amounts to junk food on the outside. The only danger is in overcooking the chicken, so make sure to watch its progress toward the end of the cooking time.
With a little care you can get chicken skin, roasted chicken, chicken stock, and (depending on how many people you’re feeding) leftovers for chicken salad out of one measly bird. The cleanup process can be annoying, I’ll admit. But even then, with a dextrous fork and knife you can get most of the meat off the bones and leave the rest on for “flavoring the stock.” That’s your excuse. Run with it.
Skin Lover’s Roasted Chicken
- one 4-5 lb. (~2kg) whole chicken for roasting
- metal roasting pan
- salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder
Turn on the oven to 400°F (204°C). Put the chicken in the roasting pan, breast side up. If you can’t tell which side is breast side up, the pointy ends of the wings will be pointing upwards like in the photo above and if you press on the skin on either side of the center, you won’t be able to feel any bones. Those meaty parts are the breasts. Point those babies to the sky.
Remove any innards that are tucked into the body cavity. Some companies will put the innards in a wax paper bag, some will toss them in there without any covering. I take out all the organ meats but the liver and roast them in the pan. The liver (the purpley, blobby, squishy one) goes into the freezer raw for use in chicken liver pate. Feel free to throw the insides away, roast them, or save them for your own nefarious purposes.
Sprinkle the chicken skin evenly with salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. I use kosher salt but I’ve had good results with regular table salt too. You don’t need to rub it in and you don’t any oil or anything, just sprinkle the spices on.
Put the chicken in the oven. Leave it there for about 75-90 minutes. This equals out to a little more than 15 minutes per pound at a higher temperature, which goes against conventional chicken roasting guidelines. I do it this way because I don’t preheat the oven, and also because it makes the chicken skin super crispy while allowing for juicy white meat.
The chicken is done when the skin is a nice caramel brown with blackened tips. If that doesn’t help you, try rotating a chicken leg. It should move easily. If the bone falls out in your hand, it’s definitely done and take the chicken out of the oven right now or risk dry chicken. If you still can’t tell, cut open the breast lengthwise down next to the bone and see if the juices run clear or slightly golden, which are both good signs. Pink juices mean uncooked meat.
Sometimes you’ll see a small red stripe in the chicken breast meat. This is okay! It’s discolored red where it’s touching the bone. If the juices are clear, you’re good to go, and if it really skeeves you out, cut around it. It’s your chicken dinner! Do what makes you full and cozy feeling.
If you’re feeling adventurous and want to double your crispy skin, cut the chicken into parts before roasting: breasts, back, whole legs, wings. Roast for slightly less time and enjoy. Happy eating!
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