Be warned, I’m not a chef, a cook, a foodie, or anything of that kind. But I am a person who has eaten a truckload of chicken in my life (sorry, fowl), so I know what for. In this post I’m going to tell you how to prepare a chicken so that it is not a generic, stringy, miserable source of protein — so that it, in fact, actually tastes good. As good as this picture, by Marjan Lavarevski, looks:
It’s an incredibly easy recipe with just two ingredients, salt and chicken. No quartering, no marinating, no onions or other BS. You’ll get enough meat for two or three meals, and be left with the base for a soup besides. It’s a tiny amount of work for all the food you get out of it.
Perhaps you’ve never experienced it, so know this. A roasted chicken is like a ripe peach: if you’ve ever had a perfect one, it is a thing of sublimity. It doesn’t just “wake your taste buds up,” it gives you a sudden awareness that there is color and good in the world, that life itself is a thing to be craved and savored. That you actually want to continue to live, for moments like this. You feel there is a rowdy f–, I mean roll in the hay, in your immediate future.
But such experiences are — sadly — few and far between. Most chicken out there in the world is simply awful. It is rubbery and/or stringy and/or dry and/or tasteless. Then, in some attempt to save it, the tired flesh becomes a vehicle for flavorings or sauces or breaded coatings. Yeah, barbecue sauce is kind of an art in itself, but the chicken should be good first.
Before you can make it right, you’ve got to kill all the impulses that make chicken recipes wrong. The apparent goal of many chicken recipes is to remove all flavor, moisture, and tenderness from the chicken itself and replace it with something else. Chicken recipes typically cut the meat into small pieces, inevitably drying it out, and separate the meat from the bone, removing a source of flavor and nutrition. Moreover they seem terrified of fat, and remove the skin and/or drain the “drippings” away from the meat, removing another source of flavor and nutrition. They then try to replace what they’ve lost with vegetables, spices, sauces, etc.
For the love of Pete, don’t do this. Keep the chicken together and relish the fat. Like so:
One storebought chicken, whole (5-6 pounds). (Note: if your chicken is notably smaller, you may need to adjust the cooking times below.)
1.5-2.0 tablespoons salt
Preheat oven to 475F. (Yes, 475).
Remove chicken from package and put aside any miscellaneous parts (“giblets,” neck, etc). Rinse.
Rub the inside and outside of the bird thoroughly with the salt. Really work it in there. Some of the salt will fall off into the sink. That’s ok.
Put the chicken, breast up, in the oven in a SMALL baking pan (the one I use is about 6.5″x10.5″x2.0″). The smallish container will prevent the limbs from falling away from the body and drying out. The walls should be high enough to collect the liquid that will be generated (1-2″ high).
Roast the chicken at 475F for 25-30 minutes. At the end of this time, the skin will be crispy and turning brown, and you will just start to smell the fat in the skin burning.
Turn the oven down to 230F. Roast for 1.5-2.0 more hours. It should be safely cooked, but if you have any doubts, double-check with a meat thermometer.
Remove a perfectly done chicken. Enjoy.
Right out of the oven: Try slicing breast meat and dipping it in the liquid in the bottom of the pan before serving. This is what chicken breast is supposed to taste like. It is not supposed to be dry. The liquid in the pan is also really delicious on veggies.
After the first meal: cover tightly and store in the fridge. Draw on this reservoir of meat and broth for salads, sandwiches, etc. Keep the fat and “drippings” in the pan. This can easily last a couple of days and fuel a bunch of meals.
When most of the meat is gone: dump whatever remains in a slow cooker and make broth.
That’s it! à votre santé !