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A roasted chicken recipe to keep on file

IMG_5305I don’t want to brag on my vast experiences, but I really used to think I had tried every chicken roasting position out there: The Inverted V-Rack, the Beer Can Prop-up and my favorite — the Spatchcock. The latter involves removing the bird’s backbone and keel (breast) bone, then laying it spread eagle on the roasting pan. It gets crispy.

That’s the point with all of these: you want crispy skin, cooked-through legs and still moist breast.  You can just shove it in the oven like your grandmother did, but it seems like you’ve got to either sacrifice crisp skin or juicy white meat, or you’ve got to deal with a little pinkness of thigh.

Now I find out, thanks to Melissa Clark’s story in the New York Times, there exists another path to roast chicken bliss. A chicken position I had never imagined. This bird gets splayed.

Here’s what you do: Cut through the skin between the legs and the breast and push the legs down until the joint pops a bit and they splay out like an avian yoga pose. Clark heats a cast-iron skillet in a 500-degree oven, then places the chicken in the hot skillet. She cooks the chicken in that hot oven uncovered for about 30-50 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken.

I was working fast and sloppy. As my oven preheated to 500 degrees with the convection fan running, I prepped a small, natural chicken by smearing it with a bit of bacon fat,  seasoning the skin with salt and lots of pepper and stuffing the cavity with crushed garlic, rosemary and cut lemon.

In about 35-40 minutes it was ready and absolutely terrific. The dark meat was really crispy and rendered of its fat, almost like duck confit legs. The breast skin came out nicely crisp and the white meat was seriously juicy.

I tried it again with a cruddy, brine-injected chicken that was all I could find at a small branch of a chain supermarket. The results were okay, not great. A weird texture and almost too much bland juice in the breast. This kind of chicken is more engineered to withstand traditional roasting methods.

Still, I think I’m going to be splaying chicken for a while.

19 comments Add your comment

Baltisraul

May 22nd, 2012
2:15 pm

John, I think I am going to love this method. Do you believe it would work on a turkey? Just today I purchased a 13 lbs fresh Butterball. Your thoughts?

the fish

May 22nd, 2012
2:25 pm

Made this a couple of weeks ago using an organic chicken from Whole Foods. I bought a big handful of fresh ramps as well (despite the insane price tag). My family went nuts! They couldn’t believe how delicious it was. At the end of the meal the chicken looked like it came out of a movie…one of the ones where they drop an animal into a pool of piranha and the bones come out a pristine shinny white without a speck of meat left. This recipe is a keeper.

jd

May 22nd, 2012
2:47 pm

I wonder if this method would translate to the grill?

Baltisraul

May 22nd, 2012
3:01 pm

jd……if you have a ceramic grill, you can get the heat up to 500 degrees easy.

John Kessler

May 22nd, 2012
4:23 pm

Not so sure about the turkey. The high-heat method might leave the breast raw in the center. Also, the turkey may be brine-injected, which doesn’t work well here. I might start it high, then turn it down to 375 to finish cooking and see what happens. Also, I’d wrap the wings in foil…

Baltisraul

May 22nd, 2012
4:59 pm

Thanks John, I will give it a try.

Maria S.

May 22nd, 2012
5:04 pm

This is a great recipe, one my husband’s been using since the article appeared online. Fantastic chicken, and so far everyone that’s tried it has loved it. Thanks for sharing the recipe with more Atlanta cooks, John!

Maria S.

May 22nd, 2012
5:06 pm

jd – my husband has done this in the oven and on the grill, with great results each time. Enjoy!

Kar

May 22nd, 2012
9:31 pm

Ramps, if you can find them, are kind of pricey.

I wonder how quartered onions in the skillet would work? Then add fresh garlic chives/nida at the end just to wilt.

JIMBOB

May 23rd, 2012
10:01 am

On a weber kettle, if you cook indirect (coals piled on the sides, drip pan in the middle) and use decent sized piles of lit coal, it should definitely be at least in the 475-500+ range (My weber smoker, with a drip pan in place tops out around 340, so this is an educated guess that the kettle can easily go 150 degrees higher).

AJ

May 23rd, 2012
10:34 am

Can you put up some pictures showing how to make these cuts??

Grasshopper

May 23rd, 2012
10:55 am

The bird looks great.

Did this make your oven a greasy mess John?

Amee Bell

May 23rd, 2012
11:48 am

Lucy, seems you have some splayin’ to do.

John Kessler

May 23rd, 2012
1:23 pm

Haha. And yes to Grasshopper…my oven is an even bigger greasy mess than it was before. So worth it…

Krystle Meyer

May 23rd, 2012
2:12 pm

Try leaving chicken uncovered in the fridge for 24 hours. That is the key to cripsy skin.

Baltisraul

May 23rd, 2012
8:48 pm

Krystal….great tip!!!!!!!!!!!!

Krystle Meyer

May 24th, 2012
10:25 am

Thanks Baltisraul

I should mention that you should put it on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet, as there might be some drippage. The skin may turn opaque-ish and look a little different, but don’t “chicken” out. (Sorry.)

I then spatchcock (I dont cut the keel bone though) and go skin side up direct-raised on charcoal grill (Big Green Egg) at around 400-450.

Will have to try the “splayed” technique.

Woods

May 24th, 2012
4:34 pm

I have made this recipe at least three times since the Melissa Clark video was posted on the NYTimes website. It is easy to do and I have found that it works great on the grill. I use a Weber propane grill with the burners as Medium/High Off Medium/High to maintain a temperature of around 475 degrees.

I have had good results with the cheap supermarket chicken after brining it for 2 hours in a gallon of water with 1/4 cup of both salt and sugar. Rinse the bird well in water and then soak it for another hour in milk. It has to be dried off very well before it is spiced and put into the hot skillet.

I also like to make roasted mirepoix by cutting up a large onion 4 carrots and 4 stalks of celery and place them in a cake pan on the grill about 20 minutes before the bird is done. When you first place
the pan on the grill, pour the released fat from the cast iron pan over the mixture and coat the vegetables. Place in the food processor when finished and you have a great side dish for the roasted chicken.

This recipe is a keeper.

Baltisraul

May 29th, 2012
1:32 pm

John & Krystal…….Made a 14 lbs turkey on Memorial Day. I used the Spanek Vertical Roaster as it was raining all day. John, did as you suggested, 450 degrees for the first 30 min then down to 350 degrees for the next 2 hours. Turned out so juicy.Put Hellmann’s under the skin and a rub mixed w/, bacon fat over the skin. Extra crispy skin. Also cover the breast w/ tin foil after the 1st 45 min. of roasting. A big turkey in 2 1/2 hrs is most satisfying.