I 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.