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Roasting Chicken The (Up)right Way

By October 16, 2011Food

 

There’s only one way to do a chicken:  standing on its head!  

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HRH (my “Horrible Russian Husband”) is not known for his gift-giving prowess.  He’s generous to a fault, but he has absolutely no idea what to give anyone on any occasion: he gets a detailed Excel spreadsheet at Christmas time of gift ideas, all of which can be sourced in Heathrow’s Terminal Five during a 90-minute layover between flights.  “Just print it out,” I tell him, “go to the Jo Malone counter and give it to one of those nice women…they’ll do the rest.”

So I was amused when our friend Joe Kelly and his girlfriend Tanya, on a trip to the US, called HRH to ask what I wanted for my birthday.   “I text you, Joe – okay?” said HRH and asked me what I wanted.  I handed him a slip of paper with website address and catalog number, which he duly texted off.  I was suitably surprised when I unwrapped my new Staub vertical chicken roaster.  Joe cocked a suspicious eyebrow, because, if you didn’t know better, you could be fooled into thinking that a vertical chicken roaster plays a different role in a different room in the house, but stopped his snark when he tucked in to the moist, perfectly roasted bird that the birthday present produced.

A good roasted chicken is hard to beat:  it’s flexible, it’s great cold or just out of the oven, it’s equally satisfying at a midsummer picnic as it is on a wet dreary Tuesday night in November.  It also leaves you with lovely juices and the carcass, which together make the perfect base for chicken stock.  The only problem with roasting a chicken is that, in the past, it’s been messy:  Julia says to flip it every 40 minutes (which has ruined about six sets of pot holders), Jamie says to flip it twice, and my oven doesn’t have a rotisserie thingy in it.  For years I eschewed roasting whole chickens until I discovered the vertical roaster and now there is no turning back!  So, there is no reason not to roast a chicken, and to my way of thinking, there’s no better, nor easier way to do it than the method below.

Vertical chicken roasters are available in Moscow:

A compact metal version retailing at around 400 rubles, is available at Metro Cash & Carry:

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I found a more expensive version at Williams & Oliver which has a deeper well, perfect for roasting vegetables or pouring wine or lemon juice into to infuse the bird with more juice.  With the right oven, this model could work very well for a small (12 lb or 5 kilo) turkey.

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I tested them both and they both worked well.  I found the larger version easier to clean, as well as offering the attractive option of adding vegetables in the trough to roast with the chicken.   You can also invert the chicken onto the center of a Bundt pan or Tube pan, or, indeed, on an empty beer can.  Which brings us to the beer can version, of which this recipe is not an endorsement.  I know a lot of people (particularly those who live south of the Mason-Dixon line) who swear by beer can chicken, but to me that is the same thing as just opening a can of beer and pouring it over your chicken.  Yuck.

If you are looking for a crispier chicken skin, try this tip from America’s Test Kitchen:  score the chicken breast lightly with a small sharp knife, then rub baking powder into the skin of the chicken.  Let sit in the fridge overnight and then proceed with the recipe below.  This allows the chicken skin to separate from the meat and crisp up.  It works.

Roast Chicken with Vertical Chicken Roaster

Ingredients

  • 1 Whole chicken (2-3 kilos or 4-5 pounds)
  • 8 sprigs thyme
  • 2 stalks fresh rosemary
  • 250 ml (1 cup) white wine
  • 75 ml (1/3-cup) good quality olive oil
  • 15 ml (1 Tbl) coarse sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon, halved

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 210°C (410°F or Gas Mark 6). If your oven makes a distinction, use the “roast” function. Adjust the oven rack to the lowest possible rung of the oven.
  2. Wash the chicken thoroughly under cold running water, removing giblets from the cavity.
  3. Pat the chicken dry with paper towel. Place dried chicken on a clean surface with drumsticks facing towards you. Gently insert your index finger between the skin and meat at the top of the breastbone, and carefully ease the skin from the meat down to the other end of the breast. You will encounter a small membrane which increased pressure will break. Repeat on the other breast.
  4. Prick the skin of the top and bottom of the chicken with a small paring knife.
  5. Divide the thyme and rosemary into two bunches and ease them into the space you have created between the breast skin and meat.
  6. Squeeze both halves of the lemon all over the inside and the outside of the chicken. Place both halves into the cavity of the chicken.
  7. Squeeze both halves of the lemon all over the inside and the outside of the chicken. Place both halves into the cavity of the chicken.
  8. If you have trussing pins, secure the wings against the body, or use kitchen twine to secure them down. You don’t have to do this, but during the cooking, the wings will shoot out and make the final product look a little odd.
  9. Rub the olive oil all over the chicken, and then invert the chicken with the lemon halves onto the vertical roaster.
  10. Sprinkle the salt and pepper all over the chicken.
  11. Fold a small amount of aluminum foil over the top of the bird, including the wing tips to avoid scorching.
  12. Pour the wine into the trough of the vertical roaster. If you are using a smaller roaster or a beer can, then place the roaster and chicken into a larger ovenproof casserole or baking dish.
  13. Place the chicken into the oven. Cook for 45-60 minutes (the size of your chicken will determine the length.) Chicken is done when the skin is golden and crispy, the drumsticks move easily in their sockets, and when juice runs dry from the white meat part of the bird.
  14. Remove the chicken from the oven and tent it with more foil, and let stand for 15 minutes.

Note:

Save the juices!  Reduce them with a bit of wine and cream for a lovely sauce, or simply tip them into the trimmings bag and include them in your next batch of stock.

What to do with the remains?

Remove all the meat from the carcass and set aside with the thyme and rosemary to make stock.

Cool the accumulated pan juices to room temperature and pour into a clean container.  The chicken fat will rise to the top of the jar, while the highly concentrated chicken jelly will fall to the bottom as you cool the mixture.  Chicken fat is used certain recipes, but the chicken jelly is a must-have flavor booster for stock and sauces.  Be sure not to tip it down the sink!

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Dear Readers:

Have you tried a vertical chicken roaster?  What were your thoughts?  What is your favorite way of making chicken come out just right?  Hit the comment button below and share your ideas with the community!

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Angela says:

    We had a cheap French cooker for a few years, my husband, The Artist, loved the rotisserie on it and was very upset when I bought a new fancy Falcon cooker that didn’t have one! I think this is going to be his Christmas present! Love a poulet roti, you can buy them in the markets here and they are delicious!

    • jennifer says:

      Hey there! I love the roti as well and my very expensive Gaggenau doesn’t have one either. We get roti here out of dodgy little lorries: very good if you are really really hungry, but since I’ve got my vertical roaster (one in each home if you can imagine!!) I’ve been able to forego them! Thanks so much for coming round today!

  • H says:

    Something to think about in the future — when I once again have an oven that can hold a chicky bird AND a dish of yummy roasted veg. Meanwhile, I am of course roasting my chickens the “wrong” way up — that is, breast down (I’m still talking about the chicken) because it seems our loveable hosts tie their birds the opposite way to us Brits…. Made for some fun kitchen expletives the first time we discovered this!

    • jennifer says:

      Dear H:

      Yes…I’ve spent many an hour trying to prod the chicken into a different shape. Very frustrating indeed. And then trying to go back to the other way in the Outside World.
      Thanks so much for stopping by and visiting!

  • Karen Percy says:

    I sometimes roast the butterflied chickens I find in Auchan. They cook a little quicker and need basting but are pretty good. I like them because they fit very easily in my tiny freezer! I like the idea of putting the herbs in whole under the skin. There is an excellent Jamie Oliver recipe for roast chicken that entails putting a lemony, prosciutto laced butter under the skin. It has a monster amount of butter but boy it is good! It never fails to impress guests. I’ll keep an eye out for an upright holder now that I know they are here.

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