When Mama calls the family to the table for Sunday dinner, chances are good that Roast Chicken is on the menu. You can lose track of all the reasons we love roast chicken; chicken is still inexpensive to buy, it is easy to make, the whole family loves it, you can vary the mix of herbs and vegetables used for flavoring, and leftovers make a fantastic chicken salad. Read on for tips on how to make the best roast chicken for your next dinner.
How Do You Brine?
Season the chicken in advance so the flavors have time to work their way into the meat. This can be done by using either a wet or a dry brine. A dry brine, which is a combination of salt, spices, or aromatics, creates a crispier skin on the bird, and some cooks think it is easier to use than submerging a chicken in a wet brine. Make a dry brine with a simple mixture of salt and pepper, or bump up the flavor by adding garlic, lemon zest, rosemary, or any of your favorite herbs. Rub the brine all over the outside of the bird as well as the inside of the cavity. If using a dry brine, season the chicken from 1 hour to 24 hours ahead and let it rest, uncovered, in the fridge (this dries out the skin, which encourages crispness).
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A wet brine is also a mixture of salt and seasonings with the addition of a liquid, such as apple juice. When you remove the chicken from the wet brine, pat it dry with paper towels, then place it on a rack inside a baking sheet. Let it rest, uncovered in the fridge for at least 2 hours before roasting. Some of our top-rated recipes for chicken using a wet brine include Buttermilk-Hot Sauce Brined Chicken and Sweet Tea-Brined Chicken.
Choose Your Pan
A roasting pan with a rack allows air to circulate over and under the bird, which helps to brown the skin all over. You can place potatoes, onions, and other vegetables under the bird, which will catch the flavorful drippings. If you don’t have a rack with your roasting pan, create one out of carrot sticks and celery ribs, then prop the chicken on top of the “vegetable rack.” You can also put the chicken directly in the pan. Parts of the skin may stick to the bottom, but it will still roast beautifully. A rimmed sheet pan also works, either with a rack or without. A sheet pan has lower sides, which allows more of the chicken skin to crisp. For easy cleanup, you may want to line your rimmed sheet pan with aluminum foil. Our favorite kitchen skillet, the cast-iron skillet, is also an excellent choice when it comes to roasting a chicken.
Watch The Temperature
Depending on your recipe, you may be roasting the chicken low and slow for a soft skin and very tender, fall-of-the-bone flesh, or hot and fast for crispier skin and firmer flesh. Regardless of the method, be sure to use a meat thermometer to ensure doneness. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh and make sure you don’t touch bone. The USDA recommends cooking all chicken, whether a whole bird or pieces, to an internal temperature of 165°.