The Perfect Roast Chicken – Salty, Crispy, Simple

Winner! Winner! Chicken Dinner!


The Perfect Roast Chicken (from Thomas Keller)

  • Whole chicken, 2-3 lbs is pretty good size
  • Kosher Salt (no iodine aftertaste here), plenty
  • Cracked pepper if you like
  • Other herbs, if you like, such as rosemary, thyme, sage

If possible, start this the day before or morning of the chicken dinner. The goal is to dry out the bird as much as possible. The less it steams when cooking the better. Rinse the bird out, remove giblets or other surprises hiding in the cavity, pat dry with paper towels and then sit it upright to dry, in the fridge, so it can keep draining. I put mine on a rack on a paper towel covered plate (so that I don’t spill the juices when moving and sloshing). Yes, it is a little creepy, human looking sitting there. But don’t dwell. The first photo is right after rinsing and patting dry. The next photo of the bird “lounging” in the fridge between the beer and kombucha, is the next day and you can see that it is much drier. I keep thinking that a Bundt pan might be helpful or one of those upright bird roasting apparatus, but so far, I can get them to sit just fine.

When ready to cook preheat the oven to 450°F. Set up your roasting pan or a 13 x 9 inch pan with a couple inches of rim. Salt and pepper the cavity, then truss the bird. AKA tie up the legs and tuck in the wings. You can see one of my wings slipped out….

Make it rain salt! The goal is to add more salt than you think is right, do not be shy, somewhere between 1-2 TBSP. This is what will create the crisp, salty, flavorful skin (about 1 tablespoon). When it’s cooked, you should still be able to make out the salt baked onto the crisp skin. Season with pepper and dry herbs if you like.

Place the chicken in its pan and into the hot oven. Now, leave it alone—don’t baste it, don’t add butter. I mean, of course you can add it if you like, but butter makes “steam” and that defeats the whole purpose of this recipe. Roast it until it’s done, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove it from the oven and let it rest for a bit.

The results should be tasty and juicy. You can still add sauce once it is done but don’t put it on the skin part – it will lose the crisp. Devour!

Yes, I agree, this approach seems to go against many wonderful recipes, that others execute well. But if you are like me, I have done the stuffing butter under the skin, beer, lemons in the cavities etc but it always came out dry and ho-hum. Maybe I over cooked? Either way, I haven’t messed up this method. It is so simple. The hardest part is trussing and I have been known to just skewer the legs and wings in place with toothpicks. The whole steam thing seems like the key.

What is your go to chicken recipe?

Side note:

I love chicken to eat and as pets – and I am neither ashamed nor conflicted by this seeming contradiction. I do not eat my chickens and I do not feed my chickens chicken.  I did have to spell out P-E-T for my MIL, so that she would put away her salt shaker and stop massaging the birds like spoiled Wagyu cows. (ok, she wasn’t massaging but did wonder about eating).

Will I ever raise chickens for meat? Maybe, but I really don’t have room on my urban lot to raise enough to make it worthwhile. Right now, it is better to just buy a quality bird. I’ll give you a few pointers, but don’t worry, I will NOT get all high and mighty on you. Buying organic and the like can be more expensive and if it makes the difference between going out to KFC or roasting one at home, then don’t let the adjectives get in the way. A regular chicken at the store is so much better for you, your family, your wallet and probably, frankly, the bird too, than fast food. You also could think about how far the fancy chicken has to be transported, all of the sudden that organic, certified happy bird from Pennsylvania just burned a hole in the ozone….

  • “Free-range” simply means access ,not that they actually went outside for sunning, hiking or picnics.
  • Some labels say “Pastured” but there is no legal definition for this term so you might need to check out the farm for yourself (hysterical Portlandia episode on this, but actually you can learn about places on their websites)
  • Naturally enhanced is another fuzzy term but could mean injected with salt water (plumpers!!!) that make your chickens weigh more (read pay more). Certainly not the end of the world but who wants to pay for salt water.
  • Organic means that all its feed was certified organic and any grazing areas must be free of chemicals too. No antibiotics, which means that most likely the chickens weren’t packed in super tight, as disease spreads too easily, or hormones
  • Do your own taste test with brands at the store and if you can get your hands on one, from a local farm.

4 thoughts on “The Perfect Roast Chicken – Salty, Crispy, Simple

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