Jacques Pepin once commented that if he could pick his last meal, it would be a simple roasted chicken. You don’t have to be a famous French chef to appreciate roasted chicken, it certainly evokes memories of a great Sunday dinner with savory scents enveloping the kitchen. And with every grocery store and warehouse club offering rotisserie cooked whole birds, they are obviously very popular indeed.
The problem with roasting whole chickens at home is that they aren’t always very memorable when it comes time to serve. They are often dry and lacking flavor, and perhaps worst of all the skin is rubbery. Oh, the horror…
So, with all these potential pitfalls I’ll be going once more to my culinary superhero-the brine. Brining is a great way to get a head start on the inevitable moisture loss that occurs whenever you cook any meat. The salinity of the brine is what makes it work by breaking down proteins then hydrating the cells of the muscle tissue.
I have literally cooked hundreds of chickens with this recipe and it doesn’t matter if I cook the chicken in the oven, on the grill (as I did today), or in the smoker-it’s always nice and juicy with the much coveted crispy skin. You can certainly build upon this foundation for a different ethnic twist, say adding oregano, cumin and annato for pollo asado.
Here is what you will need for a ~5 lb. chicken:
1 qt. water
4 T salt
2 T sugar
1 T rice vinegar
4 cloves pressed garlic
1/4 t fresh ground pepper
Combine all ingredients and whisk very well until sugar and salt are dissolved. Put chicken neck side down in a zip bag (I recommend using a gallon freezer bag as a general use bag may leak) and add the brine to the bag. Press out as much air as possible, seal the bag and refrigerate for eight hours.
After eight hours you’ll remove the chicken from the bag and discard the brine. You’ll put the chicken back in the refrigerator for at least an hour so the brine can further distribute into the meat. You’ll prep the chicken by patting it dry with a paper towel and trussing it. You can add spices/rub on the chicken but I would advise a low salt seasoning. It’s now time to start the cooker!
I like 350-375 for cooking whole chickens and it will typically take about an hour and fifteen minutes to get to proper temperature (165-170). Let the chicken rest for ten minutes before serving.
The moist white meat that you’ve always dreamed of, it’s literally pouring out