Everyone loves roast chicken. Fact. It’s that crackly sound the carving knife makes as it slices through the crispy, golden skin. Complimented perfectly with an interior of juicy, tender meat. The classic combination to tempt even the most picky child during a weekend family get-together. Often, however, a roast chicken is not cooked correctly. The meat is too dry or worse – unsafe – still bloody and pink at the bone. I’ve eaten in restaurants where the skin is soggy and chewy. What a let-down, I should have eaten at home!!
The key secret for crispy skin is in the preparation before cooking which we'll delve into shortly. And for the meat, you'll need to ensure that the legs are cooked to an internal temperature of 170F to break down the collagen into gelatin – giving the meat that rich juiciness. At the same time, roasting the breasts to 145F so that they don’t become overcooked and dry. What to do? Answer: My favourite roasting method of Butterflied Chicken. I will now share with you these five simple steps that will ensure your family is always served mouth-watering meals, time and time again. The Butterflied method is the best, and for me the only, way to roast a chicken.
Meat and rub:
1.4kg free-range organic Janzé “Label Rouge” whole chicken
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
Chicken spine, wishbone (optional) and organs
2 teaspoons roughly chopped parsley
Mirepoix: (1 onion peeled and roughly chopped, 1 medium sized carrot peeled and roughly chopped, 1 celery stalk roughly chopped)
1 bay leaf
1 cup sherry
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon of soy sauce
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Kosher salt and pepper for seasoning
(Recipe adapted from The Food Lab)
1-2 whole garlic cloves
Sweet peppers (red, yellow, green)
Step 1: Buy the best ingredients
You cannot create a truly excellent meal using substandard ingredients. If you want the best, you absolutely must start with the best. That’s why my family chose a chicken from La Boucherie www.laboucherie.com.hk supplier of premium French meat to Hong Kong. We simply love the flavour of their Janzé Whole Chicken and we’re assured of its quality because their meat is sourced from a Free Range farm in Brittany which is certified with La Rouge seal of approval. Check out the exclusive 5% discount code at the end of this blog so you can follow this recipe exactly as I did it.
Step 2: Preparation of skin
Naked: to achieve a crispy skin, let your chicken air-dry uncovered overnight in the fridge. Don’t let it dry for more than a day though, otherwise the skin tends to become chewy and tough.
Finger your bird: insert one or two fingers under the flap of skin at the bottom of the chicken and slowly wiggle your fingers towards the middle, taking great care to part the skin from the meat, without tearing the skin. Then do the same process with your other hand from the neck end of the chicken, until your fingers meet in the centre. The benefits of separating the skin from the meat is that you can provide channels for the rendered fat to trickle out from the meat rather than evaporating through the skin which can cause the skin to moisten and hence make it less crisp.
Step 3: How to butterfly a chicken and why
The greatest benefit to butterflying your chicken is that all of the skin has full and continuous exposure to the heat of your oven. There is no need to turn the chicken because no skin is hidden underneath, as you’d find with an intact chicken. The rendered fat can trickle away downwards through the channels you have gorged with your fingers, so the meat underneath is kept moist and succulent, shielded by the skin. Plus, the fat juice helps to distribute the heat more evenly so there is less chance of drying out parts of the meat.
The secondary benefit is that the removed parts of the chicken can be added to the jus which increases its glorious meaty taste like nothing else.
The final benefit is that the increased exposure to the oven’s heat in this flattened presentation means the chicken roasts quicker. I find this reduces the amount of time I must listen to my hungry children moaning as they sniff the delicious wafts of roasting chicken, fluttering enticingly past their nose.
Place your chicken breasts down and cut from the bottom through the neck with scissors following each side of the spine. The strip should be about an inch or so wide. Don’t throw this away, we’ll be using it later for the jus!! Open up the chicken and pull out any obvious organs (this will look dark, bloody and jelly-like). These organs should also be kept for the jus.
Now, you have two options. You can either, cut carefully around the wishbone, remove it and keep it with the spine for the jus later on. Or, like me, cut a deep line into the wishbone, grab either side of the chicken and firmly crack the wishbone in two. The latter is quicker and less fiddly.
Next, slowly follow the line of the breast plate along each side and raise it up slightly to part it from the meat. This will help you flatten the meat because it offers greater flexibility. Make sure you don’t cut through the meat itself towards the cutting board side.
Turn your chicken over and firmly press down with a flat hand until the breastbone lies flat on your cutting board and the legs are splayed on either side.
Congratulations!! You have now successfully butterflied your chicken.
Step 4: Cooking method
- Preheat oven to 450F / 200C.
- Pat dry your chicken skin with a clean kitchen towel to remove any excess moisture.
- The rub: massage in the salt and pepper on both the skin and the meat side before evenly coating in olive oil.
- Place your chicken on a wire rack with tin foil underneath. I find the chicken cooks best if the breasts are on the centre of the tray and the feet touching the edge. For best results, put the rack on the middle level of your oven.
- Whilst your chicken is in the oven, start making the jus. Heat the olive oil in the pan over a high heat until shimmering. Add the spine, wishbone (if removed) and organs. Stir frequently to avoid it sticking and cook until browned (approx. 2-3 minutes). Add the parsley along with your onion, celery and carrot (mirepoix), stirring frequently until browned (approx. 2-3 minutes). Add the bay leaf, butter, soy sauce and lemon. Pour in the sherry and chicken stock. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer and let the jus evaporate until it reaches half of its original volume.
- Whilst making the jus, check on your roast chicken with increasing frequency using your instant-read cooking thermometer. Your chicken is ready to be removed from the oven once the breasts reach 145F. When testing the thighs, you’re aiming for a minimum of 160F but ideally 170F – without the breasts going over 145F. Insert your thermometer into the deepest part between the body and thigh to attain an accurate reading in both legs. I use my trusted companion - the SuperFast Thermapen. It always settles on the correct reading well within three seconds, meaning that only the chicken gets roasted and not my lingering hand. It’s used by top chefs including Rick Stein and Alton Brown. America’s Test Kitchen also state that it’s “the best instant-read thermometer”. I believe that if you want the best meal, you need the best tools for the job.
Pictured: SuperFast Thermapen 4 (branded Thermoworks Thermapen Mk4 in USA)
- As soon as you remove your chicken from the oven, leave it to rest on a plate, tented loosely with tin foil. I can’t emphasise enough just how important the resting period is. Without it, you’ll cut through the meat only to find that much of the moisture you worked so hard to retain, is immediately lost through the escaping steam. The resting period allows the meat to slowly continue cooking in its own juices whilst it reabsorbs the moisture throughout the entire chicken. Check out my blog on 7 steps to the ultimate steak to learn more about the benefits of resting meat.
- What I sometimes do if I want the skin to stay crispy for longer, is to carefully remove the skin just before tenting and placing it back in the oven for an extra crispy finish. Or if your skin is already super crispy, then it helps to keep it separated so that it’s not moistened under the tent. Ideally, you’ll rest your meat until the internal temperature is 143F or less.
- Finish up your jus and fry your green beans in a little olive oil and browned garlic.
Step 5: Display
Whilst training as a chef at the Cordon Bleu school in London, I was taught that presentation is incredibly important. The chicken looks amazing on the edge of a jenga-style green bean nest which has been fried in olive oil along with browned fragments of garlic. A strip of diced sweet pepper gives a superb flash of colour. I added the skin from a wing to add extra flare on top. The leg bone has been cleaned of meat and ligaments, to offer additional contrast. Moated with a generous quantity of jus, this meal is ready to serve to your honoured guest. And to finish this off, I paired my roast chicken with a delicious red burgundy.
Stop. Before you get started. Don’t forget to order your chicken with La Boucherie (www.laboucherie.com.hk) who have kindly offered Peek Concepts’ customers a fabulous 5% discount. Use coupon code: PEEKCONCEPT at check out. La Boucherie offers you this discount across multiple purchases for the next six months. So I encourage you to share this blog with friends and family so they can also make the most of this unique offer using the social media buttons below.
Before I sign off, I invite you to visit our shop and check out the widest range of digital cooking thermometers in Hong Kong. Our entry level digital thermometer sells for an awesome price of just $168 including free delivery. Or learn more about the best selling SuperFast Thermapen 4 thermometer and cook like your favourite celebrity chef!! www.peekconcepts.com
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