The golden bird

The Queen of the Table at Dinner: Perfect Roast Chicken

Let’s set aside the noble pig, for a minute, even bacon. It’s tough. I know.

Let’s look at the golden bird, the roast chicken, the queen of the best and humblest tables anywhere, and one of the finest meals there is.

The golden bird is often a problem for the home cook. That dry breast, that troublesome thigh joint. That never-crispy-enough skin.

So, I sought out the masters….

Three people who really know how to spell it out for a home cook, in no specific order, are Ina Garten, Jamie Kennedy and Martha Stewart. I love their food and sensibilities. Also, they ferociously know their stuff, and their stuff is tried and true.

Amalgamating their advice, I start with the oven. How hot and how long?

Jamie says 400F for one hour and 20 minutes, but Ina and Martha both ring in at 425F. Ina says 90 minutes, Martha says, use science. The breast should register 180 degrees and the thigh 190. I agree. Get a thermometer. Science rocks.

But that’s jumping to the end before covering something really significant. Ina makes no mention of it, but Jamie and Martha both take the bird out of the fridge for 30 minutes to take the chill off and to avoid putting a fully cold bird into a hot oven.

This is so smart. Line cooks everywhere prepare their cuts of meat in the same way before grilling or searing on the stove.

So, let’s talk about the breast for a minute. The fat-fearful look away. All three favour giving the exterior of the bird some fat for moisture and to crisp the skin. Ina brushes on melted butter, and Jamie opts for olive oil. Martha, never to be outdone, uses the room temperature butter that she took out of the fridge at the same time as her bird.

And since no one eats the bird alone, each of their recipes, linked below, offer guidance for including roasted vegetables and, in particular, the loyal subjects of the queen — roast potatoes.

One lovely details stands out for me. Martha recommends slicing onions into thick rounds and placing them on the base of the roaster like a bed for the bird. If you’re going to use the pan and its juices for chicken stock [after you’ve harvested your juices for gravy], those caramelized onions are going to make a killer stock.

The golden bird is the finest weekly staple there is. Let these masters make a master of you, too.

Image via Square Meal

Masters: Ina, Jamie, Martha