I have a good friend who refuses to stick her hand inside a raw bird. (This bird is not living, just to clarify.) She called me up one day and needed my help in cooking a turkey because she had never prepared one before. I explained that she needed to take the neck and giblets out and, unless she wanted to brine it, she needed to season under the skin of the breast, and shove some flavorful stuff into the cavity if she wanted it to taste really good. All I got was silence on the other end. Then I got, ‘You mean, I have to put my hand inside the thing? Oh my god, I will not. No way. That’s gross.’ It was then that I realized there are two kinds of people in this world: The kind that are willing to get chicken skin under their nails, and the kind that aren’t. My good friend was obviously a part of the latter.
Each time I roast a chicken, I try something new. There are so many different ways out there to do it, and every cook, including myself, has their own method of cooking they swear by. And I’ve always done the same thing to season it- I’ve made a seasoning salt with fresh herbs and lemon zest and rubbed it all over the skin, under the skin, and in the cavity. This time, however, I was hoping for an easier method that I could pass along to my squeamish friends. Last year we spent Thanksgiving with my husband’s family and I watched his mother do her turkey in a way I’ve never seen before. The night before she was going to cook it, she poured salt over the entire bird. She didn’t shove anything under its skin, she didn’t brine it, she just salted it all over the outside, wrapped it up, and then placed it in the refrigerator until the next morning when she took it out, and cooked it for several hours. I watched her do this and kept my mouth shut. I thought, there’s no way this turkey is going to have any flavor!! But when I tasted it that afternoon, I was shocked at the amount of flavor it actually had. The salt that she used the night before had seeped in through the skin and flavored the meat perfectly. It was awesome.
So yesterday when I set out to make a roast chicken for my family’s dinner, I was thinking of that yummy Thanksgiving bird and decided to try out my other mother’s method. I took the bird out of its plastic home, placed it directly on the roasting pan I was planning on using (no need to dirty up or contaminate another surface!), removed the giblets (you can’t skip this part, sorry squeamers), and poured some fine sea salt all over the top, bottom, sides and insides of the bird. I didn’t go under the skin, I didn’t massage it, I really didn’t even have to get my hands dirty if I didn’t want to (but I kinda like that part…). A set of thongs could have easily flipped the bird around while I held the salt container with my other hand. I sliced a lemon and an onion, and threw it inside the cavity, along with 2 bay leaves and a sprig of rosemary, (this step could easily be avoided for the extra squeamish), and placed it in the fridge, uncovered, until I was ready to cook it that night.*
As I took my first bite of the chicken, I was a little nervous, I’m not gonna lie. But it was so good! The salt did in fact seep through to the meat and it was the easiest chicken I’ve ever roasted. The best part of it all was that I had dinner already prepared before I even finished my coffee. (edit- I have since only roasted my birds in this way and discovered that it’s even tastier if you use an Adobo seasoning blend instead of the plain salt (well, duh…) and season it, then refrigerate it 3 days in advance. Also, if I have the time to slow roast the bird, I always do that. It makes a huge difference. Best bird ever. Seriously.) The skin gets incredibly crispy, because the salt, and the fact that you’re refrigerating it uncovered, dries it out so much. It doesn’t dry out the meat at all, only the skin. It’s incredible! And as long as you think ahead (3 days ahead to be exact), it is the easiest way to make a whole chicken. So I am happy to share with you this cool new method for roasting a chicken. I hope I can get more people out there doing this, because there is nothing better on a Sunday night than a delicious, juicy roasted chicken with your family.
Here’s how you do it-
*Abbey’s Easy Roast Chicken
(instructions for a 5-6 lb. bird)
-Up to 3 days before the cooking day, or at THE VERY LEAST, on the morning before you plan on cooking your bird, take it out and place it on a lightly oiled roasting pan (or if you want next to no clean-up, then line your pan with heavy duty foil first, then grease it lightly). Remove giblets.
-Pour an abundant amount of salt (or your favorite salted seasoning blend-mine is Adobo Seasoning, Goya makes a good brand that’s easy to find at most grocery stores, but the lesser expensive brands you see in Hispanic stores are just as delicious!) all over the outside of the bird, into the crevices of the wings and legs, top and bottom, and even inside the cavity. You want to salt this at least twice as much as you would normally salt something, because there has to be enough salt to permeate through the skin.
-Place aromatics inside the cavity if desired. Refrigerate, uncovered.
-Remove from the fridge 20-30 minutes before you plan on cooking to take the chill off, and preheat your oven to 500 degrees.
-Place your roasting pan in the hot oven and roast for 20 minutes. Turn the heat down to 375, (Do not open the door!) and set the timer for 1 hour. OR if you plan on either leaving the house or have the time to cook it for longer, then I highly recommend turning the oven down to 300 and roasting for 2+ hours. The bird is done when a meat thermometer shows an internal temperature of 165 degrees. (You can also use the Southern woman’s method of testing a cooked bird- Shake it’s leg and if it shakes back and jiggles with ease, you’re good.)
-Allow your bird to rest for 15 minutes before slicing and enjoy!
(*note- I have trussed my birds in the past, and I have also skipped that step. Through my intense research I have discovered that trussing your chicken causes it to cook longer and doesn’t result in a better tasting bird. I have never had a dry breast when I have roasted a chicken un-trussed, therefore I think it’s an unnecessary step.)