Roasted Chicken With Crispy Skin

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Roasted chicken with crispy skin can be a total flop or a totally satisfying meal, depending on how you cook the bird. Getting crispy skin isn’t as easy as it sounds, though. But I’m going to share with you the best steps for making the best version of this CRISPY ROASTED GARLIC CHICKEN recipe.

This WHOLE ROASTED CHICKEN recipe has crispy skin, juicy insides, and an herb oil for your oven roasted chicken that takes about 15 minutes to make. Roasted chicken benefits are vast, check below to learn more.

Roasted Chicken With Crispy Skin

It took eight chickens, five days, and four methods, but we finally got the chicken skin to snap.

Julia Child said it as good as anyone: the measure of a good cook is how well he or she can roast a chicken. The good news is that there are countless ways to do so. I myself went so far, a few years ago, as to write an entire cookbook on the matter, in which I tried everything from pot-roasting the bird with Calvados and juniper berries to barding it with salami and roasting it in a thick salt crust.

Chicken teriyaki on a blue plate with white rice, sliced radishes, and sliced scallions.

Roasting all those chickens, I discovered that not every method produces a crispy-skinned bird. And that’s okay. Crispy skin isn’t always the goal.

But sometimes it’s go crispy or go home. And at those times, you’ve got to be intentional about getting a crispy skin. It doesn’t just happen. Trust me. Tasked by Epicurious with finding the key to the ultimate crisp roast chicken, I went down a bit of a crispy, crackly rabbit hole. Here are some of the methods I tried and what I learned.

METHOD 1: OVERNIGHT DRYING WITH SALT

In proper roast chicken speak, showering the bird with salt and letting it chill, uncovered, in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours or up to 3 days, is referred to as air-drying or dry-brining—an easy technique that many cooks use to achieve a crispy-skinned bird. For this method the chicken is placed on a cooling rack (the same kind you use to cool a pan of brownies or a pie) set into a rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips (a V-rack set into a roasting pan is also a good way to go), then sprinkled very generously with salt (a full tablespoon for a four-pound bird).

The hands-on work to dry brine takes less than 10 minutes, and it pays the cook back in crispy chicken spades. While I slept; leisurely prepared a pot of Chemex-brewed coffee; ate my breakfast; knocked out a load of laundry; and took my dog Jasper for a nice long stroll, the salt I had liberally seasoned my chicken with was hard at work, not only flavoring the meat of the bird but also—with the help of the refrigerator’s cool air circulating around it—drying the exterior of the skin. And the drier the skin is before it goes into the oven, the more crispiness and caramelization you’ll get while roasting.

After an 18-hour dry brine, the skin of my chicken had visibly tightened up and the flesh was pinker in parts; the salt was doing its work. I roasted that first chicken in a cast iron skillet at 450°F for a little less than an hour, during which I tackled a second load of laundry, leaving the bird undisturbed, as chef Thomas Keller would do. As he explains in his much-lauded favorite roast chicken recipe, basting or otherwise disturbing the bird while it roasts creates steam, and steam moistens and effectively de-crisps skin.

My kitchen was a little smoky from the high-temp roast, and the intensity of the crispiness died down a bit after the chicken rested, but this bird was deeply flavorful, with well-blistered skin that maintained a decent crackle. Later I tried roasting the same salted and air-dried chicken at a lower temperature, and while the process produced less smoke, my bird was significantly less crispy. The lesson here: for crispy skin, stick with a high-temp roast.

Coating the chicken in baking powder and salt before cooking produced an intensely crispy skin—at first. Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Olivia Mack Anderson

METHOD 2: OVERNIGHT DRYING WITH SALT AND BAKING POWDER

It was my editor who suggested I use a mixture of salt and baking powder to dry brine the bird, a technique I hadn’t heard of but quickly made sense. With its slight alkaline level, baking powder reacts with the proteins in chicken skin, accelerating the dehydration process, which—as we learned above—produces a nice, crisp skin. Pulling this chicken from the oven after a high-temp roast, I was thrilled: the blistered skin was intensely golden and crisp. I tore off a piece from the bird’s tail end; it made an audible crackle when my jaws closed upon it. But after a 15-minute rest, the skin had lost a good bit of its snap and, texture-wise, it was unpleasantly leathery. Perhaps there was another way to use the baking powder and salt mixture, yet maintain both deliciousness and crunch.

METHOD 3: THE COOK’S ILLUSTRATED METHOD

That’s when I came across what looked like the jackpot of crispy-skinned chicken recipes, which, not surprisingly, came from the savvy test kitchen cooks at Cook’s Illustrated. Along with an effective and flavorful dry brine of salt, baking powder, and freshly cracked black pepper, these guys brilliantly utilize a few classic Peking duck techniques, separating the chicken skin from its flesh (on both sides of the bird), then poking holes in the skin with the tip of a metal skewer, which provides an escape route for the fat that renders from the skin during roasting, in turn enhancing crispness.

The Cook’s Illustrated Crisp Roast Chicken is roasted in a roasting pan and on a rack. It starts breast-side down, then is turned breast-side up for the remainder of the cooking. It’s a fussiness that’s less intimidating and much easier to manage than it may sound (a wad of balled-up paper towels in each hand shields your fingers from the heat while you literally flip the bird), and well worth the added hands-on time. In the end, this technique produced the most beautifully blistered bird I’ve ever eaten, with deliciously seasoned skin that was crisp on all sides—even after a 20-minute rest.

The Cook’s Illustrated technique, however—like its two high-temp predecessors—filled the first floor of my little house with a good bit of smoke. Opening a few windows quickly solved the issue, but this is not the sort of technique I’d recommend trying in an unvented apartment kitchen.

So what to do if you’re looking for a smoke-free crisp roast chicken? Or one that you can make on the fly, with no advanced air-dry required? And maybe with some roasted vegetables to serve on the side? I wanted one of those, too. So I tinkered with the knowledge I had gleaned from the test runs above, combined it with my existing roast chicken know-how, and came up with a crispy chicken recipe you can make on a Tuesday night.

A layer of potato and onion wedges absorb the drippings from the chicken as it cooks, helping to eliminate smoke (and yielding a bonus side dish). Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Judy Mancini

MY LOW-FUSS CRISP ROAST CHICKEN

To roast my crispy-skinned bird, I kept my oven temp high, but I placed a layer of thinly-cut potato and onion wedges in a pre-heated skillet before plunking a manually dried and well-salted bird on top. The vegetables were there to absorb the fat and drippings from the chicken as it cooked, thus eliminating smoke while providing a richly flavored built-in side dish.

I followed the Cook’s Illustrated techniques of separating the skin from the flesh, and poking holes in the skin to create an escape route for the rendering fat. I also borrowed a couple of tips from legendary chef (and roast chicken doyenne) Judy Rogers. Rogers owned and was the chef at San Francisco’s beloved Zuni Café until she died an untimely death in 2013, and she wrote the captivating, classic Zuni Café Cookbook, which, of course, includes the famous recipe for her delectably crispy Zuni Roast Chicken with Bread Salad.

After Rogers separates her bird’s skin from its flesh, she tucks a couple of herb sprigs into the pockets that are left behind. It’s a trick I’ve done many times in the past. But, after thinking about the Cook’s Illustrated Peking duck parallel, I realized that the herbs may be doing double duty: flavoring the chicken while also holding the skin away from the flesh while the bird roasts, thereby providing more space and air, and hence an additional avenue to crispness.

When my bird emerged from the oven, deliciously golden and crisp, I decided to try a second trick from Rogers, who slashes the skin between the thighs and breasts just after removing her bird from the oven, then immediately pours the juices into a bowl. While she doesn’t explicitly explain this step, I’m inclined to believe it’s done to maximize juice capture, which Rogers uses for the bread salad part of her dish. It occurred to me that this slashing also provides a perfect release for the hot steam that otherwise tends to de-crisp the skin of a crackly-skinned chicken as the bird rests. Plus you get those juices, which are fabulous for spooning over the warm chicken and potatoes. Scientifically, I’m not sure I can prove my theory. But taste-wise, I think it holds up pretty well. After resting, is it as crispy as the Cook’s Illustrated version? No, but it’s pretty damn good for a weeknight roast chicken.

Step 1: Buy the right bird

If your market sells chickens labeled “air-chilled,” it’s worth an extra buck or two to spring for one. Using cold air as opposed to water to chill chickens during processing leads to a chicken with no added moisture. Since the less wet your bird is prior to roasting, the more crispy the skin will be, starting out with an air-chilled bird gives you a significant advantage on your crispy-skin journey. (Bonus: You avoid paying for the extra water that is retained during the water-chilling process.)

Alternatively, if your grocer or butcher sells unpackaged chickens from a refrigerated case, these also provide an advantageous edge, as they’ve already been exposed to the same sort of air-dry set-up (minus the salt) that you create using your own fridge when you dry-brine and air-dry at home.

Step 2: Set up a chicken-prep station

To avoid spreading raw chicken juices to all parts of your kitchen—and to avoid having to wash your hands every five minutes—pull out all the tools you’ll need ahead of time and create a little workspace. Before you even take your raw chicken out of the fridge, wash and put away any dishes from your sink. Clear off an area on your countertop near the sink, so you easily wash your hands as needed during the prep process, and any raw chicken juices that splash around can be easily cleaned up. Rip off and place a stack of paper towels alongside your cutting board. Measure and/or stir together your seasonings. Set out a small bowl for the neck and giblets you might pull from the bird’s cavity if they’re in there. Cut a piece of twine to tie together the legs. Place an oven thermometer into your oven if you don’t have one there already (an accurate oven temp is particularly important for this recipe). And grab a metal skewer to do your poking. I like to set a dishwasher-safe cutting board into a rimmed baking pan, as I work, to keep things even tidier (this isn’t meant to encourage any fear of working with raw chicken, it’s just my habit).

Step 3: Crank up the heat and pre-heat your skillet

High heat equals a crispy bird. Set your oven to 450°F with the rack in the lower third and preheat your skillet, which helps keep pan contents from sticking.

Step 4: Pat it dry

Drain any liquid from the cavity of the chicken, then go to town with a major pat down. Using paper towels, pat the chicken dry, getting into every nook and cranny of the bird, including under the “armpits” and all around the legs. Ball up a paper towel or two and push it into the cavity, absorbing as much moisture as you can. (I do several rounds of this, leaving the towels inside for a minute or so each time–just be sure to remove them before cooking.) Why is this step so important? Because moisture creates steam, and steam kills crackle.

Step 5: Slip herbs under the skin

Making space for and then slipping herbs under the skin covering the breasts and legs allows for good airflow, enhancing crispiness while flavoring your bird.

Step 6: Salt like you mean it

Using kosher salt or crushed flaky sea salt (like Maldon), season your bird all over—liberally. I go with Judy Rogers’ suggestion, using 3/4 teaspoon salt per pound of meat (that’s 1 tablespoon salt for a 4-pound bird). While seasoning, pay special attention to the thicker sections of the bird rather than the skinny ankles and wings, which crisp easily since there’s not much flesh in their way.

Step 7: Poke the skin and tie the legs

Tiny holes poked in the skin of your bird will give the rendering fat a way to escape, enhancing crispiness. Tying the legs together promotes even cooking.

Step 8: Roast it!

Now’s the time to tackle a load of laundry or just sit back and relax. The bird will take care of itself in the oven. Just keep an eye on it toward the short end of the suggested cook time so you can properly judge doneness.

Step 9: Rest

But first: slash the skin that’s stretched between the thighs and breasts to let excess steam escape, and pour off and reserve the juices.

Step 10: Eat your crispy chicken

And savor every snap.

CRISPY ROASTED GARLIC CHICKEN

One of my new endeavors of the year is learning how to coupon. Yes, the verb – coupon. As much as I love to cook, and as tiny as my food budget is, this has probably been a no-brainer for years. But somehow I’d never really given it a try…

So, I’ve spent the last 9 or so months learning the art of store coupons, manufacturer coupons, “matching”, doubling, pairing….you name it! And, of course, learning how to smile and thank your cashier and the patient people behind you as you figure it all out. 😀  Thankfully, it has been beyond worth it. Thanks to internet coupons, and especially to coupon blogs, I’ve saved a fabulously significant chunk in my grocery budget. Hoorah!

Anyway, all that to say that I’m totally proud to say that on a recent grocery trip, I was able to swing three whole frozen chickens for $1.50 each. Holla! Thus, one of the lucky birds turned into this delicious, simple roast. I know there are about five zillion different methods for roasting. But for this recipe, decided to go with a crispy-roasting method I learned about awhile back from Cooks Illustrated. Look out — it calls for heating up that oven to 450 and 500 degrees. But hey — when it’s snowing and dropping into the ‘teens here in KC — a toasty kitchen sounds just about perfect. 🙂

I ended up just going with a super-simple garlic, garlic, and more garlic recipe. But feel free to sub in your favorite fresh herbs, honey, or whatever may float your boat. This is definitely more of a “method” sort of post… Enjoy!!

CRISPY ROASTED CHICKEN

  •  prep time: 5 MINUTES
  •  cook time: 90 MINUTES
  •  total time: 95 MINUTES
  •  yield: 1 ROASTED CHICKEN 1X

DESCRIPTION

You’ll love this Crispy Roasted Garlic Chicken Recipe for dinner! So good!

INGREDIET

  • 1 (3-4 pound) whole chicken (giblets removed and discarded, if included)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 Tbsp.)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Thoroughly rinse the outside and inside of the chicken. Gently pat try with paper towels.
  2. Using your fingers, carefully lift up the skin on top of the chicken (near the neck) and pull up gently. With your other hand, gently separate the skin from the breast and thigh meat. Then take half of the garlic and stuff it in between the skin and meat, so that it is fairly evenly spread out. Take the remainder of the garlic and spread it all over the cavity inside the chicken.
  3. Then take the butter and baste the entire outside of the chicken. Sprinkle generously with freshly ground pepper and salt.
  4. (Optional: Cover and refrigerate for 12-24 hours.)
  5. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and preheat to 450 degrees. Place foil loosely in large roasting pan. Flip chicken so breast side faces down, tucking the wings under (as pictured below), and set V-rack in roasting pan on top of foil. Roast chicken 25 minutes.
  6. Remove roasting pan from oven. Using 2 large wads of paper towels, rotate chicken breast-side up. Baste briefly with pan juices or additional melted butter. Return to oven and continue to roast until instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of breast registers 135 degrees, 15 to 25 minutes.
  7. Increase oven temperature to 500 degrees. Continue to roast until skin is golden brown, crisp, and instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of breast registers 160 degrees and 175 degrees in thickest part of thigh, 10 to 20 minutes.
  8. Transfer chicken to cutting board and let rest, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Carve and serve immediately.

WHOLE ROASTED CHICKEN

The best whole roasted chicken recipe starts with a dry salt brine, creating a golden brown, crispy roast chicken with flavorful, juicy meat. Potatoes sit at the bottom of the Dutch oven and cook in the drippings, while garlic, lemon, and fresh herbs season the entire dish. Your quest for the perfect roast chicken stops here!

Salt brined whole roasted chicken in a dutch oven with potatoes

HOW TO ROAST A WHOLE CHICKEN | 1-MINUTE VIDEO

ROASTED WHOLE CHICKEN

There’s something magical about a simple whole roasted chicken. It’s one of the easiest meals that any home cook can serve, you can prepare the meat in a variety of ways, and it’s almost impossible to mess up! Even with the most basic seasonings (like salt and pepper), you can achieve a really delicious bird with so much natural flavor. Since I love playing around with different cooking methods and ingredients — especially when it comes to roast chicken — I was particularly intrigued by the dry salt brine made famous by chef Judy Rodgers at the San Francisco restaurant, Zuni Cafe. It’s an incredibly simple preparation method with unbelievably good results!

WHY USE A DRY SALT BRINE ON ROAST CHICKEN?

The science of salt brining is really simple: rubbing the outside of a chicken with salt and letting it sit in the refrigerator for up to 72 hours before roasting creates juicy meat because the salt draws out moisture that dissolves the crystals, then the chicken reabsorbs this salty liquid down to the bone. Starting the chicken at a very high temperature (500° F), combined with the salt brining method, locks moisture in the meat and makes the chicken skin crispy in the oven. Even if you accidentally overcook the meat a little bit, it will still be tender and juicy. No more dry, tough chicken breasts!

THE DUTCH OVEN

The Dutch oven is one of the most versatile kitchen tools because it’s used for everything from stew to pot roast, and fried chicken to chicken and dumplings. You can even bake a loaf of bread in the heavy pot!

A Dutch oven is perfect for roast chicken because of its unique design. Dutch ovens are made from cast iron, so they retain and evenly distribute heat. For this recipe, I used a 3 ¾-quart Dutch oven since the 3 ½-lb. chicken is fairly small, but any similar size will work. Look for a Dutch oven that’s just slightly larger than your chicken.

If you don’t have an appropriate Dutch oven, you can use a shallow roasting pan or another oven-safe dish that’s just barely larger than the chicken. You want the bird to sit up on top of the potatoes and other ingredients, which will act like a roasting rack. The chicken absorbs the aromatics from the ingredients below, while the drippings drop down and create the most flavorful, crispy potatoes.

DO YOU ROAST A WHOLE CHICKEN COVERED OR UNCOVERED?

For this recipe, you’ll roast the chicken uncovered the entire time. This allows the skin to get incredibly crispy in the oven, turning that beautiful golden brown color. If you are roasting a larger chicken that requires a longer cooking time, you may need to cover the bird loosely with foil towards the end if it starts to look like the skin will burn.

Overhead shot of whole roasted chicken in a Dutch oven

INGREDIENTS

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need to cook a whole roasted chicken. As always, the exact measurements and specific instructions are included in the printable recipe at the bottom of the post.

  • Whole chicken: a small chicken that weighs 3 ½ – 4 pounds works best, because it gets nice and crispy in the oven and cooks through without burning. If you have a larger chicken, you’ll need to extend the roasting time (use a thermometer to know when your bird is done), and tent loosely with foil if the larger chicken starts to get too dark on top.
  • Kosher salt: to season and dry brine the chicken.
  • Yukon gold potatoes: cook in the Dutch oven with the chicken, soaking up the drippings and becoming nice and crispy.
  • Lemon, garlic, onion, thyme, rosemary and black pepper: add flavor to the meat as it roasts.
  • Butter: brushing the skin with melted butter before roasting adds flavor and helps the skin brown.

HOW TO ROAST A WHOLE CHICKEN

While it’s best to allow about 24 hours for the salted chicken to chill, it’s not imperative. Even just 1 hour of chilling time will have a positive effect on the bird!

Process shot showing how to dry brine a whole chicken
  1. Place a wire rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet (to catch juices that drip down).
  2. Liberally season the outside of the chicken with kosher salt. Cover loosely with parchment paper.
  3. Chill for about 24 hours.
  4. Bring chicken to room temperature on the counter for at least 30 minutes while you preheat the oven.
  5. Toss potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper; place them in the bottom of a Dutch oven.
  6. Add lemon, garlic and onion on top, then drizzle with olive oil. Place the herbs in the pot.
  7. Place the chicken on top of the potatoes. Tie the legs together and tuck the wings underneath. Brush with melted butter and season with freshly-ground black pepper.
  8. Roast the chicken at 500° F for 20 minutes.
  9. Reduce the temperature to 350° F and continue roasting the chicken for 30-40 more minutes, or until the meat is cooked through.
  10. Rest for at least 10 minutes before carving and serving.
Process shot showing how to make chicken skin crispy in oven

ROAST CHICKEN TEMPERATURE

A whole chicken is ready when a meat thermometer inserted between the thigh and breast (not touching the bone) reads at least 165° F (74° C). Note: the temperature of the meat will continue to rise slightly when you pull it out of the oven, so if the thermometer shows a few degrees below 165, I will usually pull it out of the oven and assume that the temperature will continue to increase slightly.

Roasted Chicken Benefits

Cooking methods have a large impact on the nutritional value of your food. Frying chicken, for example, boosts the meat’s fat content, while eating pre-packaged processed chicken breasts can boost your intake of blood pressure-raising sodium. Baking is a healthy cooking option for chicken, and the meat’s nutrient content makes it a nutritious addition to your diet.

1. Protein

Baked chicken serves as a rich source of protein. A 4-ounce serving of chicken leg meat contains 27.5 grams of protein, while an equivalent serving of baked chicken breast contains 35 grams. You use this protein as a source of amino acids, which help maintain your tissues and allow you to heal after injury. A 4-ounce serving of baked chicken counts as 4 ounce equivalents of protein, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture food guide, and helps you reach the 5 ounces recommended daily for women or 6 ounces for men.

2. Vitamin B-12

Chicken also contains vitamin B-12, or cobalamin, a vitamin found only in animal-based foods. You use cobalamin to make heme, the compound in your blood that helps oxygenate your tissues. Eating sources of B-12 also keeps your energy levels up to get you through the day, since the nutrient helps you derive fuel from food. Four ounces of baked chicken breast contain 0.39 micrograms of vitamin B-12, or 16 percent of your daily B-12 requirements, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. An equivalent serving of baked chicken leg meat contains 0.44 micrograms, or about 18 percent of your recommended daily intake.

3. Iron

Baked chicken helps boost your iron intake. Like vitamin B-12, iron aids your circulation — it helps make hemoglobin, the heme-containing protein you need to carry oxygen in your blood. Iron also helps you produce new cells, and also guides new and immature cells as they develop into functional tissue. Men need 8 milligrams of iron each day, and women need 18 milligrams. Four ounces of either baked chicken breast or baked chicken leg provide approximately 1.2 milligrams of iron.

4. Healthy Seasoning Tips

Whenever possible, remove the skin from your chicken before baking to reduce your chicken’s fat content, and use healthy seasonings to avoid adding saturated fat or sodium. Try seasoning your chicken breasts with lime juice and pepper, or go for savory baked chicken seasoned with rubbed sage. If you’re in the mood for a fiery dish, season your chicken with chili peppers or peperoncino, then serve your meal with a side of mango salsa. Avoid store-bought marinades and chicken seasonings whenever possible, since these flavorings often contain saturated fat, sugar, salt or other additives.

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