I make roast chicken a lot. I follow the kitchn’s directions—I basically have it memorized now. I’ll normally stuff my chicken with lemon wedges and garlic, slide some rosemary under the skin, and slather the whole bird in a healthy dousing of olive oil, salt, and pepper.
If I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll make zuni café’s roast chicken salad, but that takes two days if you do it right. It’s a wonderful dish of roast chicken pieces, a quick bread stuffing, and arugula, all served together with pan drippings and a light vinaigrette. It really is worth all of the extra steps. I hadn’t come across a roast chicken recipe so meticulously described before this one, but it taught me a lot about the basics of a great roast chicken. I learned that what you need for a great roast chicken is a high quality, small-sized bird that’s carefully and thoroughly hand-dried, and very well-seasoned. The recipe’s method of drying the chicken obsessively, very generously salting the whole thing, and resting the bird overnight before cooking was truly revolutionary to how I considered roast chicken.
Until recently, I’ve made most of my roast chickens in cast-iron skillets, and they’ve turned out pretty well. To make dinner simple, I’ll put carrots under the bird as a roasting-rack substitute. I’ve also tried sliced small potatoes underneath, but sometimes they don’t cook through. Sometimes the garlic inside the bird doesn’t cook, either. The chicken is always good, and the skin is always crisp, but there are always those little issues.
I’ve made Martha Stewart‘s Paprika-Rubbed Chicken recipe, which calls for a rimmed baking sheet as the cooking vessel. The chicken turned out beautifully everywhere except for the part that rested on the sheet. The skin on the underside was soggy, and the meat was less cooked there than everywhere else. From that, I learned that the bird really does need to be lifted from the pan for it to be evenly cooked. Lesson learned.
I’ve heard that vegetables create “wet heat” in an oven, and that poultry cooks best with “dry heat,” but I don’t know if that’s true with hearty vegetables. Should carrots and turnips and potatoes be cooked separately from a roast? Is it only watery vegetables like tomatoes that would create “wet heat”?
I’m going to keep experimenting with chicken roasting techniques and recipes, and even when I find a fantastic one, I will probably keep looking for how to make it better.