SOS with Whole Pasture Chicken

I roast all chickens the same way. Salt and pepper shoved under the breast skin along with several sprigs of fresh thyme, surface of bird carefully dried with paper towels. Oven preheated at 500°F. Cast iron frying pan heated almost to smoking stovetop. Untrussed chicken put into pan, be prepared for loud searing noise, then into oven. Reduce temp to 450°. Roast 50 minutes. Test inner thigh for doneness = 165°. Remove to carving platter and let rest 10 minutes during which time you can deglaze pan for juices or sauce… Juicy bird.

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That’s pretty complicated.
Chickens must be $20+ or more.
Now I have to peruse my store’s selection.

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My nickname has been Rooster since 1958. Nuff said. :grin:

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A hot open frying pan is better than a fully encased dutch oven is my 2 cents.

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Because Yardbird was already in use!
:smiley:

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You know me too well!

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I have never gone wrong using Thomas Keller’s high temperature method, which is quick for a whole chicken at 45-60mins at 450-500F. We had it last night, using an organic, free range chicken.

The Zuni method is also excellent, but a slightly more fussy cook.

And the skin isn’t as good this way, but a low temp roast - 275-300F for 2.5-4h - also yields lovely, moist chicken. (you don’t have to do all the basting in this recipe - I just included it for temp reference).

If you don’t have one yet, a probe thermometer is a good addition so you can stop cooking when the dark meat is just at temp. Visual cues and time are less reliable and can lead to drying out, possibly even more so with a free range bird.

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I do it mostly the same as you, but I use Melissa Clark’s splaying technique. Cut the skin along the thigh on each side of the body, then pop the joints on each side, so that the chicken lies flat in the frying pan. This gives the dark meat a head start.

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I channel the Zuni method, simplifying it slightly as is my usual wont. I agree with you that these “flash-bang” methods result in juicy flesh, excellent skin.

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The basic problem is that you’re cooking it evenly. A chicken is built unevenly - some parts need to cook more than others, and unfortunately the part that needs to cook less is normally the most exposed to the heat - so either you modify the chicken to not be so uneven, or you find an uneven cooking method. There are several ways - spatchcocking (which makes the legs & thighs more exposed to the heat), creative use of foil, cutting it all up and cooking the parts separately, or whatever else, but the point is it’s two different kinds of meat that turn out best when cooked in their own ways, and what tricks can you pull to make that happen.

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You can somewhat mitigate this by positioning the legs of the chicken in/toward the hottest spot in your oven, breast facing toward the less hot area.

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Plus, for me, a free test of the smoke detector. Can’t go wrong with that! :smile:

If you put some potatoes and onions (or root vegetables of your choice) under the chicken, you can skip that test - plus: amazing schmaltzy roasted veg to boot.

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Either high temp or low temp avoid the uneven cooking without surgery.

I’ve never had dry breast meat with either method, even after waiting the few extra minutes for the thigh meat to get to 165F.

Another solution at any temp is to cook the chicken with breast side down - either the whole way or halfway, then flip (Zuni uses this, but I never bother because I hate handling the thing midway and risking hot fat splatter). Only need to flip if you eat the skin - otherwise it doesn’t matter.

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What do you consider “high” and “low” for this purpose?

Thanks. I guess the issue with pasture birds is that they are leaner. Last time I tried, I placed daikon on the bottom of the dutch oven and put butter under the breast.

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Mentioned somewhere above
450-500F - what your oven allows / you are ok with re smoke and whether you’re putting something under to fix that (quick - usually 40m - 1h for a small / 2.5-3.5 lb chicken)
250/275/300F - “slow roast” / “reverse sear” (longer - usually 2-3.5h for size above)

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I don’t think I saw this recommended, but I will always spatchcock a bird before I roast now to combat the problem you’ve described. It’s extremely hard to get the two needs for dark meat vs the breast right when the bird is in its whole form. The extra plus is that you can better and more crispy skin!

If you have not spatchcocked a chicken before, you can find some good instructional videos online (I remember a Jacques Pepin one that I leaned on when I was practicing). It will help with breaking down whole birds too, as a nice cost-saving tip if you cook parts more often than.

Also a bonus is that after spatchcocking, your chicken will take less time to roast (really, having half the chicken underneath the other part of the bird isn’t conducive to good even roasting) so check the temp and time carefully. I know some folks like to present the bird as a whole bird for dinner parties, but I’m all about just make it easier for me to serve and eat when it’s ready.

There is the possibility that you’re simply trying too hard at making sure it’s cooked. I confess that I tend to like my chicken a little overdone compared to how most people prefer it - maybe you’re similar in that way - and maybe the lean meat just doesn’t allow for that. All chickens go “almost done” -> “nicely done” -> “overdone”, but maybe on the lean ones you’ll miss “nicely done” if you blink at the wrong time.

Mr. JudiAU is the resident chicken roaster. Dry brine ala Zuni, uncovered in fridge to dry out skin, spatchcock, high heat. Pastured bird.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold