SOS with Whole Pasture Chicken

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.


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.


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)


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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