The Perfect Roasted Chicken

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Keller's-chicken-3

Though I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting any of his restaurants, Thomas Keller certainly needs no introduction to me.  I’ve been hearing about and reading about his genius in the kitchen for years.  His multi-award winning, three Michelin star rated flagship restaurant, The French Laundry, is legendary. The rest of his fleet, Bouchon, Per Se and ad hoc are no slouches either.

A few weeks ago, I was watching Tony Bourdain’s No Reservations on TV. This particular episode was all about cooking techniques, and had several famous chefs demonstrating how to make various basic dishes, such as omelets, pasta and burgers.   Thomas Keller was on board to show his method for making the perfect roast chicken.  As soon as I saw him on the screen, I sat up and paid close attention.  I just knew that there were going to be some fancy bells and whistles involved.  Except, there weren’t.  Thomas Keller roasts a chicken pretty much the same way most of us do – very, very simply.  In fact, the only thing that I usually do that Keller doesn’t is rub a little fat on the bird before roasting.  He explains that while it is perfectly acceptable to do so, he doesn’t because he feels it adds extra steam to the oven, making the chicken’s skin less crispy.  Okay.  That makes sense.  Besides, who the heck am I to argue with Thomas Keller?

Keller also explains that the key to perfectly roasted chicken with an impossibly crispy skin is to make sure that the chicken is completely and indisputably dry before putting it in the oven.  Oh, and you also need to use lots of salt – way more than I ever use.

To recap:

1. No added fat on the bird;

2. Thoroughly dry the bird before roasting; and

3. Don’t be stingy with the salt.

When Keller’s chicken came out of the oven, I think my heart skipped a little beat.  It looked fabulous!  An unequivocal poultry masterpiece!  As he cut into that chicken, its impeccably burnished skin gave way to some of the juiciest, most succulent meat I’d ever laid eyes on.  For days, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  I had to try his chicken roasting technique for myself.

I was also planning to roast some potatoes to go along with my chicken dinner, when I remembered the way I’d seen it done at a market in Paris.  There, the chickens were roasted on spits in a big glass oven.  Huge pans filled with potatoes were placed to cook underneath the chickens. As the chickens roasted all of their luscious drippings and juices would rain down onto the potatoes, infusing them with the most amazing salty, chicken-y flavor.  Oh, yeah!  I decided to try to get the same effect by layering some thinly sliced potatoes and onions on the bottom of my pan and roasting my chicken on top of it.

So, let’s roast a chicken (and some potatoes) a la Thomas Keller!

First, get yourself a nice, free-range, organic chicken. Keller says to look for one weighing between 2 and 3 pounds, but unless you’re planning a dinner for one, I’d recommend a 3 to 3 1/2 pound bird. This guy below was a 3 1/2 pounder, and three of us picked it clean.

Keller's-chicken-7

Melt some butter in your roasting pan.  I used an unsalted cultured butter.

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Arrange a layer of thinly sliced potatoes all around the bottom of the pan.  I prefer Yukon Gold potatoes.

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Scatter some thinly sliced onions on top of the potatoes.

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Then, place your well-seasoned bird on top of the bed of potatoes and onions.  Don’t make fun of my crappy trussing job.  I can never get it right!

Keller's-chicken-8

Put it all in a 450 F. oven and roast until the chicken is cooked through.

Keller's-chicken-2

Hmmm. Let’s get a closer look at that crispy, roasted skin…..

Keller's-chicken-9

Mmmm!

43 responses to The Perfect Roasted Chicken

  1. On April 18, 2010 at 9:37pm, Rachelle said...

    I was just thinking last night, it’s been a while since I did a roasted chicken. I love the arranged potatoes and onions beneath like that, I’ll have to give that a try! It looks wonderful!

  2. On April 18, 2010 at 9:47pm, peter said...

    Susan, I’m diggin the layer of spuds arranged on the bottom…just waiting to suck up those chicken juices.

    • On April 19, 2010 at 8:41am, Susan said...

      The potatoes were just as I hoped they would be, Peter – completely permeated with chicken-y goodness. :D

  3. On April 18, 2010 at 10:01pm, Valerie @ City|Life|Eats said...

    The chicken looks awesome!! Love love love the look of the crispy skin.

    By the way, I changed my blog name and url and am no longer as anonymous as I used to be :)

    • On April 19, 2010 at 8:42am, Susan said...

      Thanks, Valerie! The new site looks great! :)

  4. On April 18, 2010 at 10:02pm, Donna said...

    I can’t wait to try this. I always buy breasts. Wonder if I can do the same thing with breasts? But first, I am going to buy a whole chicken and try it out the way the recipe says. It looks so yummy! You inspire me!

    • On April 19, 2010 at 8:43am, Susan said...

      I make chicken this way a lot using legs and thighs. It works great!

  5. On April 18, 2010 at 10:08pm, patsyk said...

    Looks so perfect! I will try this method next time…. like you, I tend to add oil or butter to the skin before roasting, but will try skipping it to see if we prefer the skin better this way… my hubby loves the crispy skin!

  6. On April 18, 2010 at 10:14pm, Livin Local said...

    Beeeeaaautiful bird you have there! I do agree that leaving nature alone is the best route for a roasted bird. Also, loved that episode of AB also, wanting to try the omelet, but pretty nervous.

  7. On April 18, 2010 at 10:21pm, ruth said...

    Susan,

    This looks yummy and may I recommend you take a gander at another version of perfectly roasted chicken by my daughter, Rebecca Lando, of the HungryNation.tv web cooking series Working Class Foodies? See what you think…would love your comments! Here’s the link: http://www.hungrynation.tv/wcfoodies/episode/WCF_20100322/how-to-roast-a-chicken

    Ruth

    • On April 19, 2010 at 8:45am, Susan said...

      Hi, Ruth! Rebecca’s video is great and her chicken also looks perfect! I’ve really been enjoying WCF. :)

  8. On April 18, 2010 at 10:43pm, arugulove said...

    This looks so good and so simple. Can’t wait to try it!

  9. On April 18, 2010 at 11:04pm, nina said...

    Well, this was pretty much the way I do it. until you got to the elegantly layers potatoes……..yip, then I fell off the bus. You have certainly take a simple roast to new heights!!

    • On April 19, 2010 at 8:46am, Susan said...

      Lol! :D

  10. On April 19, 2010 at 12:04am, Susan In L.A. said...

    Actually, the most important think Keller specified besides the dry part was that the chicken be at room temperature. Wouldn’t the potatoes and opnions add too much moisture, i.e. steam to the oven?

    • On April 19, 2010 at 8:55am, Susan said...

      I think you’re referring to a different Keller recipe from a different cookbook. The recipe I used doesn’t specify that the chicken should be at room temperature. However, in his recipe for Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables from ad hoc, he does make that distinction. Of course, in that recipe he also slathers the chicken with butter, which he expressly doesn’t recommend in this one.

      I’m sure that the potatoes and onions do add some additional steam. However, my chicken was perfectly crispy on the outside and moist and tender on the inside. And, the potatoes were divine! Plus, I had one less dirty pan to wash!

  11. On April 19, 2010 at 12:17am, Marie said...

    450 degrees, that’s a nice hot oven, I’m going to have to try that! Love the potatoes and onions soaking up the juices!

  12. On April 19, 2010 at 1:00am, Coleen said...

    Roast chicken is one of Hubby’s all time favorites. Your’s looks beautiful.

  13. On April 19, 2010 at 1:06am, Memoria said...

    The chicken looks BEAUTIFUL in its final stage…but at the beginning, it looks so sad haha. I have trouble working with whole chicken and whole turkey haha. I have to get someone else to wash and season it for me because it looks too much like it did when it was alive :(. LOL! So, whenever I have an “assistant” around, I will try out this recipe. Or I could just use chicken pieces with the skin on.

    You did a great job, Susan.

    • On April 19, 2010 at 8:57am, Susan said...

      Lol! I agree. That uncooked chicken did look pretty sad! Luckily, it looked a lot prettier after the transformation. ;)

  14. On April 19, 2010 at 2:53am, iheartdessert said...

    this is making me drool! wow love love love! can’t wait to try making this!

  15. On April 19, 2010 at 3:49am, Rosa said...

    OMG, that chicken on it’s bed of potatoes and onions is perfect! The potatoes must be to die for after having been “fed” with all the good juices from that bird… Yummy!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  16. On April 19, 2010 at 5:35am, HoneyB said...

    There is nothing more homey that meat roasting in the oven…your chicken looks delicious and I believe I will make this myself before the weather gets too warm (wishful thinking here about the weather) and try your potato on the bottom plan! I’m positive it will go over very well here!

  17. On April 19, 2010 at 8:13am, Ciaochowlinda said...

    I can just imagine the wonderful flavor of those potatoes from all the drippings of the chicken.

  18. On April 19, 2010 at 10:00am, LizAnderson said...

    When I saw that Tony Bourdain posted this recipe, I had to wonder about the basting after roasting — doesn’t that defeat the crispy skin?

    Tony Bourdain and roast chicken — you’ve made my week!

  19. On April 19, 2010 at 11:10am, Kirsten said...

    Fantastic post! Love the pictures, perfect set of how to steps. Can’t wait to try this at home!

  20. On April 19, 2010 at 3:22pm, Karen@Mignardise said...

    This seems a whole lot easier than his roasted chicken with root vegetables, that I made. Love the layered potatoes and onions underneath.
    Knew I shoulda bought a chicken when I was at Whole Foods today.

  21. On April 19, 2010 at 4:46pm, Rachel (S[d]OC) said...

    Roast chicken is the ultimate comfort food for me. I love ripping one apart with my hands. I love that salty, crispy skin!

    Great idea of putting the potatoes under it. I must try that the next time I roast a chicken.

  22. On April 19, 2010 at 6:17pm, ruth said...

    You’re so kind to say such nice things about WCF, Susan. Love your blog…the photos are gorgeous and the recipes so approachable for everyday cooks. Thanks!

  23. On April 19, 2010 at 6:37pm, Anne said...

    Talk about inspiring (and what a mouth-watering pic)! Susan, I’m ready to get back and roast some chicken atop some potatoes and onions. We just did one on the mini-rotisserie this weekend. My truss jobs are laughable. I am definitely not a sailor.

  24. On April 20, 2010 at 12:51am, Manggy said...

    I’ve been seeing a few roasted chickens in blogland recently… It’s a sign! And this version, with the chicken-essenced potatoes at the bottom?! Yes please! ;)

  25. On April 20, 2010 at 9:15am, shelly (cookies and cups) said...

    Roasted chicken is a favorite in our house, so I will definitely try this…here’s a question…I have a family of 6 (5 of them being boys), so I always use a larger bird…can I still do the potato thing because it will obviously have to cook longer. I don’t want to end up with potato mush!
    Thanks so much :)

  26. On April 20, 2010 at 9:40am, kellypea said...

    Love the idea of those potatoes and onions under the bird — and I love roast chicken. Fun write up to read with my morning coffee today, Susan. Gotta give it a try next time we have chicken :)

  27. On April 20, 2010 at 10:41am, Sarah from 20somethingcupcakes said...

    Going to have to try this! Just got a new roasting pan, but it looks like you don’t leave the chicken on the rack, you take the rack out and just set the chicken right on top of the potatoes? On another note, I finally made Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic, which is definitely a new favorite for me! It was heavenly. xxSAS

  28. On April 20, 2010 at 10:44am, SMITH BITES said...

    Keller is a MASTER in the kitchen and I absolutely lovelovelove ad hoc! sooooooo many recipes I want to make, this one included! I’m salivating and it’s only 10:30 in the morning!

  29. On April 20, 2010 at 4:20pm, Nanc TWoP said...

    That sounds great – thanks for Thursday’s dinner recipe… ;-)

  30. On April 21, 2010 at 2:11pm, Tracy Moulton said...

    . . . Again, I wish I lived next door to you to sample all these great recipes! This one looks fabulous. I may even be able to prepare this one myself. I’m printing it right now and heading to the grocery store after work to get all the ingredients for tonight’s dinner! Thanks Susan! I’ll let you know how it turns out. :)

  31. On April 22, 2010 at 5:31pm, Nicole Spasiano said...

    That looks great. I just roasted a chicken with potatoes and garlic. I think I’ll try the onions next time.
    Love your closeups!

  32. On April 24, 2010 at 9:42pm, The Bush League Cook said...

    Beautiful! This looks delicious!

  33. On April 25, 2010 at 9:14pm, Nanc TWoP said...

    Your recipe was very timely…

    Made it this weekend…

    And it came out great ! – thanks Susan!

  34. On April 29, 2010 at 2:19pm, Debra said...

    I tried this recipe last night and it was GREAT! The only problem was I didn’t put enough potatoes in the bottom -they were absolutely the best potatoes ever! Next time, I will double up on the spuds. Thanks for the delicious and easy recipe.

  35. On June 02, 2010 at 7:55pm, Shari said...

    I have absolutely no doubt that this roast chicken and potatoes are fabulous, and it made me wonder if you have ever tried the High Roast Chicken from America’s Test Kitchen. It was the first time I had ever eaten potatoes that had absorbed all the yummy chicken juices and fat, and I’ve been a huge fan ever since. From what I understand, the potatoes were originally used to lessen the smoke from roasting the butterflied chicken at 500 degrees, and unintentionally became the star of the show. It’s become my favorite way to eat potatoes.

  36. On July 13, 2011 at 9:13am, Jackie Garvin said...

    Susan,
    I am constantly on the hunt for a reliable method that will ensure perfectly roasted chicken. I love your method. Did the sliced potatoes hold up well to cooking for an hour on high heat without getting mushy?

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Hello and welcome to SGCC! I’m Susan, a professional writer, food columnist, recipe developer, wife, mother, daughter and sister, who used to be a lawyer in a previous life. My love of food comes from a long line of wonderful and creative Italian home cooks who didn’t always have a lot, but knew how to make a lot out of what they had. I hope that you enjoy yourself while you’re here, and visit often! read more >>

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