Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Best Roasted Chicken EVER

For Thanksgiving last year, I decided that I was going to brine the turkey based on a recipe I found with photo instructions that seemed easy enough to follow. I'd heard from many people that brined turkeys were the best and wow, were they right! Thanksgiving was going to be even more awesome than before, despite the serious lack of dairy, gluten, eggs and pork.

Then I started thinking about how rarely I make a whole turkey. Would it work on just a turkey breast? Yes, it does, though obviously the quantities must be adjusted. That started me thinking about much better would a whole roasted chicken taste if it were brined first?

Let's just say that when I roast a chicken, it's always brined now. There is no comparison.

Part One: How to Brine a Whole Chicken

  • 1/4-1/2 cup coarse Kosher salt**
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 package Fresh Poultry Herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme) or 2 Tbsp dried poultry herbs or herbs you love, fresh or dried
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 Tbsp molasses
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (optional)
  • Stock Pot (needs to be large enough for a whole chicken to submerge completely)
  • Ice Cubes (about 2 trays worth)
  • Whole THAWED chicken (3-5 pounds, rinsed with cavity cleaned out thoroughly; discard giblets and neck; pat chicken dry with paper towels; extremely important that the entire chicken is COMPLETELY THAWED first)
  1. Place stock pot on large burner of stove, turn on high and add these ingredients: water, salt, herbs, pepper, molasses, brown sugar.
  2. Stir until combined and heat to a boil.
  3. Turn off heat and steep, with lid on, for approximately half an hour.
  4. Stir well, then add ice, stirring until most of the ice is melted or let it sit for another ten-twenty minutes. The water needs to be less than room temperature before the chicken goes in.
  5. Add whole chicken, breast side down and angled towards bottom (feet up!) until it is completely submerged; add additional cold water if needed and put the lid on.
  6. Place entire stock pot in the refrigerator for 2 to 6 hours; the longer the chicken rests in the water, the stronger the flavor.
  7. Remove chicken and either roast, grill, or cook in a rotisserie cooker. You could probably also go ahead and cut the chicken up and use in pieces if you really want to...I hate cutting up raw chicken, so if I want chicken pieces I buy them already cut up. It's a lot easier to take a chicken apart after it's cooked, anyhow. Discard brining solution.
**Salt content- I do not have figures on how much of the salt used ends up in the meat; most of it is discarded and my partner, who has high blood pressure, has not had any problems from eating brined foods. Please check with your doctor if you are on a sodium-restricted diet before using this recipe!

Part Two: Roasting a Whole Chicken

I have two pans I use for roasting chicken; one is a basic clear glass 9x13 baking dish and the other is a large roasting pan with rack. I've used both and each have their good points and bad. MOST of the time I use the glass dish because a single chicken in my huge roasting pan is a real waste of energy and it's harder to clean up! Also, it makes for a dryer chicken, which some people prefer, especially if you're really watching fat calories and you want the fat to drain completely away from the chicken.

For this, I'm going to show you how to use a glass 9x13 baking dish.
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Take the recently brined chicken out of the brining solution and place breast-side down in center of a 9x13 glass baking dish. Pour 1-2 cups of cold water in bottom of dish (this keeps the breast from sticking and keeps it nice and moist while also pulling the fat away).
  3. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder and other seasonings/herbs as desired.Cook in preheated oven for 60 minutes on center rack.
  4. Remove from oven and flip chicken over so that breast-side is now facing up. Season as in step 3. Add more water if needed.
  5. Return to oven and cook for another 45-60 minutes, using a meat thermometer to determine internal temperature has reached recommended levels (I usually shoot for temps between 140 and 165 in the breast, which means the dark meat is almost always 10-20 degrees higher; check here for FSIS recommendations on safe chicken handling and cooking.)
  6. Remove from oven and let chicken rest for 5-10 minutes before carving up. We usually have one meal with fresh roasted chicken then use the rest for lunches and other meals after I de-bone the entire chicken. If you like to make soups, save the carcass to make broth!

Leftover Roasted Chicken Meal Ideas:

  1. Chicken tacos, burritos or enchiladas - shred chicken, season to taste with pepper, paprika, chili powder and cumin cook with white beans; use appropriate type of tortilla and toppings
  2. Chicken, rice/quinoa/pasta/potatoes and steamed vegetables, either mixed together (to make chicken go further) or served separately
  3. Chicken chowder, soup or stew (another good way to stretch a small amount of chicken further)
  4. Chicken salad or salad with chicken
  5. BBQ Chicken (I like Bull's Eye Barbeque Sauce in the "Sweet and Tangy" of high fructose corn syrup and free of gluten, soy, eggs and dairy) served with corn on the cob and coleslaw made with Brianna's Poppyseed Dressing instead of mayo; buns/bread for those who can have it.Chicken Mac 'n Cheeze using Daiya Vegan Cheese and Ancient Harvest Quinoa Elbow Macaroni


  1. Never thought of adding molasses! I bet that gives it a great color and depth of flavor. I'm trying this recipe next time.

  2. Yay! Let me know how it turns out for you, Hilah :) And thanks for commenting!