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Roasted Chicken Goodness

Roasted Chicken Goodness

Roasted chicken goodness at its best.

Lindsey Nair | The Roanoke Times, Va.

The Chicken Spectrum

Jeff Bland, a chef with U.S. Foodservice, sprinkles his chickens with salt and pepper before sliding them into a 400-degree oven until the temperature reads 165 degrees in the thigh.

That’s it. He doesn’t even serve it with gravy.

“I am a roasted chicken purist,” he said. “As far as a chef goes, probably as pure as it gets.”

In Bland’s opinion, the single most important tip for roasting a tasty bird is to read that thermometer. He takes his poultry out at 165 degrees because it will continue to cook outside the oven for a while (in the industry, they call this carry-over cooking.)

If the bird doesn’t come out of the oven until the thermometer reads 180, it could turn out dry, he said.

Then there’s Tucker Yoder, head chef at The Red Hen in Lexington, who likes to stuff bacon fat or butter and herbs under the skin. If he’s cooking it for the restaurant, he might even brine the bird first.

Separating the skin from the flesh can be tricky without tearing it, but that layer of air in between is key for crispier skin, Yoder said. In fact, Peking duck is made by pumping air between the skin and flesh for this very reason.

Bland and Yoder represent opposite points on the roasted chicken spectrum. In between fall many, many variations. Here are a few examples:

n Josh Smith at Local Roots Cafe in Roanoke brines and trusses his bird, then roasts it at a high heat in a preheated saute pan, basting with butter and thyme in the final stages.

n One of my blog readers uses an Alton Brown method that includes cramming a mixture of vegetables, herbs and butter inside the cavity and roasting the chicken breast-side down for half the time, then flipping it over.

Advocates of the breast-down method say it keeps the white meat from drying out. Turning halfway through allows the skin to brown on all sides.