A few weeks ago, I announced a video new series called Overthinking Classics. The premise of the series is simple, I do what I do best and overanalyze and overexplain well-loved classic dishes. Our first episode explored the magic that is Coconut Cream Pie. So for our second installment, I decided to take things to the dinner table and create a centerpiece of a meal. Roast chicken is one of those dishes every omnivorous cook should have in their arsenal. It’s a very approachable introduction to roasts and it creates a manageable amount of food. And chicken, unlike its turkey cousin, is very forgiving. But even with its forgiving nature, there are a number of things you can do to take your chicken to the next level. So let’s dive right in and overthink our way through crafting this Dry Brined Roast Chicken.
The phrase “dry brining” sounds impressive but it’s really nothing more than rubbing salt all over a piece of meat and leaving it to air dry. Time and salt do most of the work, so very little thought or dexterity is required. I love dry brining meat. The process leaves the meat seasoned throughout, not just on the surface. And in the case of chicken and other kinds of poultry, the salt dries the skin out, so it’s ready to crisp up the moment it hits the oven. Moisture is the enemy of crispy skin.
This Dry Brined Roast Chicken, and its accompanying video, details a technique called trussing. Trussing refers to binding the wings and legs of poultry so they sit closer to the body. This creates a compact roast, which increases the likelihood of the chicken cooking evenly. I detail a few drawbacks that come with this method, and possible solutions to those drawbacks. But ultimately I stand by my choice to truss my chicken. I like presenting a chicken whole and carving it at the table. There’s no point in serving a roast if you’re not going to be theatrical about it.
And finally, we cover seasoning the bird with aromatics and briefly explore some potential alternative flavor profiles. The rules surrounding using aromatics and fresh herbs when roasting a chicken are simple – try your best to limit their exposure to direct heat. Dry rubs that include more than salt and are prone to burning and turning bitter. That’s not to say dry rubs have no place on a roast chicken. If you want to coat the surface of your bird with dried herbs, you’ll want to roast your chicken low and slow, so as not to shock them with too much heat. Alternatively, you could use those same herbs to flavor some butter and stuff it under the skin where they will be protected from direct heat.
As you can see in the video, I went the least fiddly route possible. I stuffed the chicken with aromatics to perfume the chicken and create a source of steam to keep the breast moist. And then, I simply rubbed the chicken all over with soft unsalted butter. Simple, effective, and fuss-free. You can certainly make a roast chicken more complicated than this. You could cook it low and slow, coated head to toe in a dry rub, with herb butter under the skin. It really depends on what you’re looking for in a roast chicken. My greatest hope with this video is that it provides you with a road map to create a method that gives you the chicken of your dreams.
So I’m going to leave things here. I don’t want to turn myself into a broken record. There is plenty of info on this recipe in the video below. So if you’re still feeling lost, check it out. And if you enjoy the video, please consider subscribing to my YouTube channel. I post a new recipe every week and a ton of extra goodies in between.
Dry Brined Roast Chicken
- Large Cast Iron Skillet
- Butcher's Twine
- 1 whole chicken
- 2 tbsp kosher salt
- 4 cloves garlic crushed
- 3-4 sprigs fresh sage
- 1 lemon halved
- ¼ cup unsalted butter softened
- Place a cooling rack on top of a small baking sheet. Clip the trussing the chicken came with. We want all the limbs free so they can be evenly seasoned. Generously season the cavity and all sides of the bird with the kosher salt. Place the chicken breast-side-up in the center of the cooling rack and transfer to the fridge. Let brine overnight or a minimum of 8 hours.1 whole chicken, 2 tbsp kosher salt
- The next day, preheat the oven to 425°F. Retrieve the chicken from the fridge. The skin should be a slightly rosy color and feel tacky to the touch. Stuff the chicken with the garlic, sage, and lemon.4 cloves garlic, 3-4 sprigs fresh sage, 1 lemon
- Now, truss the chicken. Take a good length of butchers twine and line the center up with the center of the bird. Loop the twine around the chicken’s legs and pull them together. Take the two ends of the twine and pull them up towards the wings. Loop each end around its corresponding wing before bringing the twine towards the center of the bird. Loop the ends around each other and wrap them around the chicken lengthwise to meet again in the center of the back of the chicken. Fasten the twine and trim the excess. Flip the bird breast-side-up and tuck the wing tips underneath the twine, so they sit flush with the breast.**
- Once the bird is trussed, rub it all over with the softened butter. Place a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until smoking. Place the chicken in the pan breast-side-up and sear the bottom for 2-3 minutes. Transfer the chicken to the oven and roast for 20 minutes.¼ cup unsalted butter
- When the 20 minutes have passed, take the chicken out of the oven and bast it in the juices that have collected in the bottom of the pan. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and return the chicken to the oven. Roast for 40 minutes more, basting every 10.
- Once the 40 minutes are up and the chicken’s juices are running clear, transfer the chicken to a platter and garnish with fresh herbs, edible flowers, and citrus wedges. Add anything you think will add an air of pageantry. You want a roast to make an impact. Wait 10 minutes before carving.