Roasting Chicken: Befriend your Bird

My family tries to cook outside as much as possible, even in the winter. This is because the house does not get as hot, and the fact that the barbeque can be used for a whole bunch of things. Probably the best food you can cook that demonstrates the diversity of a grill is a chicken.  I think all you have got to do is season it well, give it some love with olive oil and throw it on an indirect heat for about 90-100 minutes. A couple checks every 45 mins, and maybe a casual baste if you are lonely to pass the time will render you a delicious meal. The chicken basically cooks itself.

The only time you can really screw this up is the beginning. Cross-contamination is EVIL! Anything that touches raw chicken must be well washed and disinfected. This means work surfaces, all tools, salt containers, and everything. Don’t be like a “TV chef” and grab a pinch of salt from a large container when you just touched the chicken as now you have to throw away the salt. Don’t be an idiot.

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients:

  • A 1.5-3 kg chicken (preferably free range, organic, and local). Buy a bird that you can afford but has not lived a shitty life. Avoid chickens that are too small as you just pay for bones. More information will come in later posts.
  • 1 tsp salt (I like Kosher personally)
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tbls olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped rosemary (Usually I stay on the side of woody herbs like rosemary or thyme as the long cooking will really bring out their flavor. This is not a hard and fast rule because marjoram is a perfect match with chicken. Yum!)
  • 1 large onion
  • ½ of a lemon
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped finely

 

Instructions:

STEP 1: Prepare for Delivery

Take the chicken out of the fridge and bring it up to room temperature in a large bowl or tray.

Prepare all the tools and seasonings in separate containers so you can season and rub chicken all over. This means chopping the herbs and garlic, measuring (or approximating) the salt and pepper, cutting the lemon, and etc.

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Turn the grill on high on both sides to prepare it. You want to do this at least 15 mins before you start cooking. If you are using charcoal, start the fire well in advance to get a nice layer of ash on top of the coals.

STEP 2: Land the Bird

Take the bird out of its packaging. Look out for any un-plucked feathers or stuff which the packers may have missed. If the chicken has giblets or any other fun things inside, remove them. Be sure to have a prepped landing pad with plenty of paper towels to pat the chicken dry. Moisture is also the enemy of crisp skin so give it some time to air dry if you have it.

Tip: Some people say you should not wash your chicken due to the risk of cross contamination (remember if you touch the taps and sink you have to wash them). If your chicken looks clean there is no real need to do so.  

STEP 3: Season

Rub the oil all over the bird, then season with the chopped herbs, garlic, salt and pepper. Give it a good rub around. Don’t forget to also get it into the cavity as well. You may also wish to stick your fingers in the space between the skin and the chicken as seasoning here will actually touch the meat. Don’t go too crazy though as the skin will retract when cooking. If you want to make this really easy just get an assistant to sprinkle the seasonings while you do the rubbing.

Squeeze the lemon into the cavity and throw the squeezed lemon in as well. Try not to get it on the skin though as this will make it tough. Wash your hands.

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Tip: Season from a height to gain better coverage. 

STEP 4: Prepare to Land

Grab the roasting pan and give it a drop of oil, not much at all but to prevent the onions from sticking. Cut the onion into 1-2” slabs and lay them down and sprinkle with a touch of salt. There is no need to add any liquid here.

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STEP 4: Throw it On

Put the chicken on the barbeque. We are doing indirect cooking here so you want to turn off the side that the meat is on. This can be done on a charcoal fire by putting all the coals on one side of the cooker, or in a circle surrounding the meat and turning the vent holes down.

Tip: Get to know your barbeque, sometimes off is too low and you should have the heat below the meat on low. This will cover for any heat lost.

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Step 6: Check it

Don’t even look at the chicken for the first 45 minutes. I know you are going to want to peek but you are only going to take more heat away. I like to use this time to prep the sides, open a beverage, turn on the tunes and set the mood. (or find which Netflix movie to watch).

After the first 45 minutes, you are looking to see how it’s coming along. At this point, browning should be apparent and it should smell good. If it looks like it is getting too brown cover with foil. If the bottom of the onions are cooking too quickly, turn the heat off or add some liquid.

STEP 6: Is it Done?

Often people are most scared about whether it is done or not. After the 90 minutes are up here are some tips to know if your bird is done. If it doesn’t look done, cook for an additional 10 minutes.

  1. The simple way to understand if you are getting close is simply by seeing if it LOOKS done. Everyone knows what cooked chicken looks like, so use your better judgement. The skin should be brown all over and should shrink slightly. One key thing to look for is the meat pulling away from the drumsticks that is a good indication of doneness.
  2. Once it looks done, give it the “wiggle” test. Grab a drumstick and give it a wiggle, it should feel completely loose in its socket and wiggle freely.
  3. Tilt the pan down and look for the juices running out. The juices should run clear with NO traces of blood.
  4. Take the temperature of the chicken. This is the ONLY failsafe way of knowing it is cooked. I usually do not check the temperature because I know other signs, but don’t be afraid to do so. If you’re cooking a whole bird, it should be inserted into the thickest part of the thigh but not touching bone. 175 degrees Fahrenheit is the safe internal temperature for both the white meat and dark meat.

STEP 7: Let it Rest

Let’s be frank, you won’t want to let it rest. But you absolutely should for your own pleasure. In general, meat should be rested for 1/3 to ½ of the total cooking time. Keep it out of a draft to ensure the meat does not get too cool.

Tip: Take the resting time into consideration and get the table all organized and use your time to the advantage. Once everything is ready, give the bird 5 extra minutes to put on your party dress and make the meal appear to be effortless. 

Step 8: Carve and Enjoy!

To make life WAY easier, carve the chicken in the kitchen before bringing it out. It will take the stress away because you can use your hands and take your time with no one watching you. Don’t be afraid to nibble at any extra pieces.

Serve the chicken ontop of the onions that were underneath.

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