From the pantheon of great roast chicken recipes, I’ve cooked a whole lot—but never one like this: extremely tender, rotisserie-style meat with the crispiest possible skin. Before now, this had been an either-or choice.
The technique is also as beginner-friendly as it gets—easy to carve, and very difficult to overcook. And waste-averse, too: It’s designed to help you love every last bit of the chicken, and lends itself to appreciatively eating in smaller portions than usual.
Perhaps best of all, the bird will mostly cook itself—you just have to intervene and do one slightly kooky thing along the way.
In its celebration of salty, crackly, Frito-esque skin, this recipe comes from a somewhat surprising place: a cookbook about gut health. But, as the subtitle explains, it’s a book about gut health “for people who love delicious food.”
Lindsay Maitlund Hunt, a former food editor and recipe developer at Real Simple and BuzzFeed, was inspired to write her latest cookbook Help Yourself after cooking through her own health struggles. “So much of diet culture is talking about what you can’t have, and I really don’t want to think about that,” Lindsay told me. “There are so many other reasons we eat.”
She knew she wanted to include a slow-roasted chicken in the book. Thanks to a 300°F oven—for some context, Barbara Kafka’s Genius chicken cooks at 500°F—the white and dark meat both relax and become fall-to-pieces tender, much like a good rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. (1)
The meat is buttery-soft enough to pull from the bone instead of formally carving, which allows you to eat only as much as you like, rather than committing to whole pieces. (2) And, unlike with high-heat roasting, which races from juicy to parched if you don’t catch it in time, you can forget this chicken for 10, 15, even 20 extra minutes in the oven without disaster.
Now, about that skin: Roasted low and slow, it makes for an excellent buffer from the drying heat of the oven (“It’s self-basting!” Lindsay says). But it won’t get deeply golden and crispy—at least not all on its own. (3)
This is why, after gently coaxing the chicken to a yielding, fall-apart state, Lindsay tugs all the skin off and blasts it in a high-heat oven. Each yanked-off piece, large and small, quickly renders into sizzly, practically-fried chicken chips you can sprinkle over your brothy pulled chicken, and into your mouth.
While the sudden strangeness of this step made me giggle at first (just me?), it’s nothing more than a dream-realized version of the instinct we all feel when pulling a golden bird out of the oven—to sneak off one little piece no one will miss, and then another. (Except, this time, you have permission not to stop.) I also like to remember the time Jacques Pépin showed us how to skin a raw chicken in one swift motion on Facebook Live, saying he was simply taking off its pajamas.
This delightful maneuver will help you make the most of every part of your best-of-all-worlds bird, and give you a pile of pulled chicken to weave into your sandwiches, rice bowls, and quesadillas all week—or even freeze for future ones.
Not the crispy bits though. When I asked about freezing those, Lindsay laughed, “No, eat the skin! I don’t think that’ll be a hard task.” It’s definitely not.
(1) If you’re wondering why, scientifically, this is so, Harold McGee explains in On Food and Cooking, “Because the heating process is more gradual, there is less extreme coagulation in the tissues, and less fluid will have been squeezed out in the process.”
(2) Those bones can go straight into a pot of water for simmering into chicken stock, with the lemon and herbs if you want a lemony chicken soup the next day, or with just the herbs and bones if you don’t. No waste.
(3) Carla Lalli Music’s solution in her also-excellent Faux-tisserie Chicken is to coat the bird in crunchy spices, like ground fennel and chile flakes.
Serves 6 to 8.
• 1 (4-pound) whole chicken, patted dry
• 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 1 lemon, quartered, plus additional wedges for serving
• 1 large sprig rosemary (and/or other fresh, sturdy herbs like thyme or rosemary)
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves (and/or other fresh, soft herbs like chives, dill, or fennel fronds)
• Flaky sea salt (optional)
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