Every restaurant menu has it, and it’s one of the pillars of lean-protein gainz for every gym rat since Atlas. It usually manifests itself as the unholy crime against food they call “stir fry”; seasoned (read: drowned) in soy sauce or Frank’s Red Hot, and cooked into vulcanized oblivion with a fistful of frozen veggies. You guessed it, chicken.
But those bland, stringy, dry, rubbery birds are an excellent place to start. So let’s start at the core, the foundation, the basics, forgiven for any past transgression you may have against this majestic protein. Nobody jumps into Crossfit without Boot Camp, so consider this your intro sesh. No fancy pan tricks, no tomato roses, no soufflés, hell, we’re not even using a knife here yet. Roasting is our burpee. Anyone can do it, everyone should do it, and you can do it anywhere.
Roasting is an utterly amazing cooking methods for 3 main reasons:
- It requires almost no effort or equipment, other than an oven and time. Controlling temperature and time are accurate, and effortless.
- It is incredibly forgiving. In a pan, things happen quickly and something can go from underdone, to burnt wreck in seconds. In the oven the margin of error (and therefore probability of success) is much greater.
- Things get caramelized, browned, and crispy. Just typing those words has me salivating.
Some of you will remember my initial claim that “everyone should be able to feed themselves”. While this is true, it doesn’t go far enough. Everyone should be able to make a meal for 4. A MEAL. Not “pasta”, a respectable meal. And it just so happens that the most classic meal happens to be one of the best meals, which happens to be one of the easiest meals, which happens to be one of the healthiest meals, which happens to be one of the least expensive meals. Roast chicken. Not just any roast chicken. This makes Kroger, and any restaurant chicken, look like prison food. This is the chicken you put as your “final meal”. The kind you leave your wife for, and escape with to start a new life in Guam.
So without further ado, here’s your first assignment. You can barely call it a recipe. It’s a system, a technique. Come on, you don’t even need a knife.
Step 1: Chalk Up. Wash the bird. Dry the bird. Then its time for a salt scrub. Think of it like chalk. Chalk makes lifting better; salt makes chicken better. Rain in down upon your chicken like Samuel L reigns vengeance upon those that attempt to poison and destroy his brothers. (don’t get that joke? You have bigger issues than cooking chicken).
Step 2: Back Rack It. Put it, breasts up, on something that came from the ground. This is where the true genius of this comes in. you can put it atop anything, and it will be cooked in delicious chicken-y goodness. Whole carrots, stalks of celery, potatoes, squash, mushrooms, shit even kale would probably work. And don’t worry about tucking in wings and legs. Unlike you, the chicken doesn’t need to work on its form.
Step 3: 3, 2, 1, Go! Give your chicken the Viking funeral it deserves. Set it into a 450-degree oven and go watch an episode of Game of Thrones. Don’t watch GoT? I guess you know why all your lifts are stagnant. Anyway this part is critical. Leave the bird in there for 1 hour, not 58 minutes, not 59 minutes. No peeking. 1 hour. You don’t short reps, don’t short your chicken its time in the sauna.
At the end of that hour open the oven and watch out for any golden rays or cherubs that fly out as you lay eyes upon your perfectly golden chicken. And I promise it will be perfectly golden. That crispy, chicken-y shade of gold that you thought was only possible in HBC dreams or on Food Magazine covers. Your friends will ooh. And they will likely aaaah. But here is the absolutely critical step 4.
Step 4: Cool Down. You’ve waited your hour, you can see the perfection that sits before you. But trust me, wait. You need to let the chicken rest. This serves 2 purposes: it lets the internal temperature of the chicken even out, sealing in juiciness and making sure it is cooked perfectly all the way through, and it lets the crispy skin set, and crispy skin is like 90% of the reason for cooking anything with skin. Look, when you cash out of Fran, or 15.5 the last thing you want is people coming over asking questions and asking if you can judge them etc. So give your chicken the same courtesy, it just went through a lot and it just needs a moment.
Step 5: Psych! There is no step 5! Congrats! You’ve made it through all of the steps. You now have a chicken that is covered in a thin sheet of crispy skin covering fall-off-the-bone tender, juicy protein. Oh hey, remember those ground things all the way from step 2? They’re now perfectly cooked AND perfectly seasoned by salty chicken juice.
If you’re really feeling Rx+, once you remove all that stuff from the pan, add a squeeze of Dijon to what’s left, squeeze some lemon with those power arms, and stir it all up into a sauce.
But wait! There’s more! Once you’ve finished licking the chicken off your fingers, keep reading. The best part of this non-recipe is that it applies to ANY CHICKEN PARTS. Got 4 thighs? 450, 1 hr. Pack of wings? Same process. Pan of skinless breasts? add anything liquid, repeat steps 1 through 5. I think we’re done here. Go towel off…….your counter and utensils, obviously.