The secret to perfect roasted chicken is to brine the bird, let it air-dry in the fridge, then cook it first at high heat, then at moderate heat. Brining is an age-old technique that adds moisture and enhances taste by infusing the meat with flavor, rather than simply seasoning the skin. Air-drying insures a dry bird going into the oven and extra-crisp skin after roasting, and varying the oven temperature crisps the skin without drying out the meat.
Brining the chicken: In a food-grade plastic container or stainless-steel bowl large enough to hold the chicken, stir and dissolve the salt in the hot water. Add the cold water and stir. Rinse the chicken, then submerge it in the brine. (The chicken must be completely submerged in the solution during the brining process. Place a heavy ceramic plate or bowl on top of the bird to prevent it from floating in the brine.) Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 3 hours, the longer the better. Pour off the brine and rinse the chicken well under cold running water, then dry it thoroughly with paper towels, inside and out. For extra-crispy skin, place the brined bird on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet and return to the refrigerator to air-dry, uncovered, for at least another hour, or overnight, before roasting.
Roasting the chicken: To assure even cooking, remove chicken from refrigerator, and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Place oven rack in center position and preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
Rub the chicken with the butter and season inside and out with pepper. Place the parsley, bay leaf, marjoram, lemon, and shallot in the chicken's cavity. Truss the chicken (use string or skewers). Place the chicken on a rack set inside a roasting pan. Roast the chicken until the skin just begins to brown, about 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F. Continue cooking the chicken until the thigh juices run clear and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, away from the bone, registers 170 degrees F, about 20 to 30 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a warmed platter, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving and serving.
Brining does have one adverse effect on chicken...it adds moisture to the skin as well as the flesh which can prevent the skin from browning or crisping when roasting. Air-drying solves this problem. Letting the brined chicken dry, uncovered, in the refrigerator allows surface moisture to evaporate, making the skin visibly more dry and taut and promotes crispness when cooked. Although this step is optional, it's well worth the extra trouble. For the best results, air-dry the brined chicken overnight.
The roasting times stated in this recipe may appear low; but brined meat tends to cook faster than unbrined meat. Some people believe that the water added to meat through the brining process conducts more heat, resulting in a faster cooking time. More likely, the denatured meat proteins are partially "cooked" by the brining process, so the heat has less work to do and the meat cooks faster. So, if you're used to cooking an unbrined chicken for a certain length of time, start checking the internal temperature about 2/3 of the way into your normal cooking time. Just be sure to use an instant-read thermometer to accurately check for doneness.
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|Serving Size: 1 Serving (1097g)
|Recipe Makes: 4 Servings
|Calories from Fat: 147 (69%)
|Amt Per Serving
|Total Fat 16.3g
|Saturated Fat 6.6g
|Monounsaturated Fat 5.8g
|Polyunsanturated Fat 2.5g
|Total Carbohydrate 4.5g
|Dietary Fiber 1.7g
|Sugars, other 2.9g
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Calories per serving: 212
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