Monday, January 17, 2011

Impatience and Roast Chicken

Roasting a whole chicken always seems like one of those “grown-up” things to do. Most of the time when I cook chicken, I use packaged, boneless, skinless chicken breasts that cook quickly and can be easily divided for a weeknight dinner for one. A whole roast chicken is more social dish, for feeding a family of four, or for dinner parties with a group of good friends. But I’ve always have been a bit intimidated by any meat with bones, since I normally do not have the patience to allow them to cook long enough and fear food poisoning. Usually past attempts to make chicken drumsticks, bone-in pork chops, or anything with bones ended up with some parts tough and overcooked and some parts still raw. But since roasting a chicken is one of those grown-up things to do, right up there with filing your own taxes, and balancing your checkbook, I endeavored to learn to roast a good chicken. A chicken that will not give my future houseguests food poisoning. After all, I made a 13 lb turkey before, how hard can roasting a 4 lb chicken be?

Sadly though, despite my previous handsome rewards of patience, this time I was not so patient. I prepared the chicken and potatoes from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything exactly from the recipe. Except for this step:

“[...] roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 160 to 165 F. Total roasting time will be 50 to 70 minutes.”

I don’t have an instant-read thermometer, so I stuck my regular probe thermometer into the chicken. I had no idea where the “thickest part of the thigh” was so I stuck it somewhere in the middle of what I thought was the thigh. And since my oven door does not have a window, the only way for me to check the temperature was to keep opening and closing the oven, losing some of the precious heat. This probably slowed down the cooking time, and any ounce patience that I had left. After nearly 80 minutes of cooking time, ten minutes more than the suggested time, I saw that the thermometer hit exactly 160 degrees. Hungry and excited to take a bite of the fruits of my labor, I pulled the bird out of the oven. I let the chicken rest for a few minutes and poked it with a knife to make sure the juices ran clear. I’ve finally done it, I thought, I’ve finally made a roast chicken. I am now a grown-up.

Until I actually tried to carve the bird and found that the juices inside were still painfully red.

I put the chicken back into the oven for another fifteen minutes.

I pulled the bird out again, let it rest for a couple minutes, and attempted to cut it again. Chicken breast was plump and juicy, but the legs and thighs were still a bit raw.

So I hacked up the chicken into the pieces and nuked the legs and thighs in the microwave for two minutes, until the juices were no longer red, but the meat was rubbery and dry.

Roast chicken, you have eluded me once again.

Next time, I will roast until the temperature is a bit higher, maybe to 165 degrees to ensure doneness. But all is not lost, after I salvaged the still juicy parts of the bird, I used the carcass to make chicken stock in my crock-pot, which is now simmering away. More on that later this week.
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Mair said...

Save yourself the aggravation and invest in one of those thermometers where you can stick the probe in the meat, and read the temp outside the oven. They're not that expensive.

Cheryl said...

A probe thermometer is on my shopping list...along with a roasting rack!