Welcome to the first in series of five “From Scratch” recipes. Each of the next five Wednesdays, I’m going to invite you into my kitchen to show how you too can make a few simple things the old fashioned way. Not only will you find these to be simple and economical, but also so much healthier for your family. This week, we’re making chicken. Okay, so technically, we’re not going to actually make a chicken. We’re just going to roast it.
Grab your apron. Let’s get cookin’.
There are two ways you can go about this and it all depends on how you like your skin. R-Man loves his skin crispy. In that case, I roast my chicken in the oven. Then the bird will look like the above picture. But, sometimes I just want a super tender bird more than I want that crispy skin. That’s when I slow roast it in my crockpot. The crockpot. If you don’t have one of these yet, go get your car keys and wallet. You’re goin’ to Fred Meyer’s right this minute and picking you up one of these. I’m not sure why a Southern accent was necessary for that last statement, but the moment just seemed to call for it.
Roast Chicken In the Oven or Crockpot
1. Check for innards. There may be a neck or other organs inside the cavity of your bird. Now, don’t let this stop you. I know, it’s wiggin’ you out a bit right now to have to reach in and grab body parts, but trust me you can do this. They won’t be all gooey or bloody. Just don’t think about it. Just grab and throw away. Whew! See, you did it. That was the hardest part. (By the way, most times these ‘parts’ are in a little bag.)
2. Rinse your chicken. With the water running in your sink, hold your bird with one hand, while using your other hand to wipe. I’m not completely sure why you do this. The USDA says it’s to rinse off any possible salmonella. But it also says cooking the bird will get rid of all that. Hmmm.
2. Pat it dry. I use a few paper towels. The main thing here is you want the bird to be dry for step four when you smear on your fat. Trust me, fat does not smear well on a wet surface.
3. Place it in your cooking pan breast-side down. (The breasts tend to get dried out a bit when they are cooked facing up. If you face the bird with breasts down, they have a chance to cook in all the lovely juice that ends up in the bottom of the pan.) I have used a pie plate and a cake pan with success. You might even have a ‘roasting pan’. I don’t own one or I would use it too.
How do you know which side is the breast-side? When the breast-side is up it will look like the chicken above getting rinsed. The legs will be up. When the breast-side is down, it’ll look like the picture of me patting the bird with a paper towel. The legs will look like they are tucked under.
4. Wash your hands and go get your fat. And no, I am not referring to that part of your body that you’ve been working at the gym night and day to eradicate. I’m talking olive oil, butter, coconut oil…you know, that kind of fat. If using olive oil, unscrew the lid now while your hands are clean and not slippery.
5. Smear on your fat. I have used olive oil and butter. Both work great. Olive oil is a bit easier to cope with. If using Olive Oil, pour a bit into your hand and rub the bird. You aren’t going to use a whole lot here. You just need enough to put a thin coating all over the bird. Be careful. An oily bird is a slippery bird. If using butter, I suggest you use soft room temperature butter. You can melt it, but then you’ll have to wait until it is cool enough to handle.
6. Salt. That’s right grab your salt shaker or your favorite seasoning salt and give your bird a nice light coating. Garlic powder is good too. Just a note here, you might want to go wash your hands first before grabbing your salt shaker. Otherwise, your salt shaker is going to end up on the floor. Don’t ask me how I know this.
Take 5 or 6 peeled garlic cloves and place in the cavity of the bird. It’s okay. You already took out the other body parts. It’s safe in there now.
Or take some rosemary and place it just under the skin on the breast side of the bird. It makes the most delicious tasting meat.
You will need to run your fingers around under the skin to make room for your herbs.
You don’t have to use fresh rosemary, but if you do, be sure to chop up the leaves first before placing it under the skin.
7. Into a 350 degree preheated oven, place your beauty. Bake 20 minutes for every pound. For example, a 3 lb chicken, will need to be cooked for 60 minutes. (20 minutes x 3 pounds), a 5 lb chicken will be baked for 1 hour 40 minutes (100 minutes).
Or place your bird in your crockpot. This will work in a smaller crockpot as well.
I placed this in breast-side down. And then turn the crockpot on low. Cook all day (7-10 hours). I tend to cook mine for a long time because I love how tender the meat gets. I cook it until the bones are so soft, the bird sort of slumps in the pot.
8. After the allotted cooking time, open your oven door or Crockpot lid and pop in a meat thermometer (in a pinch, I’ve used a candy thermometer) to make sure your meat is 165 degrees. The USDA’s website says, “Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.” If it’s not to the right temp, just keep cooking for awhile longer. But don’t take it out until you have the magic 165 degree number. You don’t want your family wishing you never learned to cook or from scratch because 4 hours after dinner they spent unwanted time in the restroom. Now that just wouldn’t be nice.
9. Let it Rest. Once it’s the right temp, let it sit on the stove top for 15-20 minutes while you are getting the rest of dinner ready for the table. This allows the juices to settle. Whatever that means. I just know that my cousin, who is a chef, always lets the Thanksgiving Turkey rest before carving. It’s better that way. Hey, he would know.
10. Carve it Up. This is the part I have not become accomplished. Okay, let’s be frank. I stink at the carving part. So, this is where I send in R-Man. You know, because men should instinctively know how to carve meat. Just like they seem to know how to BBQ. Hee. Hee. My cousin pulls the whole breast off and then carves it. He showed me how, but I’m sorry, I have weeny hands. They just aren’t used to grabbing something that hot and pulling. Don’t worry. It doesn’t have to look beautiful. As long as it tastes wonderful, you’re in business.
11. Save the Extras. Any meat you don’t eat tonight, put in a ziplock baggie and stick in the freezer. Most of my chickens can feed us through two meals. Some birds I’ve been known to use for three. Depends on the size of the bird. And don’t throw away that carcass, for heaven’s sakes. We’re going to use that next week to make our chicken stock. Just throw the bones and all the juices left in your pan or crockpot into a large ziplock bag and pop into the freezer.
Just FYI, I use my crockpot in the summer a lot. Just outside my sliding glass door, I have an electrical outlet and a small table. It’s there that I plug in my crockpot and let it do all it’s hot stuff outdoors. The lid keeps all the buggies and flies out.
Wanna see how someone else cooked their Crockpot Chicken? Check out The Happy Housewife. She’s got some good meal ideas for your new cooked chicken.
See you next Wednesday for the next installment of “From Scratch”, when I’ll be showing you how to make your own chicken stock for FREE.