Thursday, June 14, 2012

Roast Chicken

A few days ago my husband and I decided we wanted to smoke a couple chickens. Unfortunately after I put them in the brine, the wind started howling. It's kind of pain to keep the heat up in our smoker when the wind is blowing, so we didn't want to mess with that, but I'd already put the chickens in the brine so I needed to cook them. I decided to just toss them in the oven and roast them. It turned out to be super easy and the chicken came out moist! It didn't really have a ton of flavor because I didn't load it with spices, but it just tasted like good chicken.

I wanted to share it with you because it's a great way to get yummy meat that you can use in a lot of other dishes. At my local grocery store whole chickens are almost always 99 cents a pound if you buy a package of two chickens. I paid like $11.00 for two chickens. Even if we invite family over, we almost always have one whole chicken left to cut up and save for leftovers. You can turn it into chicken sandwiches, chicken salad, chicken tacos, chicken caesar salad, chicken noodle soup, or chicken pot pie, just to name a few ideas.

I am a big fan of brine. You can find articles that explain the science of how it works, or just take my word for it that it works. It makes the meat tender and delicious. A few years ago I brined a turkey for Thanksgiving and it was the best turkey I've ever had (except my uncle's smoked turkey, of course). Every year since we've brined our Thanksgiving turkeys and when we got a smoker and started smoking chickens, we brined them too. A brine usually includes water, salt, sugar, and various other spices. You mix it up and submerge the bird. Turkeys need to sit in the brine for at least 8 hours, but chickens only need 4-6 hours. The most difficult thing about brining is finding a container large enough to fit the birds and all the liquid. For chickens, I use a 40-cup Rubbermaid rectangular container I bought at Wal-Mart. I can fit one gallon of brine and two chickens in it and still fit the lid on it, which is nice because it keeps me from spilling it when I move it from the counter to the fridge. If you have a large stock pot, that would work too. Just make sure you can fit it in your fridge.

If we had smoked these chickens I would have made a dry rub to put on them after I took them out of the brine, but since we were roasting these ones, I went simple and just rubbed olive oil, salt, and pepper on them. I put half an onion and a few whole cloves of garlic in the cavity of each bird. That's it! I didn't bother to truss them. I read an article that said a chicken will cook more quickly and evenly if you don't truss it. Since I'm lazy anyway that was all the excuse I needed not to do it. If you want to make your bird look pretty, I'll let you google how to truss a bird.

Roast Chicken

1 gallon cold water
3/4 c. kosher salt
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 Tbs. paprika
1 Tbs. pepper
2 whole chickens
1 onion, quartered
8-10 cloves garlic
olive oil
salt & pepper

For brine, combine water, kosher salt, and brown sugar. Stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Add paprika and pepper and mix well. Submerge chickens completely in brine. Cover and refrigerate for 4-6 hours. If the brine doesn't completely cover the chickens, turn them over after 2-3 hours. Remove from brine and pat dry.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Rub chickens with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Place two quarters of onion and 4-5 cloves of garlic in each chicken. Place on rack in roasting pan. Roast at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 degrees. Continue roasting for about 2 hours. Halfway through I flipped my chickens over so that both sides would be crispy, but it's not necessary. Every 20-30 minutes, baste the chickens with the juices from the pan. Chicken is done when a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 180 degrees.

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