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Sunday, November 20, 2011

{Alton Brown's Good Eats Roast Turkey - Roasted Chicken Tutorial, too}

I'm skipping to the most important post of the Easiest Thanksgiving Menu.  This recipe is a bit more labor intensive than the menu items, but it should be expected when it is the centerpiece of the meal.

I'm sure it is becoming obvious that I love Alton Brown's recipes.  Yes, this is the third recipe of his that I am using for this menu, but I find his recipes to be very dependable.

The recipe for Alton's Good Eats Roast Turkey can be found here on the Food Network site.  There are also quite a few videos on the site from the episode in which he makes this recipe - very helpful.

Photo from

I decided to roast a chicken last weekend and thought it would be a good time to do a mini version of the recipe to show you the highlights of the process - we'll call it a bonus recipe.  I changed quite a few things from the original recipe, but it gives you an idea of the overall method.  I do stick pretty closely to his recipe for the turkey - with a few tweaks I will include at the end of this post.

Here is my chicken little.

I started by giving him a good shower with water and making sure that I had all of the innards out.

The first time I roasted a turkey (I mentioned this event in my first post with my Thanksgiving menu, and yes I skipped right over roasting a chicken before roasting a turkey so I was guessing) I was worried about leaving something in the turkey because it seemed to be the classic mistake.  When I called my dad he told me to look from the back end until I could see the light on the other end.  Thank goodness because I almost missed the neck which was tucked way in there!!! 

That is my reason for showing you a picture of the back end of a chicken...

Next, I prepped my brine.  I used the Good Eats Turkey recipe, but a smaller amount.
So, I have salt (please, do not use iodized salt, blah!), brown sugar, pepper corns and allspice berries (buy them in the Mexican spice section in the plastic bag - way cheaper)
I skipped the candied ginger because I didn't have any on hand, the recipe will be fine without it.

I also used water instead of vegetable broth this time.
You can see how milky the mixture looks from all the salt and sugar that has not dissolved.
Heat until they have dissolved completely.

This is what it should look like after they have dissolved.  You do not have to bring the mixture to a boil.  In fact, it will take longer to cool so I try to avoid overheating.   

Add some ice to the pot to help cool the brine down.  You don't want to put the brine over the chicken hot or you will create a breeding ground for yucky stuff like salmonella. 

When the mixture is cold, pour it over the chicken.  I put mine breast side down in a large bowl.  I use a 5 gallon bucket for my turkey, but this is a little overkill for my little chicken.

Fill with more water to cover, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and pop him into the fridge for a few hours.
While you are waiting, you can read about what brining does and how it works here.

Fast forward and I have set up my little assembly line for my bird.
Notice I covered the bottom of the pan with foil for easy cleanup.

I also have my twine, softened butter and a mix of spices I threw together (salt, pepper, paprika and garlic) ready.  I am varying from Alton's recipe a bit here as he just coats with oil here.  I wanted to add a little extra seasoning to my chicken.

Lift him out and give him a rinse.  Tongs work nicely.

I like to lift the skin all the way up to get down to the breast with the seasoning.  Rub him with butter and seasonings.

I really got in there, poor guy.

To keep the wings from overcooking, I fold them back.

He looks like he is chillaxin', waiting for his sun tan...

I seasoned the inside with some salt and pepper and tossed in some rosemary, onion and lemon.  I am mixing it up a bit from the turkey recipe, but again I wanted to show you the method.

A little twine to keep his legs from sticking out and overcooking.

And into the oven he goes.  A chicken usually takes about an hour and 20 minutes.  I check mine after about an hour.  The breast should reach 165, the legs should move around easily and the juices should be clear.  I pull mine out around 163 degrees because the bird will continue cooking after you pull him out.

Here he is all done.  Take him out and tent with foil.  If you do not allow the bird to rest, all of the juices will go running all over the place.  This is not good when you worked so hard to keep him moist.

I was hoping to eat some of our chicken (with the make ahead mashed potatoes that I made) and have some over a salad the next night.  Matt went a little crazy though and devoured a good portion of the chicken.  I guess it was good!

As for the Good Eats Roast Turkey recipe, a few notes from my experience making it:
  • For the brining, pick up a 5 gallon bucket and lid from the hardware store.  They are cheap and you know its clean!
  • I had a miserable time with the half sheet pan.  It is really hard to move around without spilling everything all over the place.  Instead, I will use a regular roasting pan and a high roasting rack to ensure the heat can move all around the bird.
  • Cranking the oven up to 500 degrees created a smoky mess as the juices from the bird hit the hot pan.  I think you could pick one of two options to prevent this.  
    • One, only start at 450 and stretch the time a bit longer to get the brown on the bird.  
    • Two, add a can of chicken broth to the bottom of the pan - only if you use a deeper roasting pan as opposed to the half sheet pan.
    • Feel free to mix the two methods.
  • You may also find you do not need the full 30 minutes of browning at the higher temperature, 20 minutes was enough for me.
  • Give him a spin.  I like to turn my bird halfway through cooking to prevent uneven cooking due to hot spots in the oven.
  • Leave plenty of time for the bird to cook.  My experience is that it always takes longer than expected.  Give yourself plenty of time as you can always pull the bird out early.  Trust me, it will stay plenty hot tented with foil and you can move on to finishing your side dishes in the oven.
  • In line with the tip above, remember that your bird will continue to cook when you remove it from the oven.  You should let it rest at least 20 minutes and count on the temperature increasing around 5 degrees.  Resting longer is just fine.
  • KEEP THE DOOR CLOSED!  This goes for all of the recipes you make. The more you open the door, the more you drop the temperature of the oven!  Keep it closed.  Its hard when you are stressed about getting things done in time, but opening the door to check only makes the process take longer.
  • Thermometers - Invest in a couple, or three...
    • One, an oven thermometer.  I have one that hangs from the rack in my oven at all times.  This helps to see what the temperature of the oven really is so you can adjust (or stop opening the door) accordingly.
    • Two, a thermometer for in the bird.  I have a digital one with a cord that stretches out of the oven and beeps when it reaches the desired temperature and it works great.  A regular, dial one that stays in the bird is just fine too.
    • Three, a backup, instant-read thermometer.  I like having a backup for a second opinion that I can check a couple of different spots.
  • Carefully place your thermometer.  I place my thermometer into the breast at an angle.  If you touch bone you will get a false read so avoid bone.  I double check around the thighs also with the instant-read when the breast is done.
And there you have it!  I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do.  Let me know if you have questions, I will do my best to answer them.  {Enjoy!}

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