There’s only one way to do a chicken: standing on its head!
HRH (my “Horrible Russian Husband”) is not known for his gift-giving prowess. He’s generous to a fault, but he has absolutely no idea what to give anyone on any occasion: he gets a detailed Excel spreadsheet at Christmas time of gift ideas, all of which can be sourced in Heathrow’s Terminal Five during a 90-minute layover between flights. “Just print it out,” I tell him, “go to the Jo Malone counter and give it to one of those nice women…they’ll do the rest.”
So I was amused when our friend Joe Kelly and his girlfriend Tanya, on a trip to the US, called HRH to ask what I wanted for my birthday. “I text you, Joe – okay?” said HRH and asked me what I wanted. I handed him a slip of paper with website address and catalog number, which he duly texted off. I was suitably surprised when I unwrapped my new Staub vertical chicken roaster. Joe cocked a suspicious eyebrow, because, if you didn’t know better, you could be fooled into thinking that a vertical chicken roaster plays a different role in a different room in the house, but stopped his snark when he tucked in to the moist, perfectly roasted bird that the birthday present produced.
A good roasted chicken is hard to beat: it’s flexible, it’s great cold or just out of the oven, it’s equally satisfying at a midsummer picnic as it is on a wet dreary Tuesday night in November. It also leaves you with lovely juices and the carcass, which together make the perfect base for chicken stock. The only problem with roasting a chicken is that, in the past, it’s been messy: Julia says to flip it every 40 minutes (which has ruined about six sets of pot holders), Jamie says to flip it twice, and my oven doesn’t have a rotisserie thingy in it. For years I eschewed roasting whole chickens until I discovered the vertical roaster and now there is no turning back! So, there is no reason not to roast a chicken, and to my way of thinking, there’s no better, nor easier way to do it than the method below.
Vertical chicken roasters are available in Moscow:
A compact metal version retailing at around 400 rubles, is available at Metro Cash & Carry:
I found a more expensive version at Williams & Oliver which has a deeper well, perfect for roasting vegetables or pouring wine or lemon juice into to infuse the bird with more juice. With the right oven, this model could work very well for a small (12 lb or 5 kilo) turkey.
I tested them both and they both worked well. I found the larger version easier to clean, as well as offering the attractive option of adding vegetables in the trough to roast with the chicken. You can also invert the chicken onto the center of a Bundt pan or Tube pan, or, indeed, on an empty beer can. Which brings us to the beer can version, of which this recipe is not an endorsement. I know a lot of people (particularly those who live south of the Mason-Dixon line) who swear by beer can chicken, but to me that is the same thing as just opening a can of beer and pouring it over your chicken. Yuck.
If you are looking for a crispier chicken skin, try this tip from America’s Test Kitchen: score the chicken breast lightly with a small sharp knife, then rub baking powder into the skin of the chicken. Let sit in the fridge overnight and then proceed with the recipe below. This allows the chicken skin to separate from the meat and crisp up. It works.
What to do with the remains?
Remove all the meat from the carcass and set aside with the thyme and rosemary to make stock.
Cool the accumulated pan juices to room temperature and pour into a clean container. The chicken fat will rise to the top of the jar, while the highly concentrated chicken jelly will fall to the bottom as you cool the mixture. Chicken fat is used certain recipes, but the chicken jelly is a must-have flavor booster for stock and sauces. Be sure not to tip it down the sink!
Have you tried a vertical chicken roaster? What were your thoughts? What is your favorite way of making chicken come out just right? Hit the comment button below and share your ideas with the community!