Roast Chicken |

Weeknight Roast Chicken: Some Updates

Posted on Posted in Culinary Science, Recipes

So I make my weeknight roast chicken at least twice a month because it’s so delicious, cheap, and low-intensity.  That said, I’ve made some improvements to the recipe, which I will share here, as well as the full printable recipe below.

  1. Instead of wet brining, I now dry brine.  It has been shown that this technique, which is as simple as lifting away the skin and putting salt on each breast 2-8 hours before roasting, helps retain more water and adds more flavor than wet brining.  You can still season the skin for extra flavor, but be careful with the salt content– although the salt will dissolve and be absorbed by the meat (which means you can’t see it), it is still there and well, salty!  Temper the amount you add to the skin to avoid over salting.  Dry brining is also far less messy and time consuming, plus it leaves the skin pre-dried, rather than having to let the wet brine drip off before drying and proceeding with seasoning.
  2. Speaking of dry skin, this is the most important step.  The Maillard reaction only occurs on dry surfaces above 300F, which gives the skin that crispy, savory flavor that truly is the best part of this recipe.  Any water left on the surface will turn into steam before any crispiness can occur.

Roast Chicken |

  1.  The baking powder is crucial.  Don’t add too much or you’ll be able to taste it’s metallic-y effects.  However, the Maillard reaction occurs best at higher pH.  Baking powder is dry and slightly basic, which speeds up the Maillard reaction.  It also breaks down some of the proteins in the skin, helping along the crisping process by creating internal steam pockets that solidify and give the skin little tiny bubbles of crunch.

  2.  As for the Dutch oven- I love it because it is pretty, gets very hot, and it’s convenient (I can slap the lid on to store leftovers, and I can keep the carcass in the pot and just add aromatics, water, and gelatin to make stock).  It also comes in close contact with the legs, which cook slower than the breast, heating them through faster.  However, those high sides also prevent air circulation, which prevents total skin browning.  If that is more important to you, replace the Dutch oven with a cast iron or other oven-safe skillet.

  3.  The most important part of this recipe is getting the doneness right.  No one cares how flavorful the skin is if they have to chew the meat for 5 minutes before swallowing.  USE A MEAT THERMOMETER.  Pull the chicken when the thickest part of the breast reads 150F; the resting period will bring the meat up to 160F.  Also, let the meat rest- I’ve cut into it preemptively before, and it was heartbreaking to watch the juices run all over the cutting board (and the counter) in real time.

I also created a new side- roasted potatoes (see the recipe below).  There are some important points about this too!

  1.  You can use any type of potatoes you like.  The original recipe recommended russet/Idaho/baking potatoes for their light fluffiness, but if you like a denser, waxier feel, use Yukons or red potatoes.  I’ve used all of them and they’re all delicious.
  2. Don’t be ginger!  When tossing the potatoes with the fat and seasonings, intentionally rough up the surface to create more surface area that will get brown and crispy.
  3. Don’t put tinfoil on the baking sheet.  Yes, that’s one more dish, but trust me- the potatoes will stick to foil, and removing potatoes while leaving that crispy underside on the foil is upsetting.
  4. This recipe is great because it works perfectly with the chicken.
    • Prep the potatoes and boil the water while the oven is preheating.
    • Boil the potatoes and then drain and season them when the chicken goes in.
    • When the chicken has 15 minutes left, throw the potatoes in.
    • When the chicken comes out, flip the potatoes.
    • When the chicken has rested and the pan sauce is done, pull and serve the potatoes- perfect!
Roast potatoes |
The lofty potatoes, pictured here with pork tenderloin.

Weeknight Roast Chicken and Potatoes

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Yield: 2 servings with lots of leftovers

Weeknight Roast Chicken and Potatoes


    For the Chicken
  • 4-5 lb whole chicken
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt, divided between dry brining and skin seasoning
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Olive oil for slathering skin
  • For the pan sauce
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Rosemary or other herbs as you please
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • About 1 Tbsp corn starch
  • For the potatoes
  • 2 lbs potatoes
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil or melted butter
  • Salt and pepper


  1. 2-8 hours ahead of time, slather chicken with salt (under the skin) and let sit, uncovered, in the fridge.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400F and put the empty Dutch oven in the oven to preheat as well.
  3. Dry off the chicken within an inch of its existence.
  4. Slather on olive oil followed by a mixture of salt, pepper, and baking powder.
  5. Plop the bird in the Dutch oven, carefully, and roast bird, uncovered for about 45 minutes.
  6. Using a meat thermometer, test bird and remove when the thickest part of the breast reaches 150F.
  7. When the chicken is done, take it out of the Dutch oven to rest.
  8. If there is a lot of fat in the pan, scoop some out. Add the shallots and saute until brown.
  9. Pour in the broth and heat until boiling. Then, sprinkle in cornstarch about a teaspoon at a time and whisk until thick. Add in the herbs and seasonings to taste.
  10. If making potatoes:
  11. After preheating the oven, bring a large pot of salted water on to a boil.
  12. Wash and cut potatoes into 1/2 to 1 inch cubes. Add to boiling water and boil until almost tender, about 10 minutes.
  13. Drain potatoes and place back in hot pot. Toss, roughly, fat and seasonings.
  14. Spread on sheet tray NOT lined with foil and put in oven with the chicken about 30 minutes into the chicken roasting process.
  15. Flip potatoes after 15 minutes or when chicken is done, then finish roasting for another 15 minutes while pan sauce is assembled.
  16. Remove and serve with chicken and a vegetable.

I'd love to hear your thoughts!