From America's Test Kitchen Season 5: Two Roast Chickens
Cooking a butterflied chicken under a brick cooks considerably quicker than a regular roast chicken and produces amazingly crisp skin by keeping the chicken flat, forcing all the skin to make contact with the pan. But after a few trial runs, we noted two big problems: First, the crisp skin often turned soggy as the chicken finished cooking. Second, the chicken’s marinade scorched in the hot pan. With these obstacles in mind, we set out to produce a perfectly cooked butterflied chicken with crisp skin that could be on the table—with some roasted potatoes—in less than an hour.
To start, we focused on the cooking method. We found that pounding the butterflied chicken with a mallet instead of pressing it with our hands flattened the chicken evenly, allowing more of the skin to make contact with the pan and turn super crispy. We cooked the chicken skin-side down underneath the bricks until it was golden-brown, then removed the bricks, flipped the bird over, and finished it still in the skillet in a very hot oven. The hot, dry air of the oven ensured that the skin remained crisp and intact as the meat finished cooking through. As for the bricks, we found that heavy cans and a cast-iron pot worked just as well.
Finishing the chicken in the oven made it easy to include a flavorful marinade, as well as some accompanying potatoes. We brushed the marinade onto the crisp chicken before moving it to the oven, where the oven’s heat fused the marinade to the skin without ruining its crackling texture and the brief cooking time retained the fresh flavors of the marinade. For the potatoes, we simply threw them into the pan underneath the chicken before it went into the oven. Then, while the chicken rested, we returned the skillet to the oven, where the potatoes finished cooking and picked up some color.
Instead of two bricks and a rimmed baking sheet, you may use a heavy cast-iron skillet loaded with several cans or a large stockpot partially filled with water. Be careful when removing the pan from the oven, as the handle will be hot.