100 Techniques

Technique #25: Achieve All-Over Crispy Skin with Whole Roast Chicken

Chicken skin should crackle with every bite. This technique delivers a whole chicken with juicy meat and ultra-crispy, ultra-flavorful skin.

Published Oct. 7, 2023.

This is Technique #25 from our 100 Techniques Every Home Cook Can Master.

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Recipes for roasted whole chicken often focus on the problems of getting the breast to stay juicy and the dark and white meat to finish cooking at the same time.

We solved that issue years ago, although we initially accepted merely acceptably crisp skin as a trade-off.

But chicken skin has so much more potential than “acceptable.” It should crunch and crackle and deliver rich chicken flavor. This technique teaches you how to make a roast chicken with perfectly cooked, juicy meat (white and dark) and undeniably crispy skin.

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Start By Drying Out the Skin

Skin can’t begin to brown until its surface moisture has evaporated.

We were inspired by a South American technique for cooking chicharrons—crispy, deep-fried pork belly or skin—in which the pieces are coated with baking soda and allowed to rest before cooking. This makes them crispy to the point of brittleness by helping to dehydrate the skin, and also because the alkalinity speeds up the Maillard reaction that creates browning.

We found that baking soda left a bitter aftertaste, but baking powder (also alkaline) produces markedly crispier skin without otherwise announcing itself.

Air-Dry Overnight

After rubbing the chicken with the mixture of salt and baking powder, it needs to air-dry in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours.

By letting the chicken sit uncovered in the refrigerator, we allow the surface moisture to evaporate, leading to extra-crisp skin once roasted.

In addition, during that time the salt has an opportunity to work its way into the meat, which will help the chicken hold onto its juices, preventing dried out meat.

Allow the Fat to Easily Render

It’s not just the moisture on top of the skin that affects crispiness, though. Fat under the skin also needs an escape route.

If juices and rendered fat accumulate beneath the skin and have nowhere to go, they will turn that once-dry skin wet and flabby wherever it collects.

Separating the skin from the bird, using a metal skewer to poke numerous holes in the skin over the fat deposits of each breast half and thigh, and cutting a few incisions in the skin along the back of the bird all provide ample escape options for the rendered fat.

Placing a sheet of hole punched aluminum foil under the chicken shields all that rendered fat from direct oven heat and prevents it from burning and smoking in the pan.

Though in this technique we do not season under the skin, we still make sure to loosen the skin from the meat. This makes it easier to see the opaque fat deposits below the skin so you know where to poke holes in order to better render the fat.

Flip the Bird to Keep the Meat Moist

To protect the breast meat, we start the chicken breast side down and flip it midway through cooking. Then, blasting the chicken at 500 degrees for the few final minutes provides the ultimate crispy, finishing touch.

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Step by Step: How to Get Crispy Skin on a Whole Chicken

Now that you understand the logic behind our technique, follow these steps to achieve crunchy, crackly skin all over your whole roast chickens.

Step 1: Create Cuts to Render the Fat

Make four 1-inch incisions along back of chicken to create escape channels for fat.

Step 2: Pull Skin Away From the Meat

Using fingers, gently separate chicken breast and thigh skin from meat.

Step 3: Make Helpful Holes

Using skewer, poke 15 to 20 holes in skin of breast and thighs.

Step 4: Dry and Season

Pat chicken dry with paper towels and rub with baking powder–salt mixture.

Step 5: Ready and Rest

Set chicken on wire rack in rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 12 hours to let surface dry.

Step 6: Arrange and Roast

Place chicken on V-rack in roasting pan and roast, then finish with a blast at 500 degrees to crisp up skin.

More of a visual learner? Watch along as we cook through our Crisp Roast Chicken recipe using this technique.

Recipes That Use This Technique

Want to put your newfound knowledge to use? Try out any of these recipes that utilize some part of this technique to get crisp chicken skin.


Crisp Roast Chicken

Years ago, we developed an ideal roasting method for tender, juicy meat. Now could we figure out how to get supercrisp skin?
Get the Recipe

Oven-Fried Chicken Wings

If you don’t deep-fry, can you have chicken wings that are crispy on the outside and moist and tender within? We cooked more than 200 pounds of wings to find out.
Get the Recipe

Roast Chicken with Couscous, Roasted Red Peppers, and Basil

We nailed the roasting time and oven temperature for a golden, juicy bird and discovered the key to a savory, satisfying side. (Hint: All you need is a sharp knife.)
Get the Recipe

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