The meaty juices that flood your mouth when you bite into a succulent piece of roast chicken are one of life’s great pleasures. The only thing that can make the experience even more enjoyable? When that juicy meat is encased in skin so crisp that it crackles.
Our Three Tricks for Super Crispy Chicken Skin
But thin brittle skin isn’t a given, even when the bird is otherwise roasted to perfection. Often the skin is only crispy in patches, with the remainder limp, fatty, and altogether underwhelming.
Happily, over the years we’ve discovered three simple steps that guarantee the ultimate crispy skin for the ultimate roast chicken.
Start with an Air-Chilled Chicken
Most supermarket birds are chilled in a chlorinated 34-degree water bath after slaughtering, causing them to absorb lots of additional moisture that keeps the skin from thoroughly browning or drying out as they cook. Air-chilled chicken, on the other hand, is not exposed to water and does not absorb additional moisture, allowing the skin to more readily brown and crisp.
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Rub with Salt and Baking Powder
Before roasting, we massage the chicken’s skin with a rub containing salt and baking powder, then allow it to air-dry in the fridge.
Both substances pull moisture out of the skin. But baking powder has additional powers. It prods some of the skin’s proteins and fat to break down, which, combined with its alkalinity, accelerates the Maillard reaction, for skin that browns and crisps more quickly. And—with the same type of chemical reaction that makes baked goods rise—baking powder reacts during an overnight rub to generate tiny carbon dioxide bubbles that make the skin more porous and even crisper after it cooks.
Create Lots of Channels for Juices and Fat to Escape
The excess juices in the chicken need an escape route, since the skin can’t brown until the surface moisture evaporates. We create go about this in three ways:
- We use a metal skewer to poke holes in the fat deposits on top of the breast and thighs (these fatty pockets look opaque under the skin and are easy to spot).
- We also like to cut a few holes near the back of the bird to provide extra-large channels for the juices to drip down and escape.
- Finally, we separate the skin from the meat over much of the bird by running a hand between the two (making sure not to tear the skin), which allows fat and juices to run freely.
Chicken isn’t the only kind of bird that can benefit from these tricks. We also apply them to our Easier Roast Turkey.
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Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!
Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.
Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!
John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.