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Old 09-13-2006, 12:04 PM   #31
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Anyway, undercooked is always better than overcooked -- you can put it back in the oven for a few minutes, or if you're in a hurry, just stick the underdone parts in the microwave for a minute.
How true, Doug, how true!

However, Blondie, I think you saw in this effort, that there are many different philosophies on roasting a chicken. None are wrong, you just need to pick the one that suits you best, and make sure you have the equipment you need to get the job done.
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Old 09-19-2006, 01:07 PM   #32
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I have been preparing the meals for my family for almost 30 years now. And I am scientific kind of guy. I have to know why things work and how to fix it if it doesn't work. I also am a careful observer.

That being the case, I have found through years of experience that a lot of what people tell you about poultry is just stuff that was told them by someone else and may or may not be true. Here are some facts, proven by experimentation.
1. Cooking breast-side down doese not keep the juices in the breast meat due to gravity. If you aboserve a roasting (or barbecued) chicken, you will notice that the juices tend to bubble just under the top skin. This is becasue water starts to steam at well under the boiling point (212 F. or so). It accumulates under the skin and gently boils.

2. Cooking to the correct temperature, as shown by an accurate meat thermometer is the only method that will absolutely insure that the meat is done enough, while elliminating overcooking.

3. Any meat, be it pork, poultry (chicken, turkey, duck, etc.), beef, lamb, etc. begins to dry out when the meat temperature rises above 170 degrees F. Thbis is becasue the protiens within the meat begin to contract and squeeze the liquid from the meat cells. The meat also begins to toughen at this point. Cooking until the little pop-up timer in a turkey pops up will give you a tough and dry bird every time as it goes off at 180 degrees.

4. Skin on/off isn't as important to the overall finished quality of the meat as is final temperature.

5. Brines add fluid and carry flavor into the individual muscle cells through osmotic pressure. But overcooking will still dry and toughen the meat.

6. The meat will cook equally well at 190 degrees as it will at 450 degrees. The difference will be in the amount of time required to bring the food to a safe temperature, and the texture, flavor, and color of the outer layer or skin. Higher temperatures cook faster and result in a more flavorful outer layer.

7. Salting the outer layer will not result in dry meat as the salt is in insufficient quantity to draw out any significant moisture and doesn't have time to do it. It will enhance the final flavor.

8. Basting does not result in juicier meat. It does help crisp the skin and deposits flavor particles from the broth onto the meat surface, again resulting in superior flavor of the skin.

9. More food requires more cooking time. That is, a 2 lb. bird cooked by itself will cook faster than a 2 lb. bird sharing oven space with baked potatoes, or a casserole. This is becasue there is X-amount of heat energy available to be absorbed by the food. Add more food and that available energy is divided between the differering foods.

10. White meat cooks faster than does dark meat. With a large bird, it is best to reflect some of the heat energy away from the breast by tenting or covering the breast with aluminum foil, then raising the temperature during the final 15 minutes or so, with the foil removed to brown the skin.

11. stuffed birds take longer to cook than do un-stuffed birds.

With this info, you should be able to figure out the best way to roast your chicken to the way you like it. Me, I just throw it into the oven after rubbing with butter and lightly salting it, with a meat thermometer inserted and left in place until the bird reaches 155 degrees. I then remove the bird and let rest for 15 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute themselves and for the hotter outter temps to finish cooking the bird to the just right temp. of 165.

They come out perfect every time.

Seeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
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Old 09-19-2006, 01:15 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by Goodweed of the North
...6. The meat will cook equally well at 90 degrees as it will at 450 degrees...
GW:

Could this be a typo?
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Old 09-19-2006, 03:18 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by Andy M.
GW:

Could this be a typo?

If not, I'll just set the bird on the counter in my un-airconditioned kitchen!
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Old 09-19-2006, 04:07 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by Goodweed of the North
5. Brines add fluid and carry flavor into the individual muscle cells through osmotic pressure. But overcooking will still dry and toughen the meat.
This one is wrong, in the details anyway.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osmosis

In osmosis, liquid flows from the LOW salt concentration to the HIGH. This results in eventually balancing the salt concentration on both sides of the cell wall by concentrating the salt in the cell and diluting the salt in the brine.

But a brined meat weighs about 10% more than an unbrined meat. That's added water weight, so what's going on?

Salt denatures protien.

The brine flows through the meat. Plenty of open space and passages in the meat for it flow through. Just as your skin gets wrinkly by absorbing water in the bath or pool. But the salt reacts with the protien of the meat creating tangles of protien that hold the liquid in the meat. The tangles essentially form dams trapping the brine.

It is not osmosis that increases the moisture of the meat. Osmosis dries it out a bit actually.

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Old 09-19-2006, 04:19 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by Goodweed of the North
10. White meat cooks faster than does dark meat. With a large bird, it is best to reflect some of the heat energy away from the breast by tenting or covering the breast with aluminum foil, then raising the temperature during the final 15 minutes or so, with the foil removed to brown the skin.
I'll quibble with this one too. Again, it's only the details.

There's a minor difference in how fast white and dark meat cook, but not as described above.

They both heat up at about the same rate, the difference being that what we call done in white meat is about 10-15 degrees less than in dark meat.

Dark meat at 160 is just as safe to eat as white meat. But there's a paranoid perception that if it's at all pink it is dangerous. True in white meat, but not in dark meat. And even though I know that I too find pinkness in thigh or drumstick off puttting.

Consider duck breast. It's dark meat. And it's usually cooked pink! But you can cook it to 160 to be safe, but still be pink and juicy. Pink there doesn't bother me at all. I like it pink.

It's all just a difference in myoglobin content. Dark meat has more so it takes longer to cook it clear, to fully convert the myoglobin.

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Old 09-19-2006, 05:38 PM   #37
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Number 6 should have read 290 degrees. Yep, a typo.

For the questions argued by Thymeless, lets just say that you have given me something to think about. With the osmosis argument, I may have used the wrong vehicle to discribe the action. It's been many many years since I studied cell biology. But essentially, all things (from a physics standpoint) seek equality in nature. If there is a difference between the amounts of fluid between one structure and another, divided by a permeable or semi-permeable membrane (such as a cell wall), fluid molicules will travel through that membrane until the concentrations are equal. The same is true of any difference of concentration, be it salt concentration differences between two seperated fluids, or perfume in a bottle released into the air. Both the salt and perfume will move to fill the total volume equally.

This is also true in the world of electricity. In fact, it can be stated that almost all electrical applications rely on the migration of a concentration of electrons (negative charge) toward a concentration of protons (positive charge). The difference between the two charges is called a potential of energy. The greater the potential of energy between two opposite charges, with circuit resistance being equal, the greater the volume of electron flow through the conductor or semi-conductor material. Potential of energy = voltage, while the electron flow = current. This phenominon can be expresseed mathimatically by Ohm's Law (I =E/R or R=E/I or E=IXR where E = Voltage, R= Resistance, and I = Current).

But simplified, it is safe to say that when brining, the meat absorbs salt, and whatever other flavors are in the brine where the flavoings and salt are in greater concentration in the brine than are in the cellular fluids.

Example: Salt cured/smoked hams and fish absorb so much salt from a strong brine that they can become nearly inedible from the process, and will often require the salt to be leached out by boiling or soaking the meat in fresh water, especially the ham.

Thank you for your input. I'm always thrilled to learn something new, and your remarks concerning the difference between cooking light and dark meat was truly educational. I always wondered why the two didn't cook at the same rate. If fact, again from a physics standpoint, it would seem that the dark meat should cook faster as darker colors aborb infra-red energy faster than do light colors. I just assumed it had something to do with muscle density and fat distribution, which both could affect heat absorption.

And to think about it a bit more, the darker meat with greater muscle density would logically cook more slowly than the less dense white meat. Clearly, if you really wanted to dig into this, it could get complicated very quickly. Suffice it to say, that if the breast meat raises much above 170 degrees, it begins to dry out and toughen.

Seeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
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Old 09-26-2006, 03:52 PM   #38
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This is one recipe that has eluded me thus far. I honestly can't roast a perfect chicken. There is always one element that seems to be traded off for the others. When 3.5lb chickens go on sale at my local market, I usually buy 3 or 4 to experiement with (only about $2/ea on sale).

I've tried about 20 different recipes, then I tried approaching it scientifically, and I can't seem to get it 100%. I'm still working on ideas though, and always looking for the eureeka tip.

I typically trade off the crispy skin on the breast for perfect doneness in my oven and crisp skin on the back of the legs, or I break down the bird and roast the pieces separately.

Here is what I aim for in a final rested bird...

1. Legs/Thighs at 180F with connective tissues melted down.
2. Breast at 165F from neck to cavity.
3. Crisp skin 360 around the bird.
4. Drippings that can be used for a pan sauce.

And here are some of the ways I go about achieving these...

I rest the bird on the counter for an hour or so to warm slightly. The thighs have a much smaller surface to mass ratio than the breasts, so they cook much more slowly. Add in the fact that the theighs need to be cooked to a higher internal temperature, and you have a problem. I increase the surface area of the legs/thighs by not trussing them. The body cavity needs to be cleaned real well to remove residual viscera to minimize their effect on the pan sauce. Reaching inside the cavity and placing one finger on each side of the spine, drag them forward until you reach the pockets near the cavity opening and scoop out any remaining nastys, then wash the bird well. Dry the bird thoroughly. I also trim the two large fat flaps at the cavity entrance (not the pope's nose).

I like my roasted foods simple whether it's meat or veggies. I might make a savory or zippy sauce for them after, but I love the purity of flavor genrated by dry cooking methods such as roasting. So for the bird it's butter and salt... thats it. I mix some kosher salt into four tablespoons of butter and have at it. One tablespoon under the skin of each breast, one teaspoon under the skin of each thigh, and the remaining butter thoroughly rubbed over the entire bird.

I set a cooling rack on top of a ten inch frypan, and use this as the roasting vessel. This holds the chicken a good 1.5" over the pan surface keeping it out of the fat and juices. I usually add one medium slivered onion to the pan for flavoring the final jus. The onion roasts at the same time, and also infuses the pan drippings. I also add the neck/heart/gizzard as well as the pieces of trimmed fat, but toss the liver.

This helps some, but doesn't do the job by itself. I try to increase the amount of heat being applied to the thighs versus the breasts by roasting the bird upside down and spreading the legs out (they fit in the gaps of the rack perfect). The radiant heat from the oven walls hits the back, legs, and thighs, but the roasting pan protects the breast. This increases the speed by which the legs and thighs are cooked so that everything reaches the proper temp at the same time. Unfortunately this prevents the skin on the breast from browning (the back skin browns nicely).

High temperatures penetrate and overcook the exterior layers of the bird before fully cooking the meat at the bone. Bones are excellent insulators due to their hollow honey-comb structure, so the meat at the bone takes a long time to cook (I used to think they conducted heat, but after reading an article about this very subject, I had one of those ah-ha moments). Not only does it take long to cook, but it takes a while for the connective tissues to melt away and give that lip-smacking goodness within a chicken theigh. I roast at 300F which gently raises the temperature throughout the entire bird. The heat penetration is slow and even which insures properly cooked meat throughout, not just at the bone with overcooked outer layers. It also permits enough time for the connective tissues in the thighs to melt beautifully (even those along the bones). Because everything is basically at the same temp throughout each section, you don't get much carry-over cooking either. In my 60F apartment I see 1 or 2F at most. So I pull the roast when the meat at the thigh reaches a degree or two under 180F. I rest it for 20min before carving.

For the pan sauce I set the pan over med-high heat and boil off the moisture until a fond forms and the fat is clarified. I pour off the fat, deglaze the pan with some white wine, add two cups of brown chicken stock, toss in a crushed clove of garlic along with a sprig of thyme, and reduce the liquid by 50-65%. Then I pick out the giblets/thyme/garlic/fat flaps, hit it with freshly ground black pepper, and serve it. Brining makes this pan sauce incredibly salty, and I'm not a fan of brining anyways, so... I don't brine.

So I'm a chicken roasting failure! But to be honest, I've never had a perfect one at anyone elses house or deli either. There always seems to be a compromise made somewhere. I've tried high heat all the way, high heat to brown and then low heat to finish, low heat to cook and high heat to finish, low heat to cook and then broiling breats side up, and even just a moderate temp of 350, and 375 (also tried constant high temps of 400, 450, 500, and 550).

I haven't experiemented with any rotisserie methods, but I'd like to try sometime if I could aquire the needed gear. Rotisserie birds roasted at relatively low temps with one hot radiant heat source periodically blasting a small portion of the bird at a given time (browning the skin) seem to produce the best roast chickens I've had. They usually have slightly overcooked breastmeat unfortunately, or are artifically brined with (of course) no pan sauce.

I'd love some help with this one if any of you have the magic key!
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Old 09-26-2006, 05:23 PM   #39
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Nick:

I, too, have tried a lot of different roasting methods for chicken. I have settled on two options (one is cheating).

In the cheating option, I remove the backbone and cut up the chicken to two leg/thigh pieces and two breast halves with wings. I roast those on a foil covered cookie sheet @ 400 F.

The whole chicken version is one I got from Barbara Kafka's book Roasting.
Preheat the oven to 500 F and set the rack near the bottom of the oven.

Prepare the chicken as you do and place it on a cookie sheet. I cut the skin between the thighs and breast to spread the legs and ensure more even cooking.

Place the bird into the oven breast side up and feet first. after 10 minutes, unstick the bird from the pan and continue roasting.

The bird cooks fast and remains moist with golden brown skin.

A thin layer of sliced raw potatoes on the cookie sheet under the chicken will absorb drippings and reduce smoking. There is a lot of smoking.

Give it a try.
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Old 09-26-2006, 08:15 PM   #40
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You all have given Blondi (and me) all kinds of wonderful methods for roasting a chicken, but she also asked about a crockpot chicken. If you're a working woman, it can be a wonderful thing to come home to an aromatic cooked chicken.
Rub the chicken with seasonings of your choice, and put in the the crockpot with a couple inches of liquid. Cook on low. That's it.

Of course there are all sorts of varations for this method...add a can of golden mushroom soup...mariinate the chicken in Italian dressing...rub the chicken with dry onion soup mix...on and on, ad infinitum.
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