We’ve already established that Jacques Pepin is a boss. And his pimp, Julia Child, kept her pimp-hand strong by letting us all know that, “a well roasted chicken is the sign of a really fine cook.”

Shut up baby, I know it!

The problem, however, is that I’m notorious for completely messing up every roast chicken I attempt. Always overcooked, always bland. Always horrifying.


Not this time.

Seriously, this is a huge, momentous occasion here. A roast chicken is incredibly difficult to pull off. It’s one of the few things that even having quality ingredients can’t fix. Sadly, roasting chicken is all about technique. And when I say technique, I really mean to say forget all that nonsense your Better Homes and Gardens cookbook told you about minutes per pound and doneness temperature.

Lies! Lies and slander!

The only way to not screw this up, is to monitor temperature constantly. Then not freak out when you realize that you have to remove it from the oven (or other roasting apparatus) earlier than the FDA recommended 165F.

Rebel against my government? How dare I!

The idea of 165F is that, at said temperature, death to bacteria is nearly instant. The side effect is that, 165F has the horrible side effect of ensuring dry, terrible poultry. And if you wait till 165F to remove your food from the oven, it can and will overcook due to carryover before  you can get it to the table.

If we do some research, we find that bacteria death begins at a much more reasonable 135F. It takes longer, but they’ll die. Thus, a more civilized plan is to find a chickenmonger whom is trustworthy, and cook it accordingly. That is, take the bird to 145F, tent, and allow carryover to do it’s dirty work.

But it didn’t hit instant death temperature you say? Not to worry. Tenting with foil and resting for a half hour or more will keep considerable heat going for a long amount of time. The chicken you see above sat tented for 45 minutes before I carved, and it still burned my fingers anytime I got near the flesh. This implies the internals of that chicken sat at well above beginning death temperature for at least 30 minutes, easily killing off any bacteria that may have been clinging.

Thus, insanely moist bird, insanely safe to eat.

That’s a breast that would make Janet Jackson proud.

I know you want that.

Quite seriously, all I did was salt the outside of the bird, cram onion and lemon into the cavity, and roast till my probe thermometer beeped at 145F. Rest for 30-45 minutes and carve. That’s it. And yes, somehow, I’m still alive.

I will admit that I did get this bird from Jonas Raber Quality Poultry (through my Fresh Fork Market CSA), and was well raised and dispatched.

Armed with some solid information and science, we certainly can get cocky about our chicken roasting. And I suggest you do; nothing tastes better than success.

EDIT: Several readers have mentioned that I neglected to share the roasting temperature. The chicken entered the oven at 400F for 10 minutes to crisp the skin, then dialed back to 350F until the thermometer beeped. I’ve heard other strategies that involve doing the inverse of this: start at a lower temperature and then turn up the heat at the last few minutes. A reasonable idea, but I suspect poultry thermal management would be more difficult.

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