Humans have been roasting meat over the fire for hundreds of thousands of years. At least! Stone-lined pits came later, catching on quickly because slow-cooked meat turned out to be more tender and digestible. The process also freed up time so humans could do other things besides holding sticks and waiting.
Principles of Roasting
Could it be that learning to roast food was one of the major forces forming modern human society? Nowadays people have an incredible amount of technology and food variety at their fingertips. You could fix a different chicken recipe each day of the year! But first, let’s look at the difference between roasting and baking. Both methods use hot, dry air instead of flames or hot liquids. The terms are often used interchangeably, but technically, roasting indicates heat over 350º.
- A word about pans. You can cook food in almost anything: a pit of hot rocks, coconut shells, banana leaves, clay pots, glass dishes. Sheet pans are becoming trendy. However, there’s a whole science behind choosing the appropriate cooking vessel. stainless steel roasting pans are ideal for preparing specialty chicken dishes. Long-lasting and sturdy, they’re used for a variety of culinary dishes. With their high sides, they hold the heat in well. And they’re easy to clean and to store. How many of us remember holidays inhaling incredible aromas drifting from giant roasting pans in the oven? “Is it ready yet? Is it ready yet?”
- Chefs recommend using some kind of wire rack or a layer of vegetables to prevent the chicken from sticking to the bottom of the pan. On a rack, air can circulate under the bird to cook it more evenly. Roasting pans come with a tightly fitting lid to conserve the heat and the moisture. Aluminum foil permits you to brown some parts of the meat while protecting other surfaces from overcooking. Sometimes exposed parts of the chicken cook too quickly and become tough, so experiment to see what works for you.
- Where should you put the pan in the oven? Knowing that hot air rises, you also know that the top area will always be a bit hotter. The lower part heats in bursts, so that’s why many recipes suggest using the middle oven rack.
- Guidelines about roasting any kind of meat would be incomplete without stating the importance of a meat thermometer. Probably every one of us knows someone who has suffered from food poisoning caused by tainted meat. Some of the signs and symptoms include fever, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. And yes, even death. To protect yourself and the ones who enjoy your cooking, use a meat thermometer every time! They come in a range of prices and styles. After being inserted into the thickest part of the muscle, poultry should reach at least 165° to be considered safe.
Several methods can be used to heighten the flavor complexity of your chicken, including marinades, stuffing, and rubs. Because we’re focused on the roasting method, we aren’t even addressing glazes and gravies, but you see that the possibilities are endless! You can season your chicken before roasting by soaking it in a marinade according to the recipe. Marinades are blends of spices, herbs, and often acidic liquids that tenderize the meat and enhance the taste. Apple cider, hard cider, apple cider vinegar, and apple juice are all commonly used. Marinades using wines and vinegars help break down tough muscle fibers. Brining with salt water is considered marinating.
Some recipes call for stuffing the bird lightly with chunks of onion, lemon, garlic, or other aromatics. You can either eat or discard them after serving.
Patting the bird dry before putting it into the roasting pan will promote the surface browning more evenly and crisply. After applying oil or butter to the chicken, you may choose to massage in a mixture of dry spices, often called a rub.
Cider, Hard Cider, Juice, and Vinegar
Now, on to the next level of excitement! Do you know the difference between apple cider and apple juice? Cloudy in appearance, cider is rich with bits of apple flesh containing fiber and nutrients. When fermented, it turns to hard cider. Many cooks will freely substitute hard cider for white wine or beer in recipes. Apple juice has been filtered to a clear amber color and usually tastes sweeter because of a higher concentration of natural sugar. Extra sugar and preservatives are often added. Apple cider vinegar is hard cider fermented a second time. All of these can be used to prepare chicken, each with its own flavor and characteristics. All four liquids can be cooked down to baste or glaze the bird to create a delicious dark patina.
Choosing Your Cooking Goal
Before exploring recipes, you’ll want to decide on your goal. Quick and easy? Gourmet? Healthful and natural? A learning experience? A grand adventure? You can do it all! Think about keeping a cooking notebook to record cooking methods and variations of recipes.
A picture is worth a thousand words, but you, however, can speak volumes with food that your prepare! It doesn’t matter whether you want to share personal moments with someone special, to create memories with friends, or to impress someone with your skills and artistry. A delicious cider-roasted chicken can tell your story.