Slow-Roasted Chicken With An Easy Pan Sauce


This roasted chicken recipe couldn't be easier. You just need salt, pepper, and some sort of fat, plus a good quality pasture-raised chicken.

(Unlike the "free range chickens" you find in grocery stores, chickens that were raised on pasture contain fat that is good for you. Find them at your local farmers market.)

I use every part of the chicken: the meat for a main course, leftovers for soup, rendered fat for high-temperature cooking, the liver for an appetizer or  paté (or country paté), and the neck, giblets and carcass for bone broth.

The only fat I use is a small amount on the roasting pan to prevent the chicken from sticking. (I've even omitted that in the past, accidentally, and it didn't make much difference.) I don't slather fat all over the bird because it will release moisture and I don't want to steam the chicken. I also find it unnecessary because a pasture-raised chicken has plenty of good fat to keep it moist while it cooks.

Like all roasted meats, chicken should be cooked low and slow. This prevents them from drying out (as long as you don't cook them too long) and prevents cancer-causing compounds from forming. (Heterocyclic amines or HCAs are formed when amino acids in meat are exposed to temperatures above 300 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Cancer Institute.)

I don't bother to truss my chicken, although you certainly could. Instead I make some slits in the skin and tuck the legs and wings inside to keep them close to the body, which ensures even cooking.

This simple recipe doesn't call for stuffing the bird, but you could if you want. Good options include an organic lemon or orange cut into wedges, a quartered onion, garlic cloves, and/or fresh herbs. Note that if you stuff your bird, it will take a bit longer to cook.

To ensure a flavorful finished dish, make a point of seasoning your chicken generously with salt well in advance, at least 8 hours but ideally 24 to 48 hours before you cook it.

To ensure even cooking, take your chicken out of the fridge up to two hours ahead of time so it can to come to room temperature before you put it in the oven.

1 pasture-raised chicken, pre-salted and at room temperature
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Rendered chicken or duck fat, grass-fed butter, or ghee
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 325F.

Smear a small amount of fat in the bottom of a baking pan.

Dry the chicken, inside and out. Place the chicken on its back (breast-side up).  Locate the flaps of skin on the bottom of the bird and make a small slit in each one where the opposite leg can make contact. Push the end of right leg through the slit on the left, and the end of the left leg through the slit on the right.

Extend one wing and pull it down between the body and the thigh. Make a small slit in the skin there and push the end of the wing through to secure it.

Repeat on the other side.

Season the bird generously with sea salt and freshly ground pepper on the front, back, and sides.

Place it in a baking dish not much bigger than the bird, breast-side up. (If you use a pan too large, the juices may burn before it finishes cooking.)

Transfer the chicken to the oven and reduce the temperature to 300F. Bake it until the skin is golden brown, the joints fall apart easily when prodded, and a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads at least 170F. (The temperature will rise as it rests). A 5-pound bird takes about two and a half hours.

Once the chicken is fully cooked, transfer it to a cutting board or serving platter, cover it loosely (aluminum foil works well), and place it in a spot that's slightly warmer than room temperature (near the oven or on top of it).

If you want to reserve some of the rendered fat for high-temperature cooking (which should only be done with stable saturated fats) or if you prefer not to use it all in the sauce (I usually do use it all), skim some off with a spoon and set it aside.

Whisk a spoonful of Dijon mustard into the pan juices until the sauce is smooth and no longer separated. Taste it for seasoning and add more mustard if you prefer a spicier, thicker sauce, or some red wine vinegar or lemon juice if you like your sauce sharper.

After you eat the meat, reserve the bones, skin, and cartilage for bone broth.