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The quest for crispy chicken skin - Update

By Jennifer Armentrout, editor

June 30th, 2009

At recipe tastings, one of the most frequent complaints about roast poultry skin is that it's flabby, not crispy. This came up again yesterday as we tasted a Cornish hen recipe we're working on: the flavor's great, but the skin could be better. How to solve this dilemma?

We know from past experience that if you let any kind of poultry sit uncovered in the fridge overnight, the skin dries out a bit and tends to crisp more easily. This works especially well if you salt the bird first. Our recipe already calls for letting the seasoned hens sit in the fridge for at least one hour and up to six, so next time, we're going to try it overnight instead.

Will this work? Stay tuned for the answer, and if you have any other ideas, let us know!

The results:  The overnight salting treatment worked in more ways than one. The skin did turn out crisper, though the difference wasn't that dramatic.  What was dramatic was the improved flavor of the hens - the salt had penetrated much better and the flavor of the hens really sang. As for the skin, we did make one other change in addition to the overnight treatment.  On recommendation from the recipe's author, we switched from brushing the hens with oil to brushing them with butter. Had we left off the fat entirely, the skin may have been even crisper, but the fat helps the skin brown, something that's needed for these little butterflied hens that don't need long in the oven to cook.

posted in: Blogs, tip, crisp poultry skin
Comments (6)

DJMe writes: I often make Bejing(Peking)Duck. First you pump air between the skin and meet with a bicycle pump, then you hang the prepared duck for 12 hrs in front of a fan in a cool place before roasting followed by a quick deep fry. I have never used this method for preparing chicken but i am sure it would work.

My guess is that you would not necessarily need the last deep fry step and you could probably get away with much less time in front of the fan as chicken has a much thinner skin than duck. Also chicken is much more susceptible to salmonella than duck so you would have to make sure you hang it in a nice cool place. A common fallacy is that chicken must be cooked to well done to be safe, however Salmonella is killed off at around 143 degrees (unlike duck it just taste's bad rare)so don't sweat a "tiny" bit of pink juice, usually letting the bird rest will eliminate this anyway. I cook mine to around 155-160 and i find that it is twice as moist with just a tiny bit of pink around the bones. Posted: 6:12 am on August 9th

unbaked2 writes: Or you can make life easy and use the Weber Beer Can Chicken set (It has an anodized tray, neck stopper and prongs for the bird.

I use it in my oven and get the most incredibly crisp skin, even from a defrosted bargain fryer.

Of course, this precludes many other applications, but it's the fastest and easiest way to crispy skin.

My hubby literally stands over the stove and pulls the skin off within minutes of cooking. He'd rather have the skin than the meat (which does come out super moist, too). Posted: 3:48 pm on July 10th

cookykamp writes: I tried the overnight method using just the leg quarters. I seasoned the chicken under the skin and on top with a mixture of salt, pepper & garlic powder. Put on a plate and covered loosely with a paper towel and let sit in the fridge for 24 hours. We put it on the grill without any additional oil, just oiled the grill grate. It was awesome! It had an audible "crunch" when biting into the skin, and was exploding with flavor! I will do chicken this way from now on. Thanks for the tip! Posted: 3:09 pm on July 2nd

SouthernStyle writes: Could not agree more with jane and sigmeister - organic chickens are best for "the crispies". The recipe I started with is out of Shirley O. Corriher book, CookWise - LOVE THIS BOOK! On page 402, is a recipe for Fast Roast Chicken. A whole chicken roasted at 500 degrees. I added to her recipe my smashed garlic-salt-pepper rub and put a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary into the cavity. Fantastic!
1. Organic chicken seasoned (if only with salt)
2. Put uncovered in frig overnight
3. Put on roasting rack in heavy roasting pan and let sit out for 1 hour
4. Preheat oven to 500 degrees (for at least 20 min)
5. Put chicken in legs first and roast for 45 - 55 min until juices run clear.
Don't want to use too much salt? Try some fresh lemon juice.
Posted: 12:00 pm on June 26th

jane writes: I have made very crispy turkey and chicken skin by using by doing the following.

1. Buy an organic chicken that's been air dried or just an organic chicken.
2. Dry skin thoroughly with paper towels.
3. Salt with a liberal amount of kosher salt.
4. Let sit in the fridge overnight uncovered.
5. Preheat oven to 400 or better yet, use convection if you've got it. Sometimes I baste with melted butter for added flavor but it's not necessary. It actually comes out crispier without. Always comes out tasty. Posted: 8:16 pm on June 24th

sigmeister writes: The problem with American chicken- too much water injected. You have to make sure the chicken/poultry is very dry.
The best recipe ever, take Kosher salt, rub it liberally on your clean, dry poultry. Place it in a plastic bag for 2 days, take it out of the bag, put it in a glass dish and leave it uncovered overnight in the fridge. Take it out of the fridge 2 hours prior to cooking. Bake, roast, the skin will be very crisp and delicious.
The best chicken/poultry to use is organic, not the Foster Farms mass produced type, just too much water in it. Posted: 4:41 pm on June 24th

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