French Chicken in a Pot

Published January 1, 2008. From Cook's Illustrated.

Why this recipe works:

Our challenge when working on our chicken-in-a-pot recipe was to prevent the humidity in the pot from washing the flavor from the meat as it cooked. By removing the vegetables—the liquid they released made the pot too steamy—and cooking the chicken by itself and by tightly sealing the pot with… read more

Our challenge when working on our chicken-in-a-pot recipe was to prevent the humidity in the pot from washing the flavor from the meat as it cooked. By removing the vegetables—the liquid they released made the pot too steamy—and cooking the chicken by itself and by tightly sealing the pot with foil before adding the lid, we got the tender, succulent, flavorful chicken recipe we were looking for. After developing the basic technique, we revisited the possibility of including vegetables, finding that we could add a small amount of potently flavored, aromatic vegetables if they were lightly browned with the chicken to remove most of their moisture.

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French Chicken in a Pot

Baking a whole chicken in a covered pot produces a bird with intensely flavored, juicy meat. Technique is key here.

Watch the Video

Serves 4

The cooking times in the recipe are for a 4 1/2- to 5-pound bird. A 3 1/2- to 4 1/2-pound chicken will take about an hour to cook, and a 5- to 6-pound bird will take close to 2 hours. We developed this recipe to work with a 5- to 8-quart Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. If using a 5-quart pot, do not cook a chicken larger than 5 pounds. Use the best chicken available, such as a Bell & Evans. If using a kosher chicken, reduce the kosher salt to 1 teaspoon (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt). If you choose not to serve the skin with the chicken, simply remove it before carving. The amount of jus will vary depending on the size of the chicken; season it with about 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice for every 1/4 cup.

Ingredients

  • 1 whole roasting chicken (4 1/2 to 5 pounds), giblets removed and discarded, wings tucked under back (see note)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt or 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped medium (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 small stalk celery, chopped medium (about 1/4 cup)
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, peeled and trimmed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 medium sprig fresh rosemary (optional)
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon juice from 1 lemon

Instructions

  1. 1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until just smoking. Add chicken breast-side down; scatter onion, celery, garlic, bay leaf, and rosemary (if using) around chicken. Cook until breast is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Using a wooden spoon inserted into cavity of bird, flip chicken breast-side up and cook until chicken and vegetables are well browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove Dutch oven from heat; place large sheet of foil over pot and cover tightly with lid. Transfer pot to oven and cook until instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees when inserted in thickest part of breast and 175 degrees in thickest part of thigh, 80 to 110 minutes.

    2. Transfer chicken to carving board, tent with foil, and rest 20 minutes. Meanwhile, strain chicken juices from pot through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator, pressing on solids to extract liquid; discard solids (you should have about 3/4 cup juices). Allow liquid to settle 5 minutes, then pour into saucepan and set over low heat. Carve chicken, adding any accumulated juices to saucepan. Stir lemon juice into jus to taste. Serve chicken, passing jus at table.

Step-by-Step

Moist Chicken with Concentrated Flavor

1. Brown: Sear chicken on both sides to enhance flavor.

2. Seal: Cover pot with foil before adding lid to trap chicken juices inside.

3. Slow Cook: Cook chicken at 250 degrees for 80 to 110 minutes.

4. Rest: Transfer chicken to carving board to rest so juices can redistribute.

Recipe Testing

Dry Cooking versus Braising

French Chicken in a Pot shares some similarities with braised chicken—both are cooked in covered pots in low-temperature ovens to yield tender, flavorful meat. Unlike braising, however, where lots of liquid is added to the pot, our chicken is placed in a dry pot and left to cook in nothing more than the essence of its own juices.

DRY ENVIRONMENT: In a dry pot with no added liquid, juices that come out of the chicken go right back into it, undiluted by other flavors.

WET ENVIRONMENT: The wet environment of a braise creates an ongoing exchange between the flavors of the chicken as well as other ingredients, such as wine, broth, and vegetables.

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