Published March 1, 2009. From Cook's Illustrated.
For our roast chicken recipe, we wanted an evenly glazed chicken with crisp skin and moist meat. To dehydrate the skin and make it crisp, we separated it from the meat and poked holes in the fat deposits to allow rendered fat to escape, then rubbed the skin with salt and baking powder before vertically roasting the chicken. We found that resting the roasted bird before blasting it with higher heat resulted in the kind of burnished skin we were looking for, especially after we thickened the glaze with cornstarch to help it adhere to the bird.
If using table salt, reduce the amount to 2½ teaspoons. For best results, use a 16-ounce can of beer. A larger can will work, but avoid using a 12-ounce can, as it will not support the weight of the chicken. A vertical roaster can be used in place of the beer can, but we recommend only using a model that can be placed in a roasting pan. Taste your marmalade before using it; if it is overly sweet, reduce the amount of maple syrup in the glaze by 2 tablespoons. Trappist Seville Orange Marmalade is the test kitchen’s preferred brand.
1. FOR THE CHICKEN: Place chicken breast-side down on work surface. Following illustrations on page 8, use tip of sharp knife to make 1-inch incisions below each thigh and breast along back of chicken (four incisions total). Using fingers or handle of wooden spoon, carefully separate skin from thighs and breast. Using metal skewer, poke 15 to 20 holes in fat deposits on top of breasts and thighs. Tuck wingtips underneath chicken.
2. Combine salt, baking powder, and pepper in small bowl. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and sprinkle evenly all over with salt mixture. Rub in mixture with hands, coating entire surface evenly. Set chicken, breast-side up, on rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered, 30 to 60 minutes. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 325 degrees.
3. Open beer can and pour out (or drink) about half of liquid. Spray can lightly with nonstick cooking spray and place in middle of roasting pan. Slide chicken over can so drumsticks reach down to bottom of can, chicken stands upright, and breast is perpendicular to bottom of pan. Roast until skin starts to turn golden and instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of breast registers 140 degrees, 75 to 90 minutes. Carefully remove chicken and pan from oven and increase oven temperature to 500 degrees.
4. FOR THE GLAZE: While chicken cooks, stir cornstarch and water together in small bowl until no lumps remain; set aside. Bring remaining glaze ingredients to simmer in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to ¾ cup, 6 to 8 minutes. Slowly whisk cornstarch mixture into glaze. Return to simmer and cook 1 minute. Remove pan from heat.
5. When oven is heated to 500 degrees, place 1½ cups water in bottom of roasting pan and return to oven. Roast until entire chicken skin is browned and crisp and instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees inserted in thickest part of breast and 175 degrees in thickest part of thigh, 24 to 30 minutes. Check chicken halfway through roasting; if top is becoming too dark, place 7-inch square piece of foil over neck and wingtips of chicken and continue to roast (if pan begins to smoke and sizzle, add additional ½ cup water to roasting pan).
6. Brush chicken with ¼ cup glaze and continue to roast until browned and sticky, about 5 minutes. (If glaze has become stiff, return to low heat to soften.) Carefully remove chicken from oven, transfer chicken, still on can, to carving board and brush with another ¼ cup glaze. Let rest 20 minutes.
7. While chicken rests, strain juices from pan through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator; allow liquid to settle 5 minutes. Whisk ½ cup juices into remaining ¼ cup glaze in saucepan and set over low heat. Using kitchen towel, carefully lift chicken off can and onto platter or cutting board. Carve chicken, adding any accumulated juices to sauce. Serve, passing sauce separately.
Keys to Perfect Glazed Roast Chicken
1. Start in low oven.
2. Reduce glaze on stovetop.
3. Remove chicken, increase oven heat.
4. Return rested chicken to 500-degree oven.
5. Brush with glaze (twice).
Priming Chicken for Crisper Skin
1. CUT CHANNELS in the skin along the chicken's back to create openings for fat to escape.
2. LOOSEN THE SKIN from the thighs and breast to allow rendering fat to trickle out.
3. POKE HOLES in the skin of the breast and thighs to create additional channels for fat and juices to escape.
4. APPLY A RUB of salt and baking powder; air-dry in the refrigerator before roasting for crisper skin.