Executive Chef–Stewart Lane
A good roast chicken is one of the great joys in life. Many of the greatest chefs and restaurateurs around the world claim that a roast chicken would be their choice for a last meal. Yet with simplicity comes challenges. Getting both; tender and juicy meat with crispy golden-brown skin, can be difficult feat to achieve. With a few simple steps, and some patience, you can make the most delectable and juicy roast chicken right in your own home.
A brine is, at its core, a salt solution. Salt works to break down the proteins in muscle fibers, preventing them from constricting during cooking and drying out the meat. This is perfect for lean meats such as pork chops, chicken breasts, turkey and even some fish.
This technique is a game changer but has its drawbacks. For a whole chicken extra water is forced into the skin creating a tougher finished texture and not the golden snap we desire. You need space in your refrigerator to keep the bring and meat cold, (below 41 degrees F or 5 C) so you avoid the danger zone of bacterial growth. What are you to do? Is there another way? Welcome to dry brining, a catchy term that means salting your food far in advance of cooking. This technique brings the benefits of traditional brining, without the water-logged loss of flavor that can come with salt solution brines. Dry brining also increases the (the browning process associated with caramelization) and saves space in your refrigerator.
HOW TO DRY BRINE.
The dry brine can be as simple as plain kosher salt, but where is the fun in that? When I make a dry brine, I like to make a mixture that will impart both flavor as well as help create that beautiful golden-brown skin. I make a mixture of kosher salt, baking powder, lemon zest and granulated garlic. The salt creates the brine, the baking powder breaks down proteins in the skin (creating a crispy skin), and the lemon zest and the granulated garlic bring a punch of bright and savory flavors.
If you are going to roast your chicken on the grill, then butterfly the chicken to provide the greatest surface area and promote even cooking.
Remove the spine, with either strong kitchen shears or a sharp boning knife. Save the spine for stock since it is full of connective tissue and collagen. Place the chicken on a wire drying rack and press down on the breastbone to flatten slightly. Make your dry brine mixture and liberally season the chicken. This is best achieved by letting the brine sprinkle over the bird from about 7-9 inches above the meat. This will allow even coverage of the brine. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the chicken and set the wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet. Let this rest in your refrigerator overnight, or 24 hours.