BuzzFeed held a contest between eight famous roast chicken recipes to find out which method really is the best.
See the round-by-round breakdown — and find out why we chose the recipes we chose — here.
The winning chicken recipe is surprisingly — and delightfully! — easy to make.
See the complete recipe here.
The man responsible for said recipe is Thomas Keller, probably the best American chef of our time.
It calls for three ingredients:
Three ingredients. Seriously.
And a few essential tools.
The most important thing is that you follow Keller’s specific instructions exactly.
1. First, let your chicken come to room temperature before you roast it.
Take your chicken out of the fridge at least 45 minutes before you start roasting it. If it’s still refrigerator-cold when you put it in the oven, your cooking time will be longer, and your chicken won’t be as tender.
Rinsing your chicken just spreads gross raw chicken germs all over your sink. If you cook the meat to the proper temperature (165 degrees), any dangerous germs or bacteria will be killed anyway. Read more about it here.
3. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
4. Dry your chicken REALLY WELL on the outside…
…AND on the inside.
Any excess moisture will create steam and actually make your chicken drier. So use paper towels to pat your chicken dry on the outside. Then, grab a few more paper towels and stick them inside the cavity; it’ll feel weird, and you’re going to pull out some gross gunk, but this step is absolutely essential to the awesomeness of your resulting chicken.
5. Next, sprinkle kosher salt and pepper inside the chicken cavity.
The salt that you sprinkle in the cavity will get absorbed into the meat from the inside, meaning that all of the meat will be flavorful, not just the outside surface.
6. Then you’re gonna truss your chicken, and it’s going to be so easy. Here’s how:
Cut a piece of butcher’s twine that’s about 24 inches long and lay your chicken on a cutting board, breast side up with the legs facing away from you.
Put the center of the twine under the tail.
Cross the ends then loopback under around the legs and pull the string tight to bring the legs together.
Flip your chicken over. Bring the twine around the sides, tucking in the wings.
Pull the twine tight and tie a knot at the neck, but loop the string through the knot twice (this is called a butcher’s knot).
Trim the excess twine with scissors or your knife.
Flip your chicken back over, and you’re trussed!
7. Season the outside of your chicken with lots of salt and some pepper.
A 4-pound chicken will need about a tablespoon. Don’t just pour salt out of a container; use your hand to sprinkle salt all over the chicken to ensure that it’s evenly coated.
8. Place the chicken breast side up on a rack over a roasting pan.
One surprising lesson from BuzzFeed’s Ultimate Roast Chicken Tournament is that the recipes that called for a roasting rack were the most successful. Using a rack is worth it, and ensures that your chicken cooks evenly and doesn’t stick to the pan.
9. Put it in the 450°F oven for 50–60 minutes.
Four hundred and fifty degrees is hot! Roasting your chicken at super high heat crisps the skin and cooks the meat as quickly as possible so that it doesn’t get dry.
10. No flipping, no basting, no checking on the chicken unless smoke starts pouring out.
First of all, opening your oven while the chicken is cooking will decrease the oven heat and increase cooking time. Flipping your bird is unnecessary when you’re roasting on a rack, since the heat is hitting all sides of the bird evenly. And basting? It can actually make the skin of your chicken soggy, since you’re likely basting with not only fat but also liquid.
11. Your chicken is done when its internal temperature is 165 degrees.
Insert your thermometer right between the breast and the thigh; this is the thickest part of the chicken. If you cook the chicken past 165 degrees, it will start to dry out and won’t be as flavorful as it could be.
12. Let your chicken sit on a cutting board for 15 minutes before removing the twine and carving.
When your chicken is cooked, take it off the rack and set it on the cutting board, then wait 15 minutes before you do anything else. Letting the chicken “rest” gives the juices a chance to settle, so that they soak into your meat and flavor it, instead of just flowing out onto the cutting board.