Crisp on the outside, tender on the inside – everybody loves roast chicken but it’s a trickier task than many home cooks think. In the end it all depends on the correct positioning of the bird during the cooking process. I know a lot of people who simply put their chicken on the back, on a tray, in the hot oven and wait for an hour. Tsts…can’t work. The most probable result will be: the breast (or “white meat”, as our puritan American friends prefer to say) will come out over-cooked and dry while the thighs might not be sufficiently done. Weird, yes, but that’s the anatomy and the muscular structure of a chicken. It needs smarter handling.
To achieve convincing results you have to roast chicken on the thighs for most of the time, in other words: couching on the side. For French butchers this is so natural that they prepare the bird for exactly this cooking technique. They bind the thighs close together, but not only their ends but their fleshy parts as well using darning needles and driving thread through the whole bird! You then have a chicken with flat flanks, perfect for our purpose to perfectly roast it.
Now, if you have a chicken of, say, 1.4 kilograms, you’ll roast it for 25 minutes on one side, then for another 25 minutes on the other side (basting it regularly). Only during the last 15 minutes you roast it breast-side up. Don’t forget to let it rest after roasting for at least 20 minutes (loosely covered with aluminium foil) AND LET IT REST WITH THE BREAST-SIDE DOWN, yes, believe me, that’s how French chefs do it. And they know why.