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One Way to Beautifully Roast a Chicken

FILE - In this May 8, 2008, file photo, a butcher spreads out rotisserie-roasted chicken at Costco in Mountain View, California. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)
One Way to Beautifully Roast a Chicken
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The shiny look of a glazed, roasted chicken may look delicious. But it can be difficult to achieve.

The sugar in the glaze caramelizes in the oven. To caramelize food is to heat the sugar in it at a high temperature. This removes all the water. The sugar breaks down and then reforms. The taste it produces is more complex -- both sweet and salty, buttery and nutty.

Caramelizing also adds a deeper brown color to the food, in this case the chicken skin. That is, if the sugary glaze stays on.

Roasting in the oven at a high temperature means the glaze could burn. Or it could come off the chicken and into the pan. This does not lead to a caramelized chicken, but rather just a really dirty container.

A cooking expert, Christopher Kimball, wrote a story for the Associated Press about a well-tested method that keeps the glaze on the chicken. The solution, he says, is in the preparation of the chicken.

Kimball and his team of food experts found that cutting the chicken open and removing its backbone worked best. You can then open the bird and lay it flat in your roasting pan.

The chicken cooks and browns evenly. And because the chicken is flat, the glaze stays where it belongs – on the chicken.

This photo shows a spatchcocked chicken. To spatchcock a chicken, or any bird, you cut along the center backbone, starting at the neck and right through to the rump, Sept. 28, 2011, Concord, New Hampshire. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
This photo shows a spatchcocked chicken. To spatchcock a chicken, or any bird, you cut along the center backbone, starting at the neck and right through to the rump, Sept. 28, 2011, Concord, New Hampshire. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

Cooks calls this preparation method spatchcocking. It is also known as butterflying because the bird’s shape looks like a butterfly.

Kimball’s recipe for this simple glaze uses few ingredients. He adds some citrus juice to the glaze in a separate container to use later when the chicken is done.

This dish takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes to make. *However, only 20 minutes are actual cooking time. While the chicken is in the oven, you can prepare any side dishes for the meal. Since your oven is already on, you could easily roast some potatoes and seasonal vegetables at the same time.

Chutney-glazed spatchcocked chicken

Here are the ingredients:

  • 118 mL (½ cup) tamarind chutney OR mango chutney
  • 59 mL (4 tablespoons) melted salted butter
  • 5 mL (4 grams or 1 teaspoon) ground turmeric OR ground ginger
  • Juice of 1 lemon OR 1 lime
  • 1 whole chicken
  • Salt and black pepper

Here are the cooking directions:

(Please note: All cooking times are estimates as some ovens run hotter than others.)

  • Heat the oven to 218°C (425°F).
  • Make the glaze. Stir together the chutney, butter, and turmeric. Measure 79 milliliters (⅓ cup) into a small bowl and add the citrus juice. Set this aside. You will use this later.
  • Cut out the chicken’s backbone. (Keep this to make chicken soup or chicken stock another time.)
  • Place the bird skin side up flat in a roasting pan.
  • Season with salt and pepper. Then put on half of the chutney mixture.
  • Roast for (about) 40 minutes. Then put on the rest of the chutney mixture and roast until the thickest part of the bird reaches 79°C (175°F.) This will be about another 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Take the chicken out of the oven and let it rest in the pan for about 10 minutes.
  • Finally, cut, serve with the sauce, and enjoy with family and friends! This recipe serves about four to six people.

I’m Anna Matteo.

(Note: *Twenty minutes is the estimated time you will spend actively making the dish. This is sometimes called the active or actual cooking time. The total cooking time includes the time the bird cooks in the oven and you are able to enjoy a cup of tea and a good book!)​

Do you have a favorite chicken dish to share? Or maybe another use of the spatchcocking/butterfly method? Let us know in the Comments Section.

Christopher Kimball reported this story for the Associated Press. Anna Matteo adapted it for VOA Learning English. Susan Shand was the editor.


Words in This Story

glaze – n. a liquid mixture that is put on the surface of something and that becomes shiny and smooth when it is dry

roast – v. to cook by exposing to dry heat (as in an oven or before a fire)

delicious – adj. very good tasting

oven – n. a piece of cooking equipment that is used for baking or roasting food

flat – adj. arranged or laid out so as to be level or even

recipe – n. a set of instructions for making food

ingredient – n. one of the things that are used to make a food, product, etc.

sauce – n. a usually thick liquid poured over or mixed with food

stock – n. liquid in which meat, fish, or vegetables have been simmered that is used as a basis for soup, gravy, or sauce