Roasted Chicken is a favorite for this family of 6. I like to roast 2 birds at a time so I can have enough cooked chicken for 2 meals AND make a big batch of homemade chicken stock, which I value like gold! Stay tuned for a separate post on how to make the most wonderful Homemade Chicken Stock.
Okay, first let me say that I grew up eating roasted chicken. We had it all the time and I loved it. Didn't think it could get any better... that is, until I discovered the wonderful world of brining. If you've never brined before, you MUST MUST MUST give it a try. I promise you will not be disappointed! Brining adds so much flavor and moisture. You'll truly be amazed.
Here's how I brined my two 5 1/2 pound chickens. I do everything in a huge 16-quart stockpot, but you can use a 5 gallon bucket, a large plastic storage container, a cooler... basically whatever you have that will hold 2 gallons of brine and 2 chickens.
(FYI - this stockpot is one of those cheap-o flimsy ones that is so light weight and thin that anything you cook in it burns (even boiled pasta - seriously). Not good for cooking, but great for brining or boiling large amounts of water.
Recipe can easily be halved, but here's what you'll need to make two chickens like I do:
2 gallons water (divided)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup Morton’s kosher salt (or 1/4 cup table salt)
2 teaspoons of ground black pepper
Start by bringing 4 cups of water to a boil. Add salt and sugar; stir to dissolve. Add enough cold water to equal 2 gallons (that's an additional 28 cups). Be sure your finished brine is COLD. Stir in the black pepper (my arms would fall off if I tried to grind all that pepper by hand, so I grind peppercorns in a coffee mill that I reserve for spices). Remove giblets/neck from the chickens (good for stock, minus the liver which can give a bitter taste). Submerge the chickens in the brine - get that brine inside too! Cover the stockpot and refrigerate for 8-24. If you're brining in a cooler, keep brine temp below 40F using ice packs.
After the chickens are done lounging in their luxurious salt bath, remove them from the brine and pat them dry. I don't rinse, but you could if you wanted to. Discard the used brine. Let the birds sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes, but you can skip this step if you're in a hurry. Pat birds dry again, and rub each with 1-2 tablespoons of softened butter. Yuck Warning - if the chickens aren't completely dry, the butter will stick to you instead of sticking to them!
Sprinkle liberally with ground black pepper only. DO NOT sprinkle with salt at this point. Remember, these guys have been swimming in the dead sea for hours.
Oops, I forgot to get a photo of this step, but I stuff each chicken with half of an onion and some whole garlic cloves. I added some cut potatoes to the roasting pan. Click here for my Super Crunchy Oven Roasted Potatoes.
I like to tie the legs together for a nicer finished presentation. Believe me, they turn out much better looking this way, but you don't have to.
These babies are going to exude a lot of juice, so be sure to use a deep sided roasting pan. Roast the birds at 350F for about 20 minutes per pound (5.5 pounds x 20 minutes = 1 hour and 50 minutes), or until the internal temperature taken in the thickest part of the thigh registers about 165F. Remove the chickens from the oven and let them rest for 10-15 minutes before carving. Oops, you can see that I set the alarm on my roasting thermometer to go off at the wrong temp, but I'm not worried... I know brining these guys guarantees that they're still going to be super juicy and tender.
Mmmm - you are going to LOVE LOVE LOVE this chicken. Your family is going to Love Love Love this chicken... and your mother-in-law is going to hate hate hate you and be so jealous. Err, uhh - just kidding... Hi Carol! Thank you for all the great kitchen toys you've given me over the years... your son sends his love... and so do your grandkids... and so do I... :).
Can you see the puddle of juice this chicken breast is oozing? So succulent and delicious. Be prepared to hear praise from even your pickiest eater as this yummy chicken is being devoured. You'll thank me later - Enjoy!