The difference between a great roast chicken and merely a decent one is the skin. It’s a sad bird that doesn’t end up with a crisp, deep brown exterior, but how do you get it that way? Chowhounds know a few tricks.
The key to crispiness is making sure the skin is dry when it hits the oven, alanbarnes says. For best results, salt the bird several hours before roasting, then let it air-dry, uncovered, in the fridge, mtomto explains. Try mixing a bit of baking powder into the salt before rubbing on the uncooked skin, sbp says—the baking powder’s a drying agent, producing really crispy skin (don’t worry, there’s no lingering chemical aftertaste). If you forget to salt and dry, parking the chicken in front of an electric fan will get its skin nice and dry in about an hour.
Another trick: Roasting on a rack in a shallow pan to allow maximum air circulation around the chicken, so the underside won’t turn soggy. And if your oven has a convection mode, use it, Diane in Bexley says: The constantly circulating air yields supercrisp skin.
Keep in mind that the hotter the oven, the crisper the skin, but high-heat roasting can fill your kitchen with smoke. To thwart his smoke detector, RealMenJulienne puts a quarter-inch layer of salt in the bottom of the roasting pan and roasts the bird on a rack above it. The salt absorbs the drippings so they don’t burn, cutting down on smoke. (The downside: no drippings for gravy.)
Then there’s the radical approach. Claudette carefully separates the skin from the raw chicken’s flesh, rubs salt under the skin, and refrigerates overnight. After roasting the chicken at 425 degrees Fahrenheit until done, she takes kitchen shears and removes skin from meat. Claudette then cuts the skin into two-inch-wide strips and broils them until they’re brown and crisp all the way through. It looks a little funny, but Claudette swears the skin is absolutely irresistible.
Discuss: Your secrets to crispy chicken skin
Photo of CHOW’s Basic Whole Roasted Chicken by Chris Rochelle / CHOW.com