The Best Revenge, Episode 6: Roasting a Chicken

Thomas Fleming and Chef Garret discuss different techniques of roasting a chicken. It is the simplest of dishes and, if properly done, one of the finest either for a simple everyday meal or as the centerpiece of a holiday dinner.


Original Air Date: December 3, 2016
Show Run Time: 51 minutes
Show Guest(s): Chef Garret Fleming
Show Host(s): Dr. Thomas Fleming

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The Best Revenge℗ is a Production of the Fleming Foundation. Copyright 2016. All rights are reserved and any duplication without explicit written permission is forbidden.

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21 Responses

  1. Avatar Andrew G Van Sant says:

    I finally had time to listen to this recording this afternoon. I have not roasted a chicken for a while now, but I am going to do so this week. I have a number of those enameled (blue with white flecks) roasting pans of various sizes that I use to roast a variety of meats and poultry. I usually use a wire rack in the bottom to keep the roast off the pan bottom. I usually use a cover when I slow roast at low temperature to minimize drying out the roast. I always put the pan and wire rack in the oven when I preheat it to ensure the temperature drop is minimized when I put the roast or chicken in to start cooking.

    I have some questions for Chef Garret:

    * What about slow-roasting the chicken until it is almost done and then putting it under a broiler to brown the skin?

    * What does he think about using bamboo skewers to hold the cavity closed during roasting?

    * What about using cornstarch instead of flour to thicken the gravy?

  2. Avatar Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Talking of the turkey baster reminded me of my misspent youth. My mother had one in the bottom of a utensil drawer. It was stainless steal with a red rubber bulb. I never saw her use it. I used it one day to siphon gas out of the lawn mower. Afterward, I carefully hid it down in the basement just in case. (I figured I would get in less trouble if she needed it, but could not find it, than if she actually used it and ruined dinner.)

  3. Avatar Ken Rosenberger says:

    Dr Fleming, as always, I enjoy your food episodes with Chef Garrett. These are a great public service, and perhaps in a couple of years you will have provided a respectable repertoire of fortnightly dishes for the cook of the family.

    There is little I prefer (in American cooking) to the roast chicken supper with mashed potatoes and a good gravy. I have been using a Cook’s Illustrated Dutch Oven recipe for the last few years, that never disappoints, although I am always ready for new ways to enjoy a better chicken, thus my new Roman Pot and Rotisserie have been ordered.

    Any further elaboration on the relative merits of one versus the other, or the drawbacks of the Dutch Oven (Garrett didn’t seem to keen on these) is appreciated. More gravy tips are also encouraged. I should really listen to this again and take notes!

  4. Avatar Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Regarding chickens (or anything else you plan to eat: do not name them.) My wife, whose father was in the Navy, lived in Hawaii when she was about nine. Her grandmother lived with them and she talked my wife’s father into letting her raise a few chickens. Finally her father put his foot down and the chickens were given to a nearby farm. All except for Alan, a rooster. My wife’s grandmother decided to cook Alan for dinner. She cut off his head and cleaned him. (Apparently, a chicken will run around after its head is cut off.) My wife, her brother, and her mother refused to eat Alan.

  5. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    I am sending the questions on to “El Jefe” as his underlings, for some strange reason, all call him. Why so many cooks and kitchen staff have taken the trouble to study Spanish to the point that they speak it better than English, is a real puzzle to me.

    My own view is that it is better for several reasons to brown any meat or fowl initially rather than at the end, though I know there are reputable cooks who do it that way. For roast chicken, the broiler is overkill any way–if you have a very good broiler–and if you don’t have an excellent broiler, it takes too long and thus overcooks. As Julia pointed out years ago, it is better to pan broil a steak on the top of the stove, if you do not have a commercial oven. I cheat all the time with skewers, though my wife is more diligent about the sewing. Corn starch will do in a pinch if you are in a hurry but it turns out remarkably like Jello puddings. Making a decent gravy or roux with flour takes a bit of time, but the results are much better.

    Not naming what you are going to eat is a common tradition, but some country folks can get pretty hardened, When we lived in McClellanville, we knew a lovely woman who decided to buy and raise a calf, which she named “Precious.” Having friends to supper, she’d remark casually, “We’re eating Precious tonight.” We had another friend named Bob, a country boy originally from New York state. Bob was a combat veteran and not much given to sentimentalizing. He worked as commercial fisherman and, because he was a diligent Yorker, he always grew a great garden. For reasons I don’t understand, he adopted a pet goat. One day, he and a workmate were coming back from the dock, and found out that the goat had escaped from his pen and eaten much of the garden. Bob went calmly into the house and came out with a .22 and a set look on his face. Explaining, “I grew that garden to go in the freezer, and it is going into the freezer.” A few months later, while my wife was in the hospital with our firstborn, Bob and his recently wedded wife had me to dinner and fed me goat stew.

    The same friend decided to raise a pig for the table. His wife’s mother was not without social pretensions and used to speak endlessly of her grandfather Dr. B—-. So, Bob named the pig B—-. He and his wife would take the damn thing out for walks, and when they visited us one day it was weeks before the stench of the pig droppings were washed out of our dirt driveway. B— too went into the freezer.

  6. Avatar Robert Reavis says:

    Thank you, Dr. Fleming and Chef Garret. After this chicken roasting, I hunger to try it and would also enjoy your thoughts and conversation about cooking ducks or geese. I tried to cook a goose last Thanksgiving and it was so greasy and unpleasant that even large gulps of wine with legs the size of Rosie O’ Donnell’s couldn’t distract from my failure. Any help is always appreciated.

  7. Avatar Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Thanks for your thoughts on my questions, Dr. Fleming, and for the additional tales.

    I have another question, but it is off topic slightly, dealing with shrimp. Is there any way to remove the heavy iodine taste of some shrimp? I recently purchased some “wild caught” shrimp, but when I sautéed them they tasted of iodine.

  8. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    Wanting to remove the iodine taste from shrimp is like wanting to remove the bloody taste from beef, the alcohol from wine, the sweetness from candy, the saltiness from seawater. Iodine content varies in shrimp, but when you don’t taste it, think of grubs being raised in septic tanks under a hut somewhere in Vietnam or Thailand.

    We cook goose every Christmas and the basic trick, as with duck, is slow roasting or braising. Make sure you puncture the skin with a fork all over. Basting with boiling liquid is supposed to help get rid of the fat. Now, if you are talking about wild goose that has lived off fish, I wouldn’t try it.

  9. Avatar Robert Reavis says:

    Tom,
    No, not wild goose. I was talking tame and I appreciate your suggestions.

  10. Avatar Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Not very encouraging, Dr. Fleming. We do not eat farm-raised shrimp. Will have to take it off the menu. Stick to wild-caught scallops and other fish. A little research revealed that it is a diet of plankton that causes the iodine taste of wild-caught shrimp.

  11. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    Yes, it is diet which partly depends on region and time of year. What I don’t know is which regions are more likely to produce high-iodine shrimp. If you are not allergic, you should learn to enjoy it. Vegetables in coastal SC are among the most delicious in the world, and that is partly due to high iodine content in the soil.

    On goose, Robert, you might take a look at Julia’s first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. As I recall, she has a good approach. I don’t hate the grease as much as most people, though it tends to make me rather ill, which is why I have taken to slow-cooking goose and duck.

  12. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    According to some writers, large brown shrimp can be higher in iodine. Where you live, you can certainly find “white” shrimp.

  13. Avatar Garret Fleming says:

    Goose poses a variety of problems and it really comes down to what you want eat….crispy skin, tender dark meat, or luscious medium rare breast? Duck is similar, my favorite preparation being the Chinese Peking duck which is lacquered and roast in a hung oven until crispy and tender. Air is forced underneath the skin so it separates from the flesh and renders more evenly. Since most people don’t have access to a Chinese oven, much less the convoluted techniques of Beijing, I suggest a 2 cooking method. First separate the legs, thighs and wings and confit them. The breasts you remove and score. After your dark meat is confitted (about 3 hours) you can fry them to achieve a crispy skin and the meat is oh so tender. On low medium heat you can render the breast skin side down until it too achieves crispy skin (About 20-25 minutes). These take another 5-8 minutes in a 325 degree oven and 5 minutes of resting to hit a perfect medium rare. In addition you have a carcass to make a delicious sauce from.

  14. Avatar Garret Fleming says:

    The only downfall to this preparation is that the presentation is slightly less festive then serving a whole roast bird. The results are worth it in my opinion.

  15. Avatar Garret Fleming says:

    The only downfall to this preparation is that the presentation is slightly less festive then serving a whole roast bird.

  16. Avatar Garret Fleming says:

    As to the questions posed, in no particular order, I oftentimes don’t seal the bird shut, and stuff it w oranges and copious amounts of Rosemary sage and oregano. Some french chefs literally sew the bird shut and this is supposedly helpful in controlling even cooking. I’ve never experienced any issues by not sealing it shut- bamboo, twine, stiff Rosemary stems will all work if you choose to do so. Jus lie (or “set) is pan gravy made with a cornstarch slurry- it really comes down to preference and having good flavorful stock to begin with. I like to use the chicken fat left in the pan to roast a little celery heavy mirepoix. You have fond as well and juices that help make the gravy more delicious. After getting some mahogany color on my veg, I pincage with a 1/2 tsp of tomato paste, there is still usually some fat left over so I singer with a couple of tablespoons on flour and cook on low heat for a few minutes to maintain a white roux (thus the strongest thickening capacity) but cook out some of the flour taste. Then I add beautiful stock incrementally to the Pan, 3-4 cups depending on how much gravy you want. I bring to a simmer and add few sprigs of thyme to marry. I cook for about 10 minutes to dispel any flour flavor, and then season w salt and pepper. In the last minute I add a tablespoon of crisp white wine and I tip my rested chicken to give that beautiful last tablespoon of delicious juices. I strain twice through a chinoise and grub down with some serious gravy.

  17. Avatar Robert Reavis says:

    Good to hear from you Garret and thank you for the additional advice.

  18. Avatar Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Thank you for your additional advice and information Dr. Fleming and Chef Garret. (My first ancestor on my father’s side was named Garret (sometimes spelled as Gerret); he came to New Amsterdam with his father and step mother in the spring of 1652.)

  19. Thomas Fleming Thomas Fleming says:

    “Only downfall,” which in my language means total refusal to confront the challenge and do the right thing. Naturally, that’s only my infallible opinion.

  20. Avatar Vince Cornell says:

    I came back to this podcast to refresh my memory on some of the Chicken Roasting tips, but I can’t seem to get the podcast to play anymore. Help?

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