Cooking chicken question

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Joined Jul 5, 2010
Heston Blumenthal roasts a chicken for 4 hours at 60*C, tho'. Then, because the skin would still be tough, he pan-fries it in 'chicken butter' (basically frying the wing tips and other off-cuts in butter). It all depends on the very low temperature.


It's true, to a certain extent.  Under specific circumstances, and with proper handling, long cooking periods are best.  In the case of roasting, though, unless the item in question is completely submerged in fat throughout the cooking process (such as confit), or some other moisturizing measure is taken (such as constant basting), or perhaps an initial high temperature searing method (such as in Peking duck), the meat will drastically dehydrate under such a long period of time and in such a small portion, no matter the temperature and even with a decent amount of larding. 

If the meat is dehydrated, one would then have the option of forcing more fat or moisture into the meat via some other process, in which case you have a fatty jerky or reconstituted meat.  As for myself, I would prefer to reserve the last option for only the most desperate of meats.  I can not think of any time where I would prefer to take a wonderful piece of meat and subject it to such rough treatment intentionally when it started out in such good condition. 

I liken it to adding cocacola to a finely aged single malt scotch.  Sure, some people might actually like it more that way.  On the other hand, one could respect the initial ingredients and all that has gone into them, save a bundle by starting with a lower quality product to begin with, and create an end product that is just as satisfying. 
 
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Joined Nov 7, 2010
True. I understand your point. Blumenthal brines it it for 24 hours beforehand (followed by 24 hours sitting in the fridge uncovered to dry out the skin--I was concerned, too, that this would see it take on aromas floating around the fridge). Brining a chicken before roasting is, I think, a pretty solid idea to begin with ... but would it make up for 4 hours in the oven?

EDIT

Would vacuum packing the entire bird (along with, I don't know, some herbs or garlic or whatever you care for) and cooking it in a 60* (celcius) water bath be better?
 
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72
13
Joined Jul 5, 2010
True. I understand your point. Blumenthal brines it it for 24 hours beforehand (followed by 24 hours sitting in the fridge uncovered to dry out the skin--I was concerned, too, that this would see it take on aromas floating around the fridge). Brining a chicken before roasting is, I think, a pretty solid idea to begin with ... but would it make up for 4 hours in the oven?

EDIT

Would vacuum packing the entire bird (along with, I don't know, some herbs or garlic or whatever you care for) and cooking it in a 60* (celcius) water bath be better?
What would concern me more is the temperature to begin with.  At 60c (I think that equates to 140f) maximum temperature, there is still the matter of bacteria.  Brine would help control the bacteria, and it might not be as big of an issue with a high quality chicken after the brine, but I still can't help but to cringe at the thought. 

Please don't get me wrong...  I am not one to shy away from carpaccio, aoli, or anything else that goes against what the often over-zealous gov't guidelines say here in the U.S., but I still think those rules are a necessarily accurate set of guidelines.  The exceptions to the rules are dependent on numerous other factors affecting food safety.  If I could rest assured that the chicken I was cooking was raised, slaughtered, cleaned, shipped, and held in proper conditions, 140f would likely be a perfect temperature, but, given that I don't think I could trust anything to that extent, I would be more comfortable with the minimum temperature to kill harmful bacteria.  In this case that would be 150f.  I'd feel quite confident and comfortable (again, given the assurance that all other conditions for the meat were good) at 155f, which is still below gov't rules. 

Without too long of a cooking period (especially with an initial higher temperature or flash-poach), an end temperature reading of 155f would yield a nice and tender chicken

Vacuum packing with brine and flavorings is not a bad idea at all.  I've done so myself.  It helps to infuse the meat quicker and more thoroughly, but as far as food safety goes, I do not think it would help much over a normal soak method.  Also, when vacuum packing with brine, it is usually a good idea to soak in a milk (buttermilk is my preference whenever I brine chicken) solution of some sort, or to at least rinse thoroughly before roasting to help remove added salt content, depending on how salty the brine is.
 
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Joined Apr 3, 2010
BDL  We made with dried apricots, raisins, cherries , coconut. We also made a cheap commercial one with canned fruit cocktail, and a savory one that we cut in triangles or wedges and served with Brisket or beef or Tongue Polonaise. Stuff would really fill you up but it was good.
 
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Joined Nov 7, 2010
I did think about the bacteria factor, too. The bacteria is all on the surface, though? As in the skin and the cavity? The browning of the whole bird in the pan, once cooked in the oven for 4 hours, was, I think, meant to take care of that (altho' obviously it doesn't reach the cavity). Couldn't I take my sous vide/low roasted chicken and then throw it in a screaming hot oven, just like you might with slow roasted pork belly, to heat the skin past the point where the bacteria die? Or, perhaps, butterfly the chicken before roasting it so I can reach every surface with the pan/grill/whatever I use to brown it.
 
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One can always "kill the bacteria" with heat, BUT, heat does NOTHING to any toxins that might have been produced byt the bacteria before they were "killed by the heat"!
 
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Pete is correct, once the bacteria started to make the bird bad you can't make it better  by cooking. I worked with the old time chefs years ago and they thought  "This is going bad let's freeze it ""also false. If it is bad dump it, don;t take a chance.
 
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Very long and slow roasting doesn't overcook the chicken by itself --- it's letting it get to 180 that does it. The surface will get a bit sticky, and as BDL says the meat will tend to fall off the bones. The meat is very tender, but I find that it also becomes rather bland, I'm not sure why. I find that this method does make sense with ducks, because domesticated ducklings like you find in the supermarket are very often excessively fatty and this long and slow method renders a great deal of it out without drying the meat.

To me, "sticky chicken" means something Paul Prudhomme's mother (and his many, many siblings too) did with old hens and roosters. Basically they'd fry the chicken, but do it at very low heat, something like 250F, for a long time. This process tenderizes the chicken amazingly, and a chicken that old needs all the help it can get. I've done it with a friend's old layer who finally couldn't lay any longer, and it's terrific --- and unquestionably sticky. But I would not subject a younger bird to that kind of treatment.

If you have a convection oven, you can skip all the turning and stuff. Put the chicken on a rack so that it's above a pan, not shielded on the sides, and convection-roast at 425F or so until it's golden brown -- about 10 minutes or so. Then lower the heat to 350 and keep going until it's done, perhaps 45 minutes to an hour or more, depending on weight. Go by temperature not blood or movable joints or any of that unless you are using some kind of very fancy truly farm-raised organic bird of an heirloom breed, and even then temperature is the best way. I roast to 165 and rest 10 minutes. Convection will produce spectacular results here, with beautiful crispy skin and no uneven cooking.
 
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Joined Oct 9, 2008
I did think about the bacteria factor, too. The bacteria is all on the surface, though? As in the skin and the cavity? The browning of the whole bird in the pan, once cooked in the oven for 4 hours, was, I think, meant to take care of that (altho' obviously it doesn't reach the cavity). Couldn't I take my sous vide/low roasted chicken and then throw it in a screaming hot oven, just like you might with slow roasted pork belly, to heat the skin past the point where the bacteria die? Or, perhaps, butterfly the chicken before roasting it so I can reach every surface with the pan/grill/whatever I use to brown it.
I don't like the sound of this, Chris. Seems to me the sous vide would make for a lovely environment for bacterial breeding, and then you'd just quickly hot-roast a rotten chicken. Yuck. I wouldn't do this unless I was very, very sure that the chicken was clean to begin with.
 
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ChrisLehrer - I cook my chooks pretty much as you describe, altho I start them on a rack breast side down for the most part, then flip it over for last 15 mins to brown and crispen the breasts.

I cook breast side down as this, to me, makes the breasts juicier. It always seems to work a treat.  I'll also put a bed of veg. under the rack - carrots, onions, celery, garlic, maybe thyme and rosemary, sometimes tomato  - so it yields a beautiful sauce after squishing (technical term)  and draining them off.  Oh, plus a a glass of dry wine or two.  Yum.
 
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