Easiest Roast Chicken Ever
- 8 chicken thighs
- 2 tablespoons bacon fat
- 1 tablespoon Santa Maria seasoning
- Preheat oven to 425.
- Set your chicken on a paper towel, on a plate. Cover with another paper towel and press lightly onto the tops of the chicken pieces.
- Melt bacon fat in your roasting pan or a large cast iron skillet, over medium-low heat.
- Trim excess fat off chicken, if any.
- Put chicken in your pan. Turn it in the warm bacon fat.
- Sprinkle Santa Maria seasoning over all sides of the chicken. Put skin side down.
- Roast for 20-25 minutes and turn over. Roast another 20-25 minutes, until the skin is as brown as you like. (Don't go past 50 minutes total cooking time).
- Remove from pan. Cover loosely with foil to rest for 10 minutes.
- Crunch away!
I married Cute Banker to get to his mother’s Mexican rice. There might have been one or two other things too, but the rice ranks pretty high up there. It’s so succulent, so explosively flavorful, that it’s a shame to shunt it off to the side like a supporting player, and I don’t. This stuff will make you jump for joy. Or marry someone.
My mother-in-law starts out by boiling a chicken in water. She uses the resulting chicken broth, along with the remaining little shreds of chicken, to cook a Mexican rice that’s transcendent enough to forge entirely new families. THAT, my friends, is the only reason to ever cook a chicken in water.
For all other applications on planet earth and beyond (can you tell I feel strongly about this?), you must use dry heat. It deepens the flavors. Caramelizes and crisps the skin. Turns it from protein-on-a-plate to an exquisite yet accessible pleasure. Fried Chicken is the one other exception to this rule but that’s an occasional treat requiring three different bowls of coating and a fire extinguisher nearby. What I’m talking about is a weekly staple at your family dinners. A comforting, delicious meal you look forward to. And one whose leftovers can support your meals for the rest of the week. Easy, delicious, affordable and versatile? Yes, yes, yes, and yes! But, how?
When I was starting out in life, I thought you had to follow all the rules. I remember contorting myself around a whole, raw bird with trussing twine stretched between both hands, and a cookbook diagram held open by my elbow, and possibly my knee. I’m sure there are very good reasons to truss a chicken, but I haven’t found one I believe. I learned that tucking the wings under the body is quite enough to keep them from burning. If you really want to be diligent, you can also tie the legs together, but just do it any old way you want. It doesn’t have to be pretty to get the job done.
As I evolved, I discovered something even more important: Dealing with a whole chicken, trussed or not, is a big old pain. I’m sorry, but it is. It does get easier with practice, but I finally realized there was no reason spend my time wrestling with filling and tucking this thing, much less carving it. The first time I made a roast chicken for Cute Banker, it was semi-raw and hacked into shapes that were unrecognizable as food, much less chicken. I quickly chopped them up even further, pretending that was my goal all along, and microwaved the pink out of them. I narrowly escaped salmonella and possibly a lifetime of spinsterhood.
So, here’s my trick for dealing with that big beastly bird. Get ready, you are about to be rewarded for reading this far: Ask the butcher to CUT IT UP FOR YOU. Aha! You still get all the pieces you want, looking like the pieces you want. If you ask him to give you the extra bones (neck & back) and the gizzards, you can still make your stock, your giblet gravy, whatever luxurious madness you care to attempt. If not, just have the butcher keep that stuff and you don’t even have to set eyes on it.
For those of you leaving the “bonus parts” with your butcher, here’s my trick number two, possibly the most important one: Forego the whole bird altogether and just get thighs! They have more flavor and are moister (and cheaper) than breasts. They have more meat so they are WAY easier to pick clean than drumsticks. And they get crispy and yummy.
So you have a big package of chicken thighs all ready to go. What do you do now?
Pre-heat your oven to 425.
Line some plates with paper towels.
Put your chicken on the towels.
Note that is not advisable to rinse your chicken first. One less thing to do!
Trim any excess fat or skin. You still want the pieces covered in skin, at least on one side, but if there are extra flaps, snip them off.
See the piece of chicken on the top left? See that yellow flap at the bottom of it? That’s got to go. (I was too busy managing the camera while wielding scissors and wrangling raw chicken to notice that piece. Note: Friends Don’t Let Friends Cook and Click.)
Cover the chicken with paper towels and press them slightly to absorb moisture. Leave chicken on the counter, between the towels, to come to room temperature while your oven heats.
Melt some bacon fat. If you’ve got it leftover from your breakfast bacon, just use the same pan. Otherwise, take it out of the fridge and warm it over medium-low heat for a couple minutes. When it’s melted, put your chicken in, and turn it so it’s coated on all sides with bacon fat.
Alternatively, you can use olive oil. You can skip the warming step, just drizzle it over the chicken after you put it in the pan. Your pan will take a few minutes longer to come to temperature in the oven, but I don’t notice that it makes a difference in cooking time. This is a pretty forgiving recipe.
Sprinkle Santa Maria seasoning all over the chicken.
Santa Maria seasoning is what you never knew you always needed. Seriously. Even when you’re not in a hurry, this is all it takes to make deeply savory chicken, beef, roast veggies, fried eggs or salad dressing. Basically, it’s just salt, pepper, garlic powder, and “spices,” but there’s something magical that happens when they put it all together in that little shaker bottle. For this roast chicken, I said to put a tablespoon but don’t skimp. You want the chicken lightly covered all over, like a very thin coating.
You will notice that I have probably overcrowded my pan. The experts would agree with you, and so would I. The chicken should have more space around it so it doesn’t steam as it cooks, but rather dry roasts. However, this is the pan I’ve got. And, I use such a high temp that a lot of liquid does evaporate anyway. So, choose your pan at your own discretion.
I roast chicken at a high temperature because I love dark golden, crispy skin. Thighs are easy to cook that way because they practically never dry out. You can just keep on going until the skin is as crisp as you like. In this recipe, it comes out like a big, delectable potato chip. The secret crisping ingredient is the bacon fat. It doesn’t make the chicken taste like bacon, but it does intensify the flavor. Most importantly, it turns the chicken extra crackly and therefore totally delicious. (Gummy chicken skin is a horror I will not suffer.) Calorie for calorie, fats are exactly the same and it’s very economical – and tasty – to use leftover fat as a cooking medium.
Even if you’re not an enthusiastic carnivore, you will feel a primal urge to grab this chicken with your hands and rip it from the bone with your teeth. It’s that good.
Now! You’ve got a plate of chicken thighs, resting on the counter. You’ve got a pan of beautiful, caramelized drippings sitting on the stove. What now? You make a delicious pan sauce, that’s what. I’ll post a recipe for Easiest Pan Sauce Ever very soon!