Have you ever tried to replicate a restaurant’s perfectly juicy-but-crispy roasted chicken at home—and had it turn out a shade worse than lackluster? Me too. So, when I started my culinary school internship at (The Mercer) Kitchen and got one whiff of their roasted chicken, I immediately begged Executive Chef Chris Beischer to fess up his, well, juicy secrets. His simple but game-changing tweaks will have everyone clamoring for seconds.
1. Throw your marinade in the blender.
Once I heard that fresh tarragon, thyme and garlic went into Chef Chris’ marinade, I couldn’t begin to fathom how all the chopping got done. But brilliant hack numero uno: put your ingredients in a blender to save time mincing all the herbs. Chef Chris also puts bay leaves, lemon, olive oil and salt into his marinade, but feel free to experiment with other herbs, like rosemary and oregano.
2. Marinate for at least 20 minutes.
Now that you’ve blended up this flavorful concoction, you need to give the bird some time to soak in all the flavor. It’s ideal to let it marinate overnight if you can, but give the bird at least 20 minutes of marinade-bathing.
3. Baste with butter and garlic.
To impart more superb flavor, baste the chicken with butter (or olive oil, for a similar effect) and some minced garlic while it roasts. After it comes out of the oven, keep it moist by repeatedly ladling the pan juices over the bird.
4. Dress the plate up with lemon.
Taste is top priority here, but presentation will reinforce your gourmet skills. This easy-but-brilliant lemon trick: Cut a lemon in half and top with a thin layer of sugar or honey. Bake at 300 degrees until soft. This gives the lemon a vaguely tangy, sour-sweet flavor. This step will give your dish a professional, polished look on the plate, as well as a flavorful squeeze on top of your roast—just like the restaurant pros do it.
5. Crisp up the skin in the broiler.
Right before you’re ready to serve, don’t forget the finishing touch! Place the bird in the broiler briefly for a crispy, savory skin that also wins style points from your dinner guests.
A tasty roasted chicken isn’t exactly a 20-minute meal, but think of it this way: One thoughtfully-prepared Sunday roast pays off with easy weekday meals all week long.