Editor’s Note: Cook Like a Chef is a feature designed to help you master cooking techniques that will give your homemade meals professional style and carefully crafted flavor. Each month, a chef/instructor from Cascade Culinary Institute at Central Oregon Community College will walk us through a skill or recipe. See them all at bendbulletin.com/chef.

A simple roast chicken dinner becomes simply amazing when you cook it like a chef.

You’ll get a moist bird with super crispy skin when you try this method by chef instructor Thor Erickson of the Cascade Culinary Institute.

He told us the keys to a great roast chicken are high heat, a dry, room-temperature chicken to pop in the oven, no basting and nothing inside the chicken.

“This is an easy recipe. I’ve pared it down to the way I do it at home, and it’s pretty simple,” Erickson said. “The hardest part is trussing it, and you don’t even have to do that.

“Try my steps, and you’ll get a roast chicken with nice caramelized skin on the outside that’s like a crispy chip. When you cut into it, you’re going to hear the crunch.”

Erickson starts with a fresh, naturally raised or organic chicken, especially because his family is eating less meat these days.

“We eat roast chicken about once a month, so we want higher quality; we want to really enjoy it,” Erickson said.

Erickson said to avoid using a frozen chicken because freezing changes the cellular structure of the meat.

“When a frozen chicken cooks, it gives up a lot of its water and the end result is it becomes really dry,” he said.

Erickson told us it’s unnecessary to rinse off chicken before cooking. The heat of roasting will kill any bacteria, and rinsing only adds moisture to the chicken and spreads germs all over your sink.

“Bring the chicken to room temperature before cooking it. Take it out of the fridge and let it sit on a plate on the counter for 45 minutes. When roasting, you want the food, especially poultry and meat, at room temperature, because the oven temperature goes down as soon as you put that big chunk of meat in there,” Erickson said.

You should carefully dry your chicken on the outside and inside with paper towels. Any moisture will create steam and make your chicken drier as it cooks. Generously salt and pepper the inside and outside of the chicken.

Avoid the temptation to put stuffing, a half a lemon, some slices of onion or garlic inside the chicken.

“The more you put inside the cavity, the slower it’s going to cook, and you’re adding moisture to the inside. I wouldn’t add anything beyond a thyme sprig and salt and pepper. When you add onion, garlic or a piece of lemon, you’re steaming the chicken from the inside, and it’s no longer dry heat cooking the bird,” Erickson said.

Trussing, or tying up the chicken, is tricky, but you can watch Erickson demonstrate it on the video posted at the top of this story.

“Trussing creates uniformity and helps the chicken get done in a uniform fashion, and it keeps those legs together. In the video I’ll show the official technique for trussing a chicken but if you just tie the legs together, that’s fine too,” Erickson said.

Be sure to have an instant-read thermometer on hand.

“You don’t want to use that thermometer floating around your drawer that was your grandmother’s that says ‘turkey’ on it. An instant-read thermometer that works is one of the most important tools you can have in your kitchen. I get a new digital one every year at Cash & Carry. It’s about 15 bucks,” Erickson said.

Erickson puts a rack on the bottom of his roasting pan or makes his own rack out of celery ribs and carrots.

“I want to make sure there’s enough space between the bottom of my chicken and the pan so air can circulate. You don’t have to go out and buy a fancy rack. If you have one, great; otherwise, take three hefty, clean celery ribs and three really nice, big, peeled carrots and put those under the chicken. The great benefit is you get those roasting juices coming off the chicken and you create a really flavorful stock. The celery is especially good since it doesn’t contain the moisture that the carrots do.

“Those tender, roasted vegetables are so nice to cut up and serve with your chicken, too,” Erickson said.

Once you close the oven door, you shouldn’t be checking on the chicken or basting it. You need to let the high heat work its magic.

“Four hundred and fifty degrees is hot! Roasting your chicken at super-high heat crisps the skin and cooks the meat as quickly as possible so it doesn’t get dry,” Erickson instructed.

After about 50 to 60 minutes of cooking, the chicken should read 165 degrees Fahrenheit, and then it’s ready to come out of the oven. It should rest on a cutting board, uncovered, on the counter for 15 minutes. (Covering it will create steam and make the crispy skin soggy.) That’s a good time to make a simple pan gravy (see recipe), and then you’re ready to carve and serve your delicious roast chicken.

You’ll also be ready to accept many compliments for your fine cooking skills.

Bon appetit!

— Reporter: ahighberger@mac.com

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