The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Recreating the rotisserie chicken

Brining heirloom chickens

One of the few store-bought foods that Mark and I still consider a guilty pleasure is the occasional rotisserie chicken.  That makes me want to learn to cook a chicken as succulently delicious so I can make an equally tasty (but more nutritious) version at home.  My first experiment involved brining one of our homegrown chickens with pepper and garlic added to the salted water, then roasting the bird while basting with butter.  The result was tasty, but  the leg meat was still a bit tougher than I would have liked.

I'm curious to hear from our readers who also grow heirloom chickens for meat.  Do you have a favorite way of turning the meat tender and succulent?  Or perhaps this is a losing battle and you can only get that kind of mouth-feel if you raise Cornish Cross, who grow so fast they're still very young when slaughtered?  I'd love to hear your feedback in the comments section!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I'm looking in Joy of Cooking: "Even-heat" (325) for the duration, does produce "shrinkage". Sealing in the flavor is best produced by a high heat at the beginning...Lots of great directions about how to wash, whether to salt, butter, etc....And about the breast vs the legs, in cooking time...even how to dress the just-9killed bird.

I personally use a covered casserole and stuff with onions and celery, for flavor and to add to the juices.

Regrettably, I think that store-bought ("rotisserie") chickens may really have been injected when raw, with some kind of juicifier (tenderizer?)--You should read the labels of the added chemicals...

Comment by adrianne Sat Mar 1 08:27:28 2014

Good question! I hope we get some answers here!!!

In the meantime, I'm thinking enzymes, like meat tenderizers, might be a good addition to the brine? But I don't really know what meat tenderizers are made of, so need to do a little research.

Peace, Terry

Comment by Terry Sat Mar 1 09:10:32 2014

We put our surplus chickens - old hens, young roosters, anything else that needs eating - in a covered roasting pan in the oven overnight at 200 degrees.

We add whatever vegetables we have around - potatoes, carrots, onions, celery, garlic, and whatever herbs and spices we have around - sage, thyme, rosemary, pepper.

It comes out delicious, and tender.

For a rotisserie-style chicken, place a rack under the bird to keep it up out of the juices, and after it is cooked slowly overnight, uncover the pan and brown the skin at a higher oven temperature, or use the broiler element, until the skin is the color you like.

Comment by Harry Sat Mar 1 09:52:09 2014
I don't have home-raised birds - yet. With organic birds purchased from the grocery, I have had amazing results with roasting uncovered in a 500 degree oven, 10 min per lb. All we did was rub in a little olive oil and herbs, no basting. I'd never have had enough faith to try this, but a friend served it for dinner one evening.
Comment by Aggie Sat Mar 1 09:52:38 2014

I know that it gos against what people know. Especially with warnings and food safety today. But have you considered aging your birds? I do raise Cornish crosses(on no commercial feed). But I also have a flock of real RIR, big, maroon. And other breeds. Anyway, after butchering my birds I age them in the fridge for 2 to 4 days. It makes a Huge difference, from firm rubber to dark store bought bird meat, in texture. I know to some people this is WHAT! For all the obvious reasons. But my birds are raised in immaculate conditions and fed the best food, and handled well in the process of cleaning, so I feel very safe doing this. This is my stance though. Just putting this idea out there for people that might be curious.

Comment by T Sat Mar 1 10:36:38 2014
I soak my chickens in milk for 1-2 days. The lactic acid softens the meat. I slaughter my roosters under a year old, leghorn cross breeds, long legs! Hope this helps.
Comment by Ruth Sat Mar 1 10:58:05 2014

You are most likely very familiar with Harvey Ussery's experience with capons. I will likely never try that on chickens.

I haven't had many rotisserie chickens myself, but do like even younger chickens for grilling and roasting. They end up more like the commercially available cornish game hen size and you lose gain/size by harvesting as babies. I would still recommend brining; they probably have less developed chicken flavor (though more like commercially produced poultry.)

Comment by Charity Sat Mar 1 11:09:43 2014
a browning bag works pretty good for me (like the ones for turkeys at Thanksgiving)
Comment by Patsy Melton Sat Mar 1 12:06:01 2014

this has worked on some tough old hens, as well as broilers for us. its not pretty, but its wonderful to eat.

cook the bird in a slow cooker on low with seasonings 5+ hours (our latest 3 yr old hen took two days of cooking) until meat is falling off of bone. put in oven under broiler, skin side up, and keep an eye on it as you're just wanting to crisp the skin. make sure to salt and pepper your bird before initial cooking, and salt skin lightly before broiling, as the salt will tenderize and extract moisture.

Comment by nicole Sat Mar 1 12:12:23 2014

Dry chicken meat is from over cooking. Cut the back bone out, open up and flatten out the chicken, so it is the same thickness. Roast at 375 degrees for 2 hours until meat temp is 180. When you truss up a chicken it takes longer for the thighs to cook so the breast dries out. I like to rub the skin down with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and garlic before cooking. Ps. I love your blog, gave me the courage to dig up my front yard and put in raised planting beds to grow vegetables.

Comment by regina Sat Mar 1 15:51:23 2014 Basic Brine for Juicy, Tender Chicken or Turkey By Brandess on May 30, 2008 13 Reviews timer Prep Time: 5 mins Total Time: 5 mins Yield: 1 gallon About This Recipe "I never make any sort of chicken/turkey without brining it first. Once you try this recipe, you won't either. This is my standard brine that I use most often. This allows me to add any flavoring, dry rub, or sauce to my chicken without competing with the brine flavors. The brining process forces water into the muscle tissues of the meat by a process known as diffusion and osmosis. This additional moisture causes the muscle tissues to swell and hold more water. The resulting water in the muscle tissues will make the meat more moist and tender. Any spices herbs or other flavorings you add to the brine solution will get taken deep into the meat with the water." Ingredients 1 gallon cold water 1/2 cup kosher salt ( reduce to 1/4 cup if using regular table salt.) 2/3 cup light brown sugar Directions Mix brine together

Comment by Darryl Sat Mar 1 18:06:25 2014

You can find these at your local thrift store. Apologies for the amazon link but it's a good visual.

The key is soaking the clay for a few hours before putting the bird in. I can do just about anything in there and it comes out juicy and delicious.

Comment by c. Sun Mar 2 20:29:24 2014

We grow the freedom ranger chickens from Pennsylvania we absolutely love them. We move them daily in chicken tractors like Joel salaten we grow them around 14 more or less weeks, culling the. Other ones... We have a rotisserie in our oven, I know I'm spoiled ;) But I just rub course sea salt all over the outside skin and if u don't have the rotisserie you can lay your veg's on the btm of your roasting pan eg carrots etc layed lenghthwise then place your chicken on top then roast away. the juices will baste your veg's. Yummm and the skin on the chicken will be crispy ... Eat it like chips our kids fight over it! And the chicken is delicious every time Freedom rangers are several heritage breeds bred together to produce something like a broiler. They are nothing like them, they jump up for insects all thru their life whereas I find the Cornish cross eat, drink ,sleep, and poop without moving or as little as possible

Comment by Anna Tue Mar 4 15:57:19 2014
We started out with some mixed chicks last spring, a dozen purchased fertile eggs plus a few chicks we got at a chick day. At about 24 weeks, we were ready to butcher a few roos. We had two Buff Orphingtons and two BLR wyandotte and one guinea roo that was way too much of a bully. I read about aging them and after we cleaned them, we let them soak in water a very cold fridge for 3 or so days...until the legs could be moved again. Then we packaged them and placed in the freezer. We ate the guinea first, crock potted him on low and he was rather tough (don't know how old he was)but there was delicious broth with no fat on it. We just fixed two of the others and I roasted them at 300-325 for about 4-5 hours. I had them in a roaster which had aluminum foil pressed down between the lid and the pan, to seal in a lot of moisture. They were also delish. The dressed weight was around 4 lbs for the roosters and 3 lbs for the guinea, which surprised me - the guineas look so much bigger than that with the feathers they have. I love rotisserie chicken, too, so I am going to look forward to trying some of these suggestions. We plan to raise some more meat birds this spring and summer. I may wait a little longer to butcher a few and see what difference it makes.
Comment by Karen Herrmann Wed Mar 5 14:16:19 2014

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