|Crispy chicken skin is a tasty treat!|
The solution I've been using recently seems to work fairly well - although it does leave the meat itself a little drier - that problem, has not been so bad as to be a deal breaker, so I believe fixing it will just be a matter of tweaking the cooking times and temperatures a little more. The solution is fairly simple- before I put the chicken in the oven, I put a nice hard sear on as much of the surface as I can, then I finish the chicken in the oven - uncovered, to finish the job. The searing cooks the skin enough that the heat from the oven is enough to transform it into a crispy, crunchy treat. Searing also has another advantage- the chicken skin will develop more depth of flavor from the two-stage cooking process- enough that I've found that I really only need minimal seasoning to have a great tasting piece of chicken.
This routine seems to work best for dark meat sections (skin on of course!) - in my examples, I am using drumsticks, which turned out pretty good. The previous batch I did as a test run used thighs, and they turned out even better- that is probably due to the fact that it's easier to sear the thighs more completely- more of their surface area actually touches the pan/grill without performing a balancing act, and due to the slightly thicker skin on the thighs.
Start off by heating up your pan or flat-top grill - you'll want the pan fairly hot- medium to high heat, but not "screaming hot" or you'll risk burning the skin outright. As I mentioned earlier, it doesn't take much in the way of seasoning to get a good flavorful piece of chicken, so I restricted myself to salt and pepper only- if you need a different flavor, I'd probably only want to add one type of herb/spice at this stage. Make sure your chicken pieces are thawed- you have a little bit of leeway- if the surface is thawed but the center is still cold, you still won't have problems- the middle will be thawed by the time you finish your searing. Give your chicken pieces a good coating of salt and pepper, and grease your pan/grill with a little oil, butter, or cooking spray (I used olive oil).
|Chicken legs, ready for the grill|
|Chicken leg with a hard sear - try to do this to as much of the surface as possible.|
The parts that are fully seared are already crispy, and the gaps between the seared areas will have enough of a head start that the oven will bring them up to crispy. Since we've already partially cooked our chicken, it should be cooked through by the time the skin has a nice even color, and has become crispy. The cooking times I've cited are approximate- they will vary quite a bit from oven to oven- so use your judgment, and an instant read meat thermometer if you have doubts.
The chicken will end up with a nice crunch to the skin, and a deep golden-brown color that looks great on a plate. I served mine up with green and yellow string beans, couscous cooked in chicken stock, and placed the chicken on a puddle of my simple chicken gravy.
|Crispy skinned chicken looks great on the plate|
This idea of searing a meat then finishing it in the oven is a common restaurant technique. It produces a crusty outside with it's distinct flavors, combined with the flavor and texture of the roasted interior. It generally makes it much easier to get your meat to the level of done-ness desired since you're trading time in the oven with time on the stovetop where you have more direct control over the cooking. It's a concept that applies equally well to any thick-cut meat- beef, pork, and even fish.