How to Roast a Pastured Chicken
The pastured chicken is a very different animal than the battery (or caged) chicken, because it has muscles. Obviously, an animal that has had access to exercise and can scratch in the dirt will have a very different kind of meat because they will have very different leg, thigh and breast meat structure. The recent craze for high-roasted chickens (450 degrees for a shorter period of time) is fine for a battery chicken but will not work for a pastured bird; the muscles simply freeze up and you end up with a chicken-shaped hockey puck. For the pastured bird you need to cook ‘low and slow’.
- Pastured Chicken
- Olive oil/butter
- Salt, pepper
- First, to you will want to slowly defrost the bird. Two full days in the refrigerator will do the job nicely. Then wash the bird, remove any giblets etc., from the body cavity, and (if necessary) trim the neck bones back to the main body of the bird. Dry the bird inside and out, and prepare your pan.
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
- Use a large roasting pan and a rack, and place the bird either breast up or back up, depending on your preference. At this point you can decide how you will season the bird. I often use fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, parsley, etc.), salt and pepper, garlic, and a quartered lemon in the cavity. You could also use onions and almost any other spices you might desire. After stuffing the interior cavity, I tuck the legs under the fat flap or tie them up, and then dress the outside of the bird with olive oil or butter and salt and pepper. You can also dust with other ground spices – from a South Asian mix to humble paprika…
- I then put the bird in the preheated oven and forget about it for 2 hours. I don’t baste (you can, of course, if you want) but sometimes I turn the bird over. The bird is finished when the leg bones are flexible and the thigh juices run clear after puncture with a sharp knife. This usually takes two hours.
- If you want a crispier skin you can turn the heat up to 400 degrees for the last 20 minutes of the cooking time.
- This recipe is a no-brainer, and one of my favorite easy Sunday suppers. You can place potatoes and root vegetables in the roasting pan with the bird and then all you need to do is add a fresh salad and you have dinner!