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The BEST Buttermilk Chicken

Truly the ONLY roast chicken recipe you'll ever need.

Every time I go into self-isolation I crave roast chicken. OK, that was a lie. This is the first time I’ve been in self-isolation. But the roast chicken part is true. In tough times an excellently roasted chicken is a classic comfort food. Believe it or not, the very best roast chicken is not — gasp — a rotisserie chicken from Costco. It’s from a recipe by Samin Nosrat, chef and author of the James Beard award-winning New York Times best selling cookbook Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. If you aren’t familiar with Samin, I encourage you to look up the four-part Netflix documentary: “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat.” You know you have the time, and you can thank me later.

Samin falls back on an old Southern tradition of marinating chicken in a combination of buttermilk and kosher salt. The buttermilk tenderizes the meat and the salt flavors it. The natural sugars in the buttermilk help to brown the bird as it roasts. Don’t worry about the amount of salt in the marinade: it doesn’t all end up in the chicken.

Once you try this recipe I think you’ll agree with me: this is the best roast chicken you’ve ever tasted. Costco chickens will pale in comparison. Here, in Samin’s own delightfully succinct words, is the recipe:

3 1/2 to 4-pound chicken Two Tbsp. kosher salt Two cups buttermilk

The day before you want to cook the chicken, stir 2 Tablespoons of kosher salt into the buttermilk in a gallon-size zip-lock bag. Place the chicken in the bag and seal it. Squish the buttermilk all around the chicken, place on a rimmed plate and refrigerate it overnight. If you’re so inclined, over the next 24 hours you can turn the bag so every part of the chicken gets marinated, but that’s not essential.

Pull the chicken from the fridge an hour before you plan to cook it. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, with the rack in the center position.

Remove the chicken from the bag and scrape off as much buttermilk as you can without being obsessive. Tie the legs of the chicken together with a piece of butcher’s twine. Place the chicken in a 10-inch cast iron skillet or shallow roasting pan.

Slide the pan all the way to the back of the oven and rotate it so that the legs are pointing toward the rear left corner and the breast is pointing toward the center of the oven (the back corners tend to be the hottest spots in the oven, so this protects the breast from overcooking before the legs are done).

After about 20 minutes reduce the heat to 400 degrees F and continue roasting for 10 minutes and then move the pan so the legs are facing the back right corner of the oven.

Continue cooking for another 25-30 minutes, or until the chicken is brown all over and the juices run clear when you insert a knife down to the bone between the leg and the thigh. Remove the chicken to a platter and let it rest for 10 minutes before carving and serving.

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