Roast chicken in the oven, baking with vegetables
I could have written a very detailed piece with lots of biochemistry (my area of training), but I decided to keep it simple. Sometimes the simplest things in life are the best. That's true of food, as well.
It's also true of the equipment used to cook that food.
I've been wanting to do a series on "Outfitting the Kitchen", and I figured baked chicken is as good a place to start as any.
Today we're going to talk about how to prepare a hearty meal, and the tools you'll need to cook it. This is so easy, you should be able to cook this to perfection even if you're one of those people who could "burn water". If you can set an oven and use a timer, then you can cook this great meal for your family.
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In This Article
Food Preparation & Cooking
It Really Is That Simple
First, you'll need an oven, and you'll probably have to take out all the racks but one. Make sure your oven temperature is accurate. Easy enough to do: just preheat the oven one day, and see if the temperature is the same on your oven thermometer.
Next (obviously), you'll need the food that you want to cook. For a holiday dinner this year, I decided to make roast chicken for my family. There were some serious appetites in attendance. If that should describe your situation some year, a couple-three roast chickens can fill up quite a few hungry people... with seconds.
Make sure to get five pounds of potatoes and a bag of carrots (I like organic). And don't forget the onions. Aside from the roaster chickens, that's really all you'll need for the main course.
(It's much easier than dealing with a stuffed roast turkey that takes half a day to cook.)
Finally, make sure to get a roaster pan. I've been through several different types of roaster pans over the years. For roast chicken, turkeys, and just about everything else, my favorite is this one. For the price, it's really tough to beat.
The non-stick V-rack is not really necessary for roast chickens, but I guess I could see it being handy for a large roast or something. Then again, I've cooked large turkeys in these open roast pans, and no V-rack was necessary. (I don't like non-stick surfaces.)
The Granite Ware itself is as "non stick" as I think I'd ever need; it gets this property from the smooth porcelain coating.
Raw meat and raw chicken contain bacteria. With chicken, there's probably salmonella. Any time you touch the raw chicken, you should wash your hands before touching anything else that will not be cooked.
The easiest thing to do is have someone else help you, whenever you need something handed to you. Have them wash the utensils (and their hands) as they go. After you're done working with the raw food, wash your hands too.
Avoid plastic cutting boards. Wooden ones are easier to disinfect; I know that's counter-intuitive.
With this recipe, the only thing you'll really need to cut is the vegetables anyway. But remember: the juice from the raw chicken gets everywhere, quite easily. So don't set any food there unless it, too, is going to be cooked.
Food Preparation & Cooking
The Granite Ware pan that I mentioned will fit two good-sized roaster chickens (about 5 pounds each), as I found before putting the whole thing in the oven. You would think I'd have checked that ahead of time, but nah... I was too busy making navy bean soup, which I'll talk about in another article.
So anyway, there should be enough space around and between the two chickens that you can fit a couple pounds of potatoes and carrot chunks, with some onion thrown in for flavor.
It's better not to stuff the roaster chickens. They'll cook faster with no stuffing. If you want, though, put a few chunks of onion inside them.
Cover the bottom of the roaster pan with about an inch of water. Some additional water will cook out of the chickens , but be sure to add water to the pan anyway. Don't bake the food in a completely dry roaster pan; it will be harder to clean.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake the pair of roaster chickens for two and a half hours. You can baste them once or twice, about halfway through the cooking. It's not strictly necessary, but it does help.
It's not necessary to cover the chickens, either. In fact, you're better off not doing that. The chicken skin will brown nicely.
Covered roaster pans are better for very large, stuffed birds, where the inside takes so long to cook that the outside would get dried out. The thing is, though, if you don't stuff the bird, it will cook faster, and you won't have to worry about it. I've cooked big turkeys in an open roaster pan, no problem. Just cook the stuffing outside the bird.
It Really Is That Simple
There's no need to complicate things with pan lids, aluminum foil, or anything else. Even with an open roaster pan, there's enough humidity inside the oven to keep the chickens from drying out. And the potatoes, carrots, and onions will cook to perfection. The juices will cook out of the chickens, creating a broth in the bottom of the roaster pan. If you really want to, you could thicken some of this and make a proper gravy, but I rarely bother. The fam likes this dish just the way it is.
Your guests will be pleasantly surprised at how moist the food is, considering that if you took my advice, you'll have cooked the meal in the laziest, most primitive way that can be done with a home oven.
For those two and a half hours you can laze around and listen to some headphone music or something. It's a win!
Just don't forget to watch the timer, though, because at some point you'll actually want to take the chickens out of the oven. Okay, you probably shouldn't zone out to headphone music while making the holiday meal. It was just an example of how easy this meal is. (And when I'm cooking the meal, I'm usually cleaning up dishes as I go along, or doing some other chore. So if music were going to be on, maybe it would be better to have one of these instead of headphones.)
I love Granite Ware. It's low-cost, it cleans up fairly easily, and if you take care of it, it will last for many years. Their handled saucepans are somewhat failure prone (the handles come off way too easily), but the roaster pans are awesome.
ConclusionEvery kitchen needs a good roaster pan. The Granite Ware pan works well, it's spacious, it's fairly easy to clean... and it doesn't cost that much. Every kitchen should have one or two of these. Of course, Granite Ware also makes plenty of other cool stuff too. If you're trying to outfit a kitchen on a budget, a whole set of this stuff would go a long way for little money.
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