In Search of the Perfect Chicken

The perfect chicken is nearly impossible to find – the perfectly crispy skin with the moist meat. How do you make that? Where to start? The first place is to start with great product.  To roast a home chicken the best are the smaller 3 pound varieties. You can get these from butcher shops, in Phoenix we have AJ’s grocery. But once you have the whole chicken how best to cook it.

Breaking the chicken down into parts facilitates great cooking, because with such a method you can combine a bit of Sous Vide with some flash frying and have that perfect chicken. Or use it for anyone of a number of great recipes.

It is keeping that chicken together- cooking it whole, making the chicken in such a way that the aroma from the chicken will permeate the house. The ultimate comfort food- and yet, too often when people cook it the chicken skin is soggy, the chicken meat is dry – and we look to sauces to overcome it.

When Jonathan Waxman was voted off Top Chef Masters – he had made chicken. The judges thought that the chicken was too simple, but it was done perfectly. Did those judges ever try to make chicken?

Some of my favorite restaurants for chicken include Zuni in San Francisco- the perfectly cooked whole chicken. That recipe was adapted in our recipe section – the key for that is salting the chicken a day or two ahead of time and allowing it to dry in the refrigerator. Ad Hoc and Bouchon – of Thomas Keller – who prefers to brine the chicken before roasting it (salting does the same chemical process without the messy brine). Tarbell’s has perfected the pan roasted chicken. Michael Mina’s Sous Vide Chicken provides an amazing flavor profile, that is difficult to  find in many restaurants.

Thomas Keller Knows great chicken- see our review at

Jeffrey Steingarten, the food editor for Vogue magazine, noted how the roto-broil 400 made the perfect home rotisserie chicken. It became my mission to find one- which I did, and he is right- this is the perfect rotisserie unit for people. The problem is they don’t make that unit any longer. I managed to find one on e-bay and had it refurbished – if you can find one – get it.  But to check the common ones available, I purchased the Ronco platinum unit (you may have seen Ron Propel’s set-it-and-forget-it infomercials). This produces a moist chicken, but the heat generated does not give the perfect crispy skin – still not a bad unit for the home cook.

We go back and forth in our house- making the chicken on the rotisserie – which is simple, to the oven roasted whole chicken. Both have great qualities, and both leave the house with an aroma of the perfect comfort food. Try our recipes – and see – making a perfect chicken, and doing it well is a great skill. Perfect it over this month, and you will have many years of great dining – and chances are you will find very few restaurants that make chicken as well as you do.

Dr. Terry Simpson About Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and went to medical school. Dr. Simpson, a weight loss surgeon is an advocate of culinary medicine. The first surgeon to become certified in Culinary Medicine, he believes teaching people to improve their health through their food and in their kitchen. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcolm Baldrige award for healthcare in 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska and in 2013 Dr Simpson won the National Indian Health Board Area Impact Award. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit

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