Fowl Most Foul
December 31, 2005 4:51 PM   Subscribe

Fowl-Most-FoulFilter: I just roasted a chicken, and it came out ghastly. What the &?*#@ did I do wrong?

I make roast chicken fairly often, maybe every other week, and it usually turns out fine. I didn't really do anything different this time; I brined it in a large bowl for about 4 hours, rinsed it off & let it air dry in the fridge for about 8 hours, then roasted it at 350 degrees for an hour & twenty minutes (for a 4 lb bird.) When it was done, I let it sit uncovered for 20 minutes, and at that point it looked pretty good - The skin was slightly crispy and browned, it smelled good, we couldn't wait to dig in. But that first bite of white meat.... Ugh. Instead of being moist, it was soggy as if I'd been stewing it all afternoon, and it tasted like it been stewed, too. Just way beyond yuck. The only thing I can think of is that I oiled the skin a little before I seasoned it, but just lightly. Its been an hour and the husband & I haven't been afflicted with vomiting or cramps, so I don't think it was a bad bird. But why did it go so wrong?? I loves me some chicken, but this was bad enough to make me doubt my cooking-fu (and I'm not exactly a chef to start with.)
posted by maryh to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe the brine solution was too strong? Sometimes if it's too salty you'll get too much water absorbed by the chicken. That's all I can think of... although you might want to check your fridge temp, the drying for 8 hrs might be a culprit there.
posted by Rubber Soul at 5:02 PM on December 31, 2005

Other than your oven going bad (you have an over thermometer, right?) or just being a fluke bad quality bird, can't think of much if you have success with this every other week. Try again!
posted by kcm at 5:23 PM on December 31, 2005

Now, see, before I'd read the [more inside], I was going to suggest brining/fridge drying/high temp roasting as foolproof steps to TastyBird Nirvana...but looks like you've got that part covered.

It might not have been a bad (meaning spoiled) bird, perhaps just a bad (meaning substandard) bird. I expect if we ate human flesh they're be many degrees of acceptability depending on how the people were bred and fed.

Yummm....vegans. Taste like chicken.
posted by DawnSimulator at 5:30 PM on December 31, 2005

I'd consider the possibility it was a bad bird as well. It's probably more common than we would enjoy thinking about.

I'm not a vegetarian or vegan or anything, but poultry farms are almost entirely gross. Unless you bred and raised the bird yourself or got it from an open to visit, free range farm, there's all kinds of things that could go terribly wrong. It could have been sick or ill, suffering from an infection or who knows what.

And I've had "bad" chicken before. It varies from tough and stringy to bad tasting and even mushy as you described.
posted by loquacious at 5:49 PM on December 31, 2005

Was the chicken frozen originally? Could it have been defrosted and refrozen, maybe even before you bought it? That texture you describe sounds just like what you get from refrozen meat, or from meat that was frozen too slowly. Losing all the juice from the cells burst by ice crystals probably affects the flavour badly too.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 6:02 PM on December 31, 2005

I roasted a chicken on St Stephens Day/ Boxing Day / December 26th. I have no idea what you are talking about with the brining thing. What is that?
I defrosted it, my pal put it in the oven, we ate it. Can you explain the bit about brining again (I'm in the UK - maybe we have different ewr, traditions with birds?)
posted by dash_slot- at 6:33 PM on December 31, 2005

Response by poster: There's a faq on brining (for turkeys, but I've used it on chicken) here (scroll down.) I think it basically leeches out excess water from the fat under the birds skin, which gives a tighter seal over the meat while the chicken is roasting. Usually, that leaves the meat juicier, and firmer, but not in this particular case. I think i_am_joe's_spleen might be onto something. It sure tasted like something that had been frozen more than once. But I bought it because it was 'natural' and free range and assumedly had lived a happy chickeny life. I'll have to check the packaging next time I'm at the grocer to see if it mentions anything about the processing.
posted by maryh at 7:19 PM on December 31, 2005

I wonder if brining is really so necessary to produce a good roast chicken. It seems such a rigmarole when as far as I can tell, rubbing the bird with a generous amount of salt will do much the same thing. I've never had any problems following the Joy of Cooking recipe for roast chicken, which in sum is: clean the bird, rub it with a lot of salt, brush it with melted butter, stick it in the oven.
posted by hgws at 9:02 PM on December 31, 2005

This doesn't really answer your question, but I can't miss this opportunity to tell you that you're roasting at a horribly low temperature. Roast at 450 F in a pre-heated vessel (e.g. a cast iron pot) for ~45 minutes, then rest ~15 minutes. I guarantee better results in general.
posted by rxrfrx at 10:16 PM on December 31, 2005

"'re roasting at a horribly low temperature."

I get excellent results with a stand-up chicken cooker. They recommend 15 minutes per pound, although I usually give it a little more.

First rub it down inside and out with plenty of salt, pepper and whatever other flavors you care to try - under the skin on the breasts, too.

I think the benefit of the stand-up technique is that as it cooks, the fat of the chicken drips down into the tray below the bird and the chicken isn't soaking in its own fat, so the skin gets real nice and crisp and the bird is ultimately less greasy than if it cooks in a pot of it's own juices, although that can be very good tasting, too.
posted by wsg at 2:29 AM on January 1, 2006

Damn the extraneous apostrophe!
posted by wsg at 2:31 AM on January 1, 2006

Beer can chicken. You'll never eat chicken any other way again.
posted by katyggls at 8:04 AM on January 1, 2006

I think it basically leeches out excess water from the fat under the birds skin, which gives a tighter seal over the meat while the chicken is roasting.

Brining does increase the juiciness and flavor of poultry and pork, but not for reasons cited above. From Cooks Illustrated's explanation of how brining works (one of the better, not to mention ad-free, cooking magazines around):

"How does brining work? Brining promotes a change in the structure of the proteins in the muscle. The salt causes protein strands to become denatured, or unwound. This is the same process that occurs when proteins are exposed to heat, acid, or alcohol. When protein strands unwind, they get tangled up with one another, forming a matrix that traps water. Salt is commonly used to give processed meats a better texture. For example, hot dogs made without salt would be limp."
posted by chefscotticus at 9:04 AM on January 1, 2006

Your oven may have malfunctioned. A digital oven thermometer will confirm if the oven is keeping correct temp.
posted by StarForce5 at 9:44 AM on January 1, 2006

I always brine my birds too. You may have oversalted the brine. But I agree that it sounds like a bird that got itself frozen and thawed along the way. Also, freerange/organic birds are not as consistant as the factory-farmed ones (a VERY small price to pay, but it does suck when you get the occasionally not-so-great bird.)
posted by desuetude at 6:50 PM on January 1, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I think it was probably not a great chicken and/or a badly processed one. I love the upright roaster, wsg. I must have one! Thanks for the link. (The beer can chicken looks weirdly delicious, too. I'll have to try that on the grill when the rain lets up.)
posted by maryh at 7:31 PM on January 1, 2006

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