Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Hump-Day Quickie: The easiest way I know to prevent a dry baked chicken

This one comes from one of my online friends:


Baked Upside Down Chicken

Season, stuff, and otherwise prepare the chicken as you normally would. Then, place it backside-up and breastside-down in the pan. Bake as you were already going to. After the chicken is cooked, be sure to let it rest 10-15 minutes before carving and serving.

I think we've all been baking our chickens wrongside-up all this time! 

We wanted to bake a chicken but did not have the mushrooms to give it the Fanny Cradock treatment. I don't know about grocery stores outside of my current region of occupation, but around here the big cuts of meat have been far cheaper than the pre-sliced ones that get sold in shrink-wrapped trays. (I will also note that briskets, rib-racks, and any other cut of meat commonly used for showoff grilling is as expensive as ever.) 

The other week, beef chuck roasts were cheaper than hamburger. The store practically had to give away the uncut extra-long pork tenderloins that can barely fit in the average home freezer. I remember pot roast night being, if not an extravagance, at least a bit of a splurge. But these days, the "fancy" and impressively big cuts of meat are the cheap ones you serve every day. I can't believe it's cheaper to serve slow-roasted chuck than meatloaf.

With everything getting more expensive, it's hardly a wild guess that a lot of people are trying to cook for themselves what they used to either purchase ready-made or eat at restaurants. And also, we all need something to do! Some people have long wanted to learn more ambitious cooking, others said "Why not?" after getting enough downtime that for once they were rested enough to do things. 

I think the peculiarities in meat pricing make sense after a few moments' thought. For every person who went from making baking-powder biscuits in the Before Times to creating artisan sourdough in the Facemask Era, there are a lot of people taking their first steps beyond browning the beef for their Hamburger Helper. Prepackaged boneless skinless chicken breasts and pre-sliced pork chops seem a lot less daunting to new cooks than a whole chicken or a meat slab the size of a toaster. The big roasts seem like more ambitious kitchen projects, the little ones seem like they just need to be seasoned and put in a pan. So, I think that demand (and therefore the prices) for the big roasts just hasn't gone up as much as it has for the easy-looking pork chops. Of course, I should also note that it takes more time and effort to cut those boneless skinless chicken breasts and neatly sliced pork chops than to get a whole chicken or tenderloin packaged and out the factory door.

With that in mind, whole chickens were astonishingly cheap the last time we went to the grocery store. So, I decided to try what my friend did by accident. All I did was get the chicken nicely seasoned (I rubbed the seasoning under the skin instead of on top of it so that it would go right into the meat), put some salted and peppered potatoes around it, and let our single-pan dinner bake unattended in the oven. One cannot deny that a prostrate baked chicken looks odd no matter how perfect and crispy the skin is. 

In full disclosure, I should admit that when we flipped the chicken over, it looked like this.

No one will know after you've carved it.

But you could see the juices bubbling under the skin when we took it out. After flipping it back over so it could rest in the same position as it baked (Delia Smith lets her meat rest and therefore so do I), the meat was so moist it was practically wet. Chicken juices actually exuded out of the meat as we cut it. As Fanny Cradock might have said, the chicken was marvelously lubricated

So if you want to forestall dry, underflavored chicken breasts but don't have any mushrooms to shove under the skin, just flip that bird over and bake the chicken prone!


  1. Yo! Love your blog, you are so funny!! I've been doing this for years & it's a great way to get that breast meat "lubricated". Another way of doing a roast chicken is in the "upright" position, aka beer can. I have a little roaster that you fit the chicken over upside down & roast "standing up" (which is actually top down). This allows the whole chicken to remain moist and you still get your crispy skin. My favorite part of the chicken is always the wings, neck & back (your roasted chicken back looks fabulous!) so when I get a rotisserie chicken, I gobble those parts & cut up the rest combined to make in other meals. Here's an example:

    1. Thank you! I've seen those vertical roasters before, but never gotten one. And I know a lot of people who help themselves to the back pieces without carving without telling anyone. I may or may not be guilty of doing the same..

  2. It's funny that people think that cooking a chicken in the position it walks around in as upside down. I have some friends that used to have chickens (that I took care of when my friends were out of town) and they never laid around breast side up :)
    As for meat prices, they are outrageous here as well. I did get a brisket on sale before the Memorial Day weekend. A slab of pork belly is cheaper (per pound) than bacon. There are some restaurants that buy all of the chicken at Aldi's because it is apparently the cheapest place to get it, so you have to go early if you want chicken. I got a really good deal on some wagyu ground beef a couple of months ago because I realized that I was there the day it was marked to expire. I went to the meat counter and started negotiating. Ended up with a 30% discount. It cost more than the cheapest ground beef, but less than all the other cuts of beef in the case. It was also really good. I need to start checking the expiration dates of the specialty meats and remembering to go back on the day they expire.

    1. It is a bit odd when you think about it. Now I'm wondering how backside-down became the universal choice for any baked bird.
      I can hardly believe that retail meat is the cheapest for restaurants. It seems insane, but these are strange times. We've basically excised beef from our groceries. And at the rate things are going, it might end up cheaper to set up a chickenhouse before the year's out.

    2. I used to chicken sit for friends when they went out of town. They set things up so I didn't have to do much (as in they cleaned the coop before they left). I mainly fed and watered them, along with collecting eggs. Find a lot of good egg recipes if you get chickens. Also make sure that they are well secured at night. Why don't I chicken sit anymore? My friend converted the coop to a she shed (there was a new floor involved in this conversion).