Pastured birds are leaner and more muscled than commercially-raised chickens. Pastured birds are more flavorful to be sure, but their active, outdoor lifestyle also means they have more muscle fiber, more cartilage and less fat. To retain flavor, moisture and tenderness, your cooking techniques will be much different than when cooking a standard store-bought chicken.
A few tips for roasting the perfect pastured chicken.
- Roast the chicken breast side down: The breast is where the white meat is, and the white meat tends to be the driest. Roast the bird breast side down and the juices from the darker meat will help keep the breast moist.
- Roast at a lower temperature, for longer: We roast our pastured birds at 325 degrees, for about 3 hours. The skin still gets crispy and browned, but the bird stays moist. .(That is for a 3-4lb bird. Oven temps vary from stove to stove, and chicken size varies. Use a cooking thermometer put into the meatiest part of the thigh. Be careful that the thermometer is not touching bone so the temp registers meat temp not bone temp. Poultry should be cooked to an internal temp of 165.)
- Seal in moisture and add humidity. Oil the bird with olive oil to help seal in the juices. And either add some stock or water to the bottom of the pan or roast the bird on a bed of root vegetables: This is not only functional, but delicious. The chicken gets moisture from the vegetables as they roast, as the water in the vegetables creates a bit of humidity under the bird.
- Let the bird rest. Your chicken should sit for at least 20 minutes after roasting so the juices settle. This is a common rule for all roasts, but critical for a pastured bird. Let the roasted chicken rest before slicing into it, so when you do carve it, the meat will be moist and flavorful.
A simple farmhouse recipe:
Rinse the bird and dry. Stuff the chicken cavity with 2-3 lemon quarters, 2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary, sage and thyme, and 2-3 garlic cloves. Rub the outside of the bird with olive oil and dust with salt and white pepper.
Place the bird breast side down in a shallow roasting pan (shallow sides allow more air circulation around the chicken). Add about ¼ to ½ inch of water to the pan.
Alternatively, place the bird on a bed of root vegetables. Cut chunks of potatoes, carrots, parsnips, garlic and onions and coat with a little olive oil and salt. Make a bed of vegetables in the roasting pan and place the oiled bird, breast side down, atop the veg.
Roast uncovered until the internal temp is 165 degrees.
Finally, simmer your carcass for soup stock and get the most from that bird!
With help from http://ournourishingroots.com/real-food-101-herb-roasted-chicken/