When two top chefs get together for a chat, you’re bound to learn a few things. As part of our virtual event series last week, newly-minted cookbook author and YouTube star, Molly Baz, invited French culinary legend Jacques Pépin to talk shop and the discussion naturally turned to chicken—roast chicken, of course!
With more than 70 years of experience in the kitchen (plus more than 30 cookbooks and multiple awards and television shows) under his belt, Jacques has refined such fundamental recipes to an art form. To say Jacques is a pro at basics such as roasting chicken is putting it lightly. So, when Jacques shared his roast chicken technique, we were taking notes. Jacques had two chicken-roasting tips that captured our attention because they are Fantastic. (You can find his recipe on Andrew Zimmern’s site, here.) We think they deserve a broader audience, at least until Jacques’s forthcoming chicken-centric book arrives! Without further ado, here they are:
Jacques had a handmade wooden pegboard showcasing his copper pots and pans hanging behind him during the chat. With so much cookware from which to choose, Jacques likes to cook his roast chickens, as Molly does, in one of his most fundamental pieces—a skillet. How does he avoid the persnickety problem of the breasts overcooking until the legs are done? He starts it on its side, stovetop. As Molly said, awed, “That’s genius. That’s why you’re Jacques Pépin.”
He puts a little bit of butter in an ovenproof skillet over high heat, cooks the chicken on each side for two and a half minutes, and then pops it in a 425 degree oven. (Bonus: He uses the chicken fat and juices from the pan in his salad dressing.) Jacques thinks it’s a dream meal alongside potatoes and salad. In fact, he taught a class decades ago that was just roast chicken, salad and potatoes. Its name? “The Perfect Meal.”
2. Make a 1-Inch Cut in the Armpit of a Big Bird
Got a big bird, like a large chicken or a turkey, and you’re worried about that breast meat overcooking? Jacques just makes a slit about an inch deep inside the shoulder joint of the turkey “so heat goes there faster.” He points out that this spot is often raw or red when you cut into the cooked bird. (He’s right.) That generally helps everything be the right temperature at once, plus you can avoid using an aluminum foil hack to finish cooking the thighs. (It tends to leave you with wilted skin.)
Whoa! So smart. “Thanks for paving the way for people like me to exist in the world,” said Molly, admiring how much he was committed to being a teacher. Us, too, Chef. Us, too.