Chicken. It’s basic, it’s universal, it’s a blank canvas for flavor possibility.
Unfortunately the positives often end there because chicken is also prone to being dry…like, starved cactus dry. Sure, you can throw shredded chicken into a pot pie or some enchilada soup, and then the other ingredients pull their weight and contribute moisture and no one’s the wiser. But a chicken solo? It’s risky.
Now you are probably wondering what’s so special about this particular rub/marinade, because there are about as many rubs out there as there are cluckers. Simply put, none of them ever quite suited me, so I perfected one of my own. If you have a smidge of cooking intuition and you follow these instructions, you’ll have juicy, flavor-packed chicken that can stand on its own!
It’s vibrantly lemony (not just from the lemons, but also the coriander! Did you know coriander had a citrus vibe?!), with a steady supporting role from the garlic, and pretty color and punch from some paprika. Then there’s the clarified butter (ghee)…this is like thick decadent body butter for your bird. All that fatty, rich, concentrated flavor is going to give you a leg up on a juicy bird. No more dehydrated poultry here.
Oh, one more thing. You know what makes chicken taste unbelievable? What makes it taste like…I don’t know… redeemed chicken, a bird that has been rescued from the depravity of a boring flavorless existence.
SALT! Lot’s and lots of salt. Trust me.
S(elect) Your Chicken
See what I did there?
If you can manage, I do recommend buying organic chicken. I don’t buy organic food very often, but organic poultry has superior flavor and texture.
This rub works beautifully on a whole chicken, and the presentation is top notch, so if you are up for it, do it.
If you just don’t have the energy to deal with portioning out a whole bird, or if like me, you are lazy about pulling all the meat off the bones at the end of the meal, then opt for bone-in, skin-on breasts. The bone and skin ensure that the meat will stay very moist. The skin gets crispy, crackly and may cause fighting at the dinner table if there is a shortage.
You can absolutely do this on dark meat but it’s not my particular preference, and I don’t think it showcases these flavors as well.
Chicken Cooking Method
Oven-roasting is easiest, and 100% delicious. Recently I tried grilling too. It was very tasty but required much more hands on attention.
My tips for the grill:
High heat (400-450 degrees F). Skin side down first. Cook until the meat is opaque/white almost all the way from bottom to top, then flip and cook until it feels done (see more on this below).
My tips for the oven:
Line a baking sheet with foil, and then a layer of parchment paper. Set oven to 450 degrees F. Place chicken on the tray skin side up (breast side up if using a whole bird). If you have potatoes to roast, put those on the tray first, under the chicken, so the potatoes collect all the flavorful drippings. Cooking should take about 40 minutes, maybe 50 minutes, depending on the size.
Learning when chicken is done:
Learn to tell by touch when meat is cooked. The squish-factor of raw or undercooked chicken feels like an overripe banana. The squish-factor of properly cooked chicken feels like a just ripened peach: a mostly firm surface with a subtle give. If your chicken is completely firm, it is overcooked. Remember that meat continues to cook while resting, and will increase about 5 degrees in temperature. The truth is, learning the touch method requires trial and error, but eventually you will nail it every time. Give yourself grace for the mistakes and keep trying!
Go-To Chicken Rub and Marinade
- Zest of 2 lemons
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary (or 1 Tbsp fresh chopped rosemary)
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 Tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
- 1 whole organic chicken or 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
Combine all the ingredients in a small jar and mix thoroughly.
Rub under skin first, then all around the entire bird or breast. (If you are using a whole chicken, stuff the cavity with remaining lemons cut into halves.)
Chicken can be roasted or grilled right away, or can marinate for up to 24 hours.
For even cooking, allow meat to come close to room temperature before cooking. Removing it from the refrigerator to the counter top for 20 minutes should be sufficient.
*Important* Just prior to cooking, dust the top and bottom of whole bird or breast pieces with another sprinkling of kosher salt.