How to Get Restaurant-Level Crispy Skin on Your Roast Chicken

At Coquine in Portland, chef Katy Millard serves the model bird, thanks to two simple tips.

Best-Ever Roast Chicken
Spend your snow day making the best roast chicken of your life. This perfectly crisp and juicy chicken is one of the fundamental recipes you can master. Photo: © John Kernick

Roast chicken is one of those dishes that every home cook should have in his or her repertoire. Some recipes are as simple as tossing the bird with herbs and throwing it into the oven, while others call for easy-to-learn techniques like trussing (which you can do with household items like dental floss). No matter the flavors or ingredients, the best roast chickens are juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside.

At her restaurant Coquine in Portland, Oregon, chef Katy Millard achieves that exact balance. Millard's roast chicken is perfectly golden with crackly skin, and she says there are two good reasons for that:She lets the meat cure and the skin dry out.

First, the chicken needs to be seasoned correctly, meaning the seasoning must soak into the meat as well as coat the exterior. Millard accomplishes this with a dry rub, instead of a brine, and she cures her birds overnight, if not for 48 hours. Second, Millard leaves the chicken open, not wrapped or covered. This way, the skin starts to dry out, which ends up yielding that crave-worthy crunch.

Millard wasn't always an expert at roasting the perfect chicken, however. "I think it's something that you have to do over and over and over again," she admits. "But it's also the test of a really good cook."

At her restaurant, Millard changes up the roast chicken based on what's in season. A recent rendition paired the bird with truffled celery root, black trumpet mushrooms, roasted cauliflower, and hazelnuts. Speaking of which, Millard incorporates nuts in her cooking often — whether it be a walnut vinaigrette on a beet sandwich or the smoked almonds in her chocolate chip cookies.

In fact, Millard's go-to ingredient for maximizing flavor is nut oil: She tosses, say, pistachios in pistachio oil to make them taste more pistachio-y, which adds to the overall taste of the dish. As she puts it, "A technique that I really like is adding a nut oil back onto a nut." If you want to try this at home, make sure to refrigerate the nut oils after opening. They'll keep for a while in the cold but will go bad quickly if left out on the counter.

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