One of my favorite parts of roast chicken is the crispy skin. In fact, making the perfect roast chicken with crispy skin and juicy meat turned into a bit of an obsession for me, and I literally spent years perfecting my method. It involves wet brining the chicken before air-drying it for a day.
Spending two days to make a roast chicken is understandable if you’re feeding a family, but it’s an awful lot of effort to go through if it’s for just for yourself. That’s why I wanted to see if I could make a single serving sized portion of roast chicken with crispy skin.
Because a wet brine(salt solution) inevitably waterlogs the skin, I decided to use a dry brine (just salt). This not only seasons the chicken faster, it also draws excess water out of the skin through osmosis. To keep the chicken from getting too salty (or dried out), it’s important to only apply the salt to the skin. To infuse a bit of flavor into the chicken I put a layer of herbs and garlic on top of the salt before wrapping it all up for 30 minutes to do its thing.
After removing the excess salt and wiping away the liquid released by the skin, the chicken is rubbed with butter before being pan-fried with a weight on top to increase the contact patch between the skin-side of the chicken and the hot pan. This also speeds up the cooking. Finally the chicken is flipped before going into the oven for a few minutes to finish off.
Aside from crispy skin, I think my second favorite part of roasting a chicken is roasting vegetables under it so that they absorb the flavors of the chicken, ultimately caramelizing in the chicken fat. Just because you’re making a single portion doesn’t mean you have to forgo this treasure. Just par cook the veggies in the microwave. For onions and baby carrots, it takes about 2 minutes, but you should also be able to do potatoes like this, just given them a bit of a head start before adding in the onions and carrots. Cooked in the same pan as the chicken they’re still able to absorb the chickeny goodness while turning a golden brown.
The result of 15 minutes of effort (and 30 minutes of waiting), is a flavorful crisp-skinned roast chicken dinner for one, complete with caramelized veggies! I’d be lying if I told you it’s as juicy as a wet brined whole roast chicken, but because the chicken is boneless, it not only cooks faster it also cooks more predictably, making it harder to overcook.
Pan Roast Chicken for One
- 1 chicken breast (skin on), or 2 chicken thighs (skin on)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 sprigs rosemary (roughly chopped)
- 1 large clove garlic sliced thin
- 1/2 small onion sliced
- 6 baby carrots
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter (room temperature)
- Black pepper
- Cut a piece of plastic wrap large enough to wrap the chicken, and then place the chicken on top.
- Sprinkle the salt on the skin side of the chicken. Sprinkle on the rosemary and arrange the garlic slices on top. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and let this rest for 30 minutes.
- While you're waiting for the chicken to brine, put the onions and carrots in a microwave-safe bowl, cover and microwave at 800 watts for 2 minutes.
- When the chicken is done brining, brush some of the garlic and rosemary into the bowl with the onions and carrots, and toss the vegetables with the olive oil to coat evenly.
- Discard the remaining garlic, rosemary and salt and then use paper towels to dry the chicken very well.
- Rub the butter onto both sides of the chicken and then grind some black pepper onto both sides.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Place the chicken skin-side down in a non-stick pan with an oven-safe handle and then scatter the onions and carrots around the pan. Place another heavier pan such as a cast iron skillet on top. Turn the heat onto medium and fry the chicken until golden brown on one side (about 4-5 minutes).
- Remove the weight, flip the chicken and then stir the vegetables a bit.
- Transfer the pan to the oven and roast until the thickest part of the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 155 F for breast meat (6-8 minutes) or 160 F for thighs (3-5 minutes).
- When the chicken is done, transfer it to a cutting board and let it rest for a few minutes before slicing and serving.
Yield: 1 serving
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.