Sunday, 16 January 2011

Roasting a chicken and the joy of temperature monitoring

Crikey, even for me that's a boring sounding title!  Well as I said yesterday, I'm always on the lookout for dishes which can be put in the oven with little attention for over an hour so they can go in before my son's bath and be ready when I've finished feeding him leaving me to feel like a super organised Mummy with still a hint of the domestic goddess about her rather than a Slummy Mummy who rarely gets the chance to have a bath herself (the latter is unfortunately closer to the truth.)

Anyway, I'm not going to wax on about how to cook a chicken, if you buy a chicken from a supermarket (sorry but how many Mums of babies have the time to go to the butchers?  I certainly don't), there are cooking instructions on there, although I often find it takes 5-10 minutes less time.  I will explain how I can confidently assert this in a bit.

I do use a bit of food technology when cooking chicken or turkey.  I roast mine on a rack over a tray of water.  This has two benefits; first a bit of steam gets into the oven which helps keep the meat moist without ruining the crispy skin.  I find if I roast a chicken in a tray or dish directly touching the meat, the skin around the base is floppy and unappetising anyway.  Another benefit is my fan oven can get heat all around the bird which I'm sure helps reduce the cooking time a little.  The third positive is the juices (which you will want for your gravy) don't then burn in the tray making them unusable or if you did use them your gravy would be bitter.

My last bit of food technology I use in the kitchen is temperature monitoring.  I would not be without my temperature probe for cooking large poultry joints.  I find that without it I am far too worried about food poisoning and end up overcooking the chicken.  What's important though is what temperature to aim for.  Now several cookery books will give several different answers for this; they're not wrong.  In fact there are several temperatures which are equivalent as long as the time is also accounted for.  What on earth do I mean?  Well hold a chicken at 72 degrees for 1 minute 5 seconds and yes, that chicken will be cooked, likewise, hold that chicken at 85 degrees for 1 second and it will also be cooked.  The higher the temperature attained, the shorter the time you need to hold it at that temperature for.  This is how top chefs get away with cooking food sous vide (aka boil in a bag!) at fairly low temperatures without it being unsafe.

In practice this means when probing your chicken (no puns please) you need to hold the probe in the thickest part of the meat and make sure the temperature you're reading is held for the time I've indicated below.  If it only just creeps to 72 then stays there for 1 second before falling back, you can't be sure that bird is cooked.

72 degrees 1 minute 5 seconds
75 degrees 26 seconds
80 degrees 5 seconds
85 degrees 1 second

So if you know you're an impatient sort, aim for 85 degrees knowing you won't have to wait long to confirm the temperature has been held.  Generally I know I can wait, I aim for 80 but accept 75 if it's been held for half a minute.
This is why most cookery books err to the side of caution and advise higher temperatures, however, I think the inconsistency between the advice makes it more confusing for the home cook.

Obviously it's up to you guys to check your meat is cooked properly and any sign of pink on poultry such as chicken or turkey is a sign you should not be eating it.  Use some common sense!

No comments:

Post a Comment

I would love to read your comments but please don't include links in them.