I'm having trouble roasting chicken. Either I overcook the breast meat, or the thigh joints stay bloody. Should I use high heat or low heat? And what about the roasting pan — should I use a rack?
— Brittany M., Ashland
Disagreement persists about changing a chicken's roasting temperature midway through or maintaining a steady heat. Advocates of the former say an initial blast of heat crisps the skin and kick-starts cooking; finishing at a lower heat keeps chicken moist.
A recipe from Corvallis columnist Jan Roberts-Dominguez starts with roasting chicken at 475 F, breast-side down in a V-rack, for 20 minutes, turning it onto each side for 10 minutes, then lowering the oven temperature to 325 F and turning the bird breast-side up for five to 10 more minutes. Baste throughout.
Kathleen Purvis, a Charlotte Observer columnist takes a similar approach, only starting the oven temperature at 425 F, roasting for 15 minutes, then finishing the chicken at 325 F.
Instead of a roasting pan and rack, Purvis suggests a smaller cooking vessel, such as a heavy, glass pie plate. In a big pan, juices spread out and evaporate. A smaller container cradles the chicken, keeping juices inside to facilitate cooking and prevent drying, she says. Because the back of an oven usually is hotter than the front, position a chicken's legs and thighs toward the back so they get hotter.
Finally, don't forget to rest a chicken. When an instant-read thermometer inserted at the thickest part of the bird's thigh registers 165 F, remove it from the oven and let it stand for 10 or 15 minutes before carving. The temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees, and juices will redistribute through the meat instead of running out.