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The 'perfect' roasted chicken

At a time of year when all things roasted sounds particularly inviting, we're at our most motivated level for turning out a delectable, juicy, golden-roasted chicken.

So I hauled out my two most diverse — but reliable — sources for roasting chicken: "The Best Recipe," by the editors of Cook's Magazine, and "Cookwise," by knowledgeable food scientist Shirley Corriher. I'll share Corriher's thoughts further along. For now, let's focus on "The Best Recipe" approach.

I was instantly discouraged because the section titled "Simple Roast Chicken" was actually FOUR PAGES long. I guess it's not that simple.

Their basic principals, however, were. "The Best Recipe" folks discovered that establishing the perfect temperature was the most important first step leading to perfection in chicken roasting. When they roasted their first bird in a 450-degree oven for 44 minutes, it developed dark and crispy skin and nicely cooked dark meat, but tough and overcooked white meat.

In the other extreme, when they tested a bird in a 275-degree oven for one hour and 35 minutes (goosing the temperature to 425 F for the last 10 minutes to crisp up the skin), the white meat wasn't very juicy, and the overall flavor was just not very exciting.

Fourteen chickens later — some trussed, some untrussed and temperatures varying throughout the experiment — they finally arrived at the best method: Roast the chicken on its side untrussed at 375 F in a preheated pan, turning it on its other side after 20 minutes, then breast-side up after another 20 minutes, cooking until the thigh has reached an internal temperature of 165 to 170 F.

The editors at "The Best Recipe" call this "easy, straightforward and guaranteed to produce a truly satisfying roast chicken."

I call it obsessive, unless you're cooking for a first-date situation. But there you have it, folks — the perfect roast chicken.

In truth, Corriher's approach wasn't any less complex. As is the case with the recipes in her book, she explains what her approach shows about cooking. In this case, the absorption of water from a brine makes chicken meat juicer; basting the chicken with a mixture of corn syrup and butter adds sugar and protein for good browning.

But I'm providing another option — Juicy Roast Chicken. It's up to you to decide just how close to perfect you want to tread on any given night. Meanwhile, I'm also providing a far less complicated approach — Peppered Honey Roasted Chicken With Peach-Pecan Stuffing — from the Oregon Fryer Commission.

Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, cookbook author and artist. Readers can contact her by e-mail at janrd@proaxis.com or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at www.janrd.com.