A good roast chicken is truly one of life's simplest yet greatest pleasures. From the way it fills your kitchen with the smell of comfort to the way the golden brown skin crackles as you cut through it to the way you need little more than a salad and some crusty bread to create a perfect meal, roast chicken is, quite simply, a dish you must have in your repertoire.
Every chef has her (or his) preferred way to roast a chicken, and I can safely say that I've tried them all. What follows below is the method that has worked nearly perfectly for me every single time and in every single kitchen in which I've attempted it. From commercial kitchens with the fanciest ovens to my home kitchen with a tiny oven to various vacation rentals with kitchens of varying sophistication.
There are two keys to this roast chicken recipe: (1) spatchcocking the chicken and (2) the 24-hour buttermilk brine. Let's start with spatchcocking the chicken. There are various stories of the origins of the term "spatchcock," but you're not here for a history lesson, so I'll just state that the term simply refers to removing the backbone of the bird so that it can be flattened out for cooking, resulting in more even cooking and crispier skin. If you're a visual learner like I am, check out this short video...
Then there's the buttermilk brine. Buttermilk, with its perfect combination of fat and acid, does double duty in this recipe by both breaking down the chicken's protein structures (making it more tender and moist) and lending a subtle tang to the flesh that somehow makes the chicken taste more like, well, chicken.
Finally, this recipe technically requires nothing more than a chicken, some buttermilk, and some kosher salt. You can, however, season the chicken just before roasting it with your favorite spice blend, making this recipe endlessly adaptable to whatever kind of flavor profile you're craving. Looking for something bright and citrusy? Try Lemon Pepper or Four-Citrus Mojo. Want something more on the herbal side? How about Herbes de Provence,