Chicken Roast in a Salt Crust
Under the salt dome, chicken steams and roasts all
at once, resulting in an impossibly juicy bird, not
well browned but quite tasty—and not nearly as
salty as you might expect. The grape leaves impart
a delicate, earthy taste and make desalting the bird
much easier. Use kosher salt, a coarse-grained salt
that, paradoxically, adheres to a compact dough.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
6 pounds kosher salt
3 cups water
One 16-ounce jar grape leaves, drained and
2 lemons, cut into quarters
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon cracked black peppercorns
One 4- to 5-pound chicken, giblets and neck
removed Butcher’s twine.
1- a Position the rack in the lower third of the oven;
preheat the oven to 350°F.
2- s Stir the salt and water in a large bowl to form a
thick, doughlike paste. Place 3 cups in the bottom
of a large roasting pan, patting it out to about 5
inches larger than the chicken. Pack down, then
cover completely with a double layer of overlap-ping grape leaves (perhaps 15 in total), leaving a
1-inch border of salt at the edges.
3- Place the lemon quarters, bay leaves, and peppercorns
inside the chicken, then truss the bird
with butcher’s twine (see page 249).
4- Place the chicken on the grape-leaf bed, then
cover the chicken with the remaining grape
leaves, leaving no exposed holes. Fold up any exposed
leaves on the grape-leaf bed to meet those
already on the chicken.
5- Gently mound the remaining salt dough onto
the leaves, thereby covering the chicken but taking
care not to disturb the leaves. Mold the salt
mixture to the bird’s shape. Seal any and all cracks
by wetting your hands and patting the salt in
6-Roast until a meat thermometer inserted in the
thigh registers 160°F (our preference) or 175°F
(the USDA recommendation), about 1 hour and
30 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes (see Note).
Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. (In
this case, the internal temperature will rise in the
salt dome as the chicken sits.)
7- Whack the crust a couple of times with a meat
mallet to break it. Carefully remove the pieces,
making sure they don’t crumble into the meat.
Remove and discard the grape leaves, lemon
wedges, bay leaves, and peppercorns; transfer the
chicken to a board for carving.
Note: To test for doneness, push an instant-read
thermometer into the chicken through the salt
crust, eyeing where the thigh is through the crust
itself. If you’re unsure of placement, make a little
fi nger indention in the crust as you’re shaping it
to show you where to guide the thermometer
in. Or use an old-fashioned, oven-safe probe.
Once the chicken is covered in the leaves, insert
the probe into the thickest section of the thigh
through the leaves, then build the salt crust over
the bird and around the probe, leaving its display
sticking outside the crust, which should hold it
in place while the chicken roasts.
Carving a Whole Chicken
It’s really just a matter of fi nding the joints
which have been loosened signifi cantly by the
heat. You can usually wiggle them apart, cutting
through the skin and any remaining meat with a
Start by removing the thigh/leg quarters.
Pull one whole quarter back from the body
until you hear the joint pop, then insert the tip
of your knife into the now-loosened joint and
slice down. Do the same with the smaller joint
between each thigh and leg.
Place the body breast side up on a large
cutting board. Insert a large knife into the
main cavity, position the blade to one side
of the spine, and slice down through the ribs.
Repeat on the other side of the spine before
Now turn the chicken breast side down and
cut straight down through the breastbone and
its cartilage, dividing the breast in half. This
takes work, especially in larger birds. Cut the
breast/wing sections into three pieces the short
way, leaving the wing attached to one as its
Alternatively, pull the wings back until the
joint pops, insert the knife at an angle into this
joint’s center, and slice off the wing without
taking off too much breast meat. Follow the
contour of the breastbone and slice down to
remove the breast meat on each side as a fi llet.
Lay these skin side up on your carving board
and cut into slices against the grain (that is, the
short way, or at a diagonal the short way for
slightly longer slices).