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This one started out when I looked for a recipe on how cook a chicken that tastes like the deli rotisserie chicken we buy at the supermarket. Now, that's a very tasty chicken and I've eaten many of those, but sometimes it seems as though you're paying seven, eight or nine dollars for what amounts to a rotisserie Cornish hen. But why be satisfied with deli chicken when we can do just as well, or even better, with a cast iron dutch oven? I admit my convection oven does have a rotisserie, but I rarely use it. And besides, using a preheated dutch oven gave results every bit as good as the rotisserie style. As much as I enjoy that supermarket deli chicken, this is a method that makes me wonder when, if ever, I'll be buying another chicken from the deli counter.
Pans needed: Cast iron dutch oven, #8 (4 to 5 quart) size. A large bowl or container, plastic or metal, to brine the chicken. An oven thermometer for measuring the temperature as the chicken roasts.
Almost every supermarket these days has their chickens prepared in advance and delivered to the supermarket. This way, all they have to do is cook the chicken and not have to worry about preparing it. The chicken is usually injected with a saline brine solution, to keep it moist and also to increase the weight of the bird. This isn't really a rip off, as this has been done with chickens since the earliest days of poultry and meat markets.
Before brining the chicken, make sure it is thawed out. Remove any giblets from the inside of the chicken, along with any other extra items (such as a pop-out temperature meter). Since the chicken will be going into the brine, we don't have to worry about drying off the chicken at this time.
Brining the chicken will keep it moist and juicy; we won't even need to baste the chicken when it roasts. In the manner of any supermarket, all we need for a brine is to mix 1/2 cup of kosher salt and 1/2 cup of sugar in a large container. Add 1 cup of boiling water, and stir it until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Add at least 1/2 gallon cold water or ice water to cool off the brine. Place the chicken into the brine, and add more water to cover the chicken. Cover the container, and place it into the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours. Brining for longer than 24 hours is okay, and this won't make the chicken taste too salty.
Remove the lid from the cast iron dutch oven. Place the pot into the oven, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. This will get the iron pot good and hot, and help to sear the chicken and cook the underside.
Prepare a spice rub, by mixing together thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt and pepper.
Remove the chicken from the brine, and discard the brine. We have no more need for the brine. Rinse off the chicken, and pat it dry with paper towels. The chicken doesn't have to be bone dry, but only dry enough so your hands aren't soaked when handling the chicken.
Add salt and pepper to the inner cavity of the chicken. Coat the top and bottom of the chicken with olive oil, including the wings and drumsticks. Rub the spice rub all over the chicken, top and bottom. Leave a little bit of the spice rub aside.
When the oven is at 375 degrees Fahrenheit, use heavy gloves or potholders and place the hot iron pot onto a rack or trivet. Place the chicken into the pot, breast side up. It will immediately sizzle as it hits the hot iron! Add the remaining rub to the top of the chicken.
Insert a probe thermometer into the breast.
Place the hot dutch oven into the oven, uncovered. Roast at 375 degrees until the breast temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. For a four to five pound chicken, this usually takes about an hour and a half (90 minutes).
Remove the pot from the oven. Carefully remove the chicken and place it onto a tray or plate. Let the chicken rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.