Older ovens usually aren't as tricky.By Kemp Minifie, Gourmet Live
The best roast chicken I ever ate came out of the Barbie Doll-sized flea market stove in my husband's Lower East Side loft. It had only two settings, ON and OFF, with ON feeling like a few degrees shy of hell. Throw a 3-pound whole chicken inside it and it would be blasted to golden brown with crackly skin and moist flesh in less than an hour.
There have been endless accounts about the benefits of high-heat roasting. Barbara Kafka even wrote a 464-page book on the topic, and it's certainly been a boon for all of the food magazines cranking out fast weeknight recipes. But there have also been plenty of complaints from home cooks about their incinerated dinners as they tell the tales of when high-heat has gone horribly wrong. The most likely reason? It comes down to the preheat function on many modern stoves.
Since we all seem to be in such a hurry all the time, some manufacturers have responded with a way to heat the oven faster. If you choose the "preheat" option as opposed to "bake," both the oven flame/coil (on the bottom) and the broiler flame/coil (at the top of the oven) fire up. Once the oven reaches the desired temperature, the broiler shuts off, but it's still wicked hot. At that point, unsuspecting consumers slide their baking pans full of chicken, or pork or whatever is on the menu for the evening, onto the oven rack, which they've probably positioned-as directed in many high-heat recipes-in the upper third of the oven.
But the outcome is less than successful. The poor chicken gets blasted with heat from both the top and the bottom. And when the timer goes off, lo and behold, out comes a blackened bird (and we're not talking delicious Prudhomme blackened!). The moral to the story? From now on, turn your oven to the "bake" mode, grab a beer and relax during the 10 to 15 minutes it takes the oven to heat up the old-fashioned way.
Download the free Gourmet Live app to read more about Kemp's adventures in the kitchen, including an upcoming feature in this week's issue, Don't Wash the Chicken! (and nine other poultry pointers).
Photo Credit: Conde Nast Digital Studio
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