I’ve had many failed meals, but one that always stumped me was how to roast chicken without it becoming too dry. I wanted my bird to be like the golden-brown, extra-moist rotisserie chickens you’d get at the store, but every time I cooked it, I’d find myself with breast meat that was sadly overcooked.
Luckily, our Test Kitchen experts knew the fix. The secret to achieving an evenly roasted chicken in the oven is a method known as trussing.
What is trussing?
Trussing is, basically, tying up the legs of your chicken before you bake it. The extra support gives the bird a more uniform shape, which helps it cook more evenly. By lifting the legs, you’re also exposing more of the bird’s skin to the hot air in the oven. That’s key to crispy skin.
After my first attempt at trussing, I learned it can be tricky if you don’t have a proper guide. It can be a bit like playing cat’s cradle with a piece of raw chicken-one wrong step and your bird will be caught in knots. Our Test Kitchen is here to unravel the process and make it easy to truss a chicken.
How to Truss a Chicken
A chicken for roasting
3 to 4 ft. of butcher’s twine or cooking string
Test Kitchen Tip: You can find this special string in the gadget aisle of the grocery store, or your butcher will likely have a yard or two to spare.
Step 1: With the breast side facing up, place the string underneath the legs and tail of the chicken. Grabbing an end in either hand, pull so that string is about equal length on each side.
Fun fact: The stubby chicken tail is also called the “Pope’s nose.”
Step 2: Wrap the string around the tops of the legs and crisscross. Then, wrap each end below the ankles again. This should form a loose figure 8 around the legs and tail of the chicken.
Step 3: Pull the string tight so that the chicken parts squeeze together. Then loop the string back to the top of the ankles.
Step 4: Crisscross the string one more time and pull alongside the legs, guiding the string to the notch where the legs meet the breast.
Test Kitchen Tip: We like to cross the twine alongside the legs of the bird, instead of over top of the breast, so that the chicken avoids any unsightly indents as it bakes.
Step 5: Flip over the chicken and tie the string around the wings. Tighten firmly and add a knot to keep your work in place. Trim off any excess twine.
Now that your bird is all wrapped up, it’s time to season and roast. Follow along our expert tips for how to roast a chicken, here.