There’s one thing you can do in your home kitchen to take your roast chook from fine to phenomenal, according to Alejandro Saravia. Brine it, he says. The Peruvian-born chef behind Melbourne’s Pastuso and Sydney’s Morena restaurants recently opened a dedicated rotisserie bar called CHE, so he knows what he’s talking about.
"Brining is a technique that helps to trap the juices of the chicken – to keep it juicy,” Saravia says. “As the chicken is exposed to a high temperature, it's important to give that extra source of protection so all the natural juices stay in the flesh of the chicken.”
Saravia’s brine is equal parts salt and sugar – 100 grams of each – dissolved in five litres of water. He soaks a chicken in this brine for five hours. (Alternatively, he says, you can use a marinade of salt, sugar and vinegar.)
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“After five hours remove the brine or marinade and pat the chicken dry with a kitchen towel,” Saravia explains. Then place the chook on a tray, breast side up, and put it in the fridge overnight.
“This will help the chicken stay moist during the cooking process – the cold temperature of the fridge will dry the skin, but then salt in the brine will stick to the skin, ensuring it gets crispy while cooking,” he says. “Because the brining liquid has a percentage of sugar, this helps caramelise the chicken skin, giving that perfect golden brown colour to it.”