Maggie Beer loves verjuice. It might not even be too much of an exaggeration to suggest she’s the country’s leading advocate for the softly tart liquor of unripe grapes. “It truly lifts the flavour of the food without dominating, and I know of no better way to enhance flavour, no better way to make food taste fresh and alive,” she writes in Maggie’s Verjuice Cookbook.
Verjuice is central to the tip Beer shared with Broadsheet when we asked her what home cooks could do to instantly lift their cooking game. “There is one thing that immediately comes to mind,” the beloved Aussie cook told me over the phone. “You’ll laugh at this, but it really is true.”
I didn’t laugh; far from it, in fact – I’ll be implementing this simple tip the very next time I cook a chicken.
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“When roasting a well-bought chook – and it has to be a well-bought chicken, as that makes all the difference – I take it out of the oven at 64 degrees Celsius and then allow it to rest for about 20 minutes. You should drizzle it with verjuice and then turn the chicken upside down. While resting, it’ll continue to cook to about 66 to 68 degrees Celsius.”
Flipping it over means the chicken juices flow back into the breast, so it’ll be very juicy. You’ll also be rewarded with a beautiful jus (the drippings from cooked meat).
“This will result in the most perfect cooked chicken. Once you do it this way, you’ll never want to cook a chicken any other way,” she says.
Beer says you’ll need a thermometer to nail this trick – you should insert it in the thickest part of the thigh joint to get a good reading – and it’s important to cook your chicken in the oven until it’s almost finished. “It’s about taking it out before it’s totally finished cooking, because it’ll continue to do so on the bench.”
When you remove it from the oven, cover it loosely with foil and then rest it for 20 minutes or so before carving.
The bird’s natural juices mix with the sourness of the verjuice to create a “bright”, rounded flavour. Beer says verjuice is an acidulant, like lemon juice, vinegar and wine – “but I prefer the gentleness of verjuice”.
Maggie Beer is a judge on the fifth season of The Great Australian Bake Off, which is screening at 8.30pm Thursdays on Foxtel from January 27. Or it’s available on demand.
Looking for more cooking hacks? Our Kitchen Hacks series is filled with simple ideas to instantly improve your cooking.