Why You Shouldn't Cook Chicken Straight From The Fridge

Cooking chicken, especially a full roast, is one of the more intimidating meals home cooks are faced with. There are a couple of reasons for this. No one wants a dry chicken, an undercooked chicken, or a chicken that comes out with cracked or burnt skin. Chicken has a much slimmer margin of error than, say, steak. How you cook your steak is directly correlated to how well done you like your meat. Chicken, on the other hand, poses significantly more health risks if consumed raw, per The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So, you want a juicy chicken that's not raw or chalky and has a nice crispy skin. How is this achieved? 

There are simple steps that can help you overcome the fear of over or undercooking your chicken. The one we are going to discuss today is a step that a lot of home cooks skip, but it's critical not only for evenly cooking your chicken but for keeping it moist and juicy. So what step you might be skipping? Don't cook your chicken straight out of the fridge; let it come up to room temperature first.

Reserve some counter space for your bird

Samin Nosrat explains this process perfectly in a clip from the Netflix series based on her book, "Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat." It's all about understanding that the cooking process begins before you turn on the oven. Bringing chicken up to room temperature — oftentimes letting it sit on the counter for an hour or more, depending on its size — is the key to an evenly cooked bird. Throwing a chicken in the oven straight from the fridge can cause skin rips, a burnt exterior, and a raw interior (via YouTube).

Bon Appétit expounds on this a little further. A bird taken directly from the fridge to the oven, especially if it's not yet been unpackaged, will be a cold, soggy bird. While your chicken is coming up to temp on the counter, be sure to pat it thoroughly dry with a paper towel before proceeding with your seasoning. Food and Wine also suggests leaving the unwrapped chicken in the fridge, overnight, to help dry it out. It may seem counterintuitive, but a chicken with dry skin will lead to a crispy skin with moist meat. To get this result, be sure to give your chicken a chance to rest on the counter and let it come up to room temp before you throw it in the oven.