Why Roasted Whole Chicken Often Is Tastier Than Other Cooking Methods

You know it in your heart when you eat it, but you might not be able to explain it: Roasting a whole chicken just tastes better. It seems a little crazy to say that one part of a chicken is better than that exact same piece of chicken cooked on its own, but anyone who has had a really good roast chicken would be hard pressed to deny it. Roast chicken has a juiciness and satisfying savory flavor that even good breasts or legs can never hope to match. While separate cuts of chicken might need a sauce or breading to stand alone as a good meal, a really good roast chicken is only some salt and pepper away from being a plate-clearing meal centerpiece.

You might chalk up roast chicken's great taste to a good recipe, or the cook's skill, and you wouldn't be totally wrong. No less an authority than Julia Child said in her book, "My Life in France," that a whole roast chicken was the ultimate way to judge a chef. But part of the reason why roast chicken is such a good test for a cook is that it's so good on its own. You should be able to take this perfect package of meaty flavor and turn out something succulent and flavorful with little extra accompaniment. The main ingredient is already ideal. And the reason its ideal is because a whole roast chicken is more than the sum of its parts.

Bones and skin makes a whole roast chicken better

The two qualities that make any cut of meat truly great, juicy and flavorful, are qualities that whole roast chickens have more of than any one piece. Most of this comes from fat, which adds both moisture and flavor to meat. Obviously, a lot of this fat comes from the layer under the skin that gets cooked down to both crisp up the skin, and essentially self-baste the bird. But even skin-on pieces of chicken don't have the fat a whole bird does because the process of taking apart a whole chicken removes a lot of the fat and muscles connected to the bones while cooked whole chicken gets the full benefit of all the flavor it's naturally holding. There is a reason a leftover chicken carcass can still make great stock, after all.

The other advantage is that bone-in meats stay juicy because bone conducts heat and slows the process by which the meat dries out. That's why your whole roasted chicken is so impossibly tender compared to other methods. Bones may slow down the cooking time, but they are protecting the meat from being overdone. 

All that bone and skin can make roasting a challenge, but it adds up to the best tasting chicken you'll ever make.