Yesterday I started working on a six pound butterflied roast chicken a little too close to an evening meeting. I butterflied the chicken and patted it as dry as possible inside and out with paper towels. I then mixed up some olive oil, lemon juice, salt, cracked pepper, chili powder, onion powder, and cumin and liberally applied it all over the skin. I'm not sure I really managed to completely flatten the chicken, as I'm fairly weak and it was a large bird, so the butterfly technique wasn't perfect. I put it under a pre-heated broiler and started out following this recipe, with the chicken cooking for about 6 minutes skin-side up, then 6 minutes meat-side up, then I put the oven on 375 degrees F (190.5 degrees C) with the chicken skin side up. Ever time I flipped it I poured some of the collected juices over the bird. Because the bird was so big, it wasn't done after about an hour of cooking when I needed to leave, so I put the broiler on low for about 3 minutes before leaving, and then I shut the oven off to keep from charring my chicken and burning the place down. At this point the thigh was around 140 degrees F at the thickest part. I was gone for about an hour.
When I returned, my spouse didn't want to eat the chicken until we'd verified that it had come to temperature, so we turned the oven back on to 400 degrees F (204.4 degrees C) for a few more minutes. The bird went way beyond minimum temperature - the thickest part of the thigh was well over 175. I expected it to taste disgustingly dry.
Instead what we had was the most moist, tender roasted chicken I've ever had. The skin was crispy, the meat fell off the bone (literally when we moved it off the rack).
What was it about this accidental cooking method that worked so well? Did the time in the hot-but-not-on oven do anything? Was it just the initial recipe and the size of the bird? The basting? I'd love to reproduce the flavor and texture of my chicken, but do I need all the accidental steps?