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I currently work in home office but in the late afternoon I pick up my kids from school, we spend some time on the playground and usually only come home half an hour before dinner time. For soups I used the strategy to set them up during my lunch break and then let them cook for half an hour. Then turn the stove off and put it back on when we come home. The soup is ready just at dinner time. I was wondering whether I can do the same with a roast chicken in the oven. That is I put in the oven around noon, roast for half an hour and then turn the oven off, leaving the chicken in. Turn the oven back on when we get home. Have ready roast chicken at dinner time.

I was mostly wondering whether there is something that could go wrong here? Will this turn out any different from just roasting a chicken for 1 hour without breaks in between?

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  • 12
    Have you heard about the “danger zone” in the context of food safety, i.e. about leaving perishable food at room temperature for a certain time?
    – Stephie
    Sep 20 at 10:52
  • How long are you away?
    – Joe M
    Sep 20 at 20:12
  • if you don't have time to cook your chicken yourself, you can get it roasted from a chicken roaster.
    – njzk2
    Sep 21 at 21:01
  • My parents do a Sunday lunch. Prior to church they schedule the oven to turn on at a certain time, and adjust the temperature at further times. When they get back from church, the meat is about 45 minutes away from ready. Is scheduling like this an option on your oven?
    – Tim
    Sep 22 at 22:14
  • @Tim Yes, that's what I always do; I partly cook the roast potatoes the night before, then put the cold chicken in the oven and program it before I leave for church. When I get back, the chicken is halfway to being cooked, so I slam in the half-cooked roast potatoes and start peeling carrots. In fact I normally try to plan things so that the chicken will be done ~15min before the potatoes and carrots are ready, so I have time to make gravy while the chicken is kept warm under foil. Sep 22 at 22:55
27

Can it be done? yes.

Is there a higher risk of food poisoning? yes.

The way to get around that is almost more of a pain -- you cook it in a low oven until it's just barely cooked through (which is a different temperature for the legs vs. the breast meat), then chill it, and then return it to a hot oven to warm it and crisp the skin up.

You're often better off fully cooking it, chilling it, and then warming it back up, and serving with a hot gravy that you can pour over it.

Another alternative would be spatchcocking the chicken (cutting the backbone out and flattening it, so it cooks quicker; see https://www.seriouseats.com/butterflied-roasted-chicken-with-quick-jus-recipe ). You could prep it in advance, so you just had to throw it in the oven when you got home ... but you have to cook it under the broiler for a chance at the 30 minute window: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/broiled-butterflied-chicken-recipe-1951266 )

There's also a technique where you quarter the chicken, start it on the stovetop (starting the leg quarters first), then move it to the oven that's been pre-heating ... and if you had the chicken prepped might take 30 minutes ... but I'm having difficulty finding the recipe. (I thought it had been on Good Eats, but I'm not having luck searching the Food Network website).

25

When I have wanted to cook a chicken but I will not be home, I have used a slow cooker. You won't end up with a really crispy skin, but it makes for some wonderfully moist and juicy chicken.

Most slow cookers can be set for anywhere from 4 to 10 hours, so you should be able to find something that fits your schedule.

3
  • Agreed; save the crispy-skin meals for the weekends :)
    – chepner
    Sep 20 at 22:08
  • 2
    Or slow cook it for the bulk of the time, and then chuck it in a hot oven to crisp up the outside.
    – Graham
    Sep 21 at 10:25
  • 1
    not exactly a roasted chicken, then
    – njzk2
    Sep 21 at 20:59
9

As others have elaborated, cooking in two steps will lead to food safety issues if you don’t make sure that your food is cooled down properly in between. And yes, that also has the side effect of likely running into issues with drying out and overcooking at least in some parts.

Let me offer an alternative idea to combine your timing constraints with a properly cooked chicken: slow roasting.

If you put your bird in a ~300° F oven, you have about three hours until it’s done. That should be enough for a visit to the playground plus finishing the sides when you get home. Timing etc. will of course depend on size of the bird etc., but I recommend you do a bit of research into that method. A meat thermometer will help you determine when it’s done to a safe core temperature.

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    And as that will likely trigger discussions about leaving your oven on when you're not home ... see cooking.stackexchange.com/q/37234/67 and cooking.stackexchange.com/q/42567/67 . (I debated mentioning leaving it in the oven to stay warm vs. chilling it, but didn't want to get into that discussion all over again)
    – Joe
    Sep 20 at 15:19
  • 2
    @Joe as an owner of a (reasonably clean, reasonably new) electric oven, I am comfortable leaving mine on even when I am not at home. I may feel differently if I had a gas oven.
    – Stephie
    Sep 20 at 15:22
  • I have an old electric oven, and I've left it on while not hom (even accidentally on occasion), but I've noticed that people with gas ovens often feel differently ... even though gas ovens had pilot lights for a long, long time
    – Joe
    Sep 20 at 15:36
  • what if you can't get home, or have to leave for a much longer period of time unexpectedly?
    – njzk2
    Sep 21 at 21:04
  • 2
    @njzk2 You call your neighbor and ask them to take whatever is in the oven out.
    – Polygnome
    Sep 22 at 15:49
6

How about cooking it sous vide?

This method involves some prep work, but gives you the timing you want. Essentially, it consists of sealing the chicken pieces in plastic, and immersing them in water with apparatus that heats the water to a safe temperature for cooking without drying it out. You can then finish on a hot pan or in a hot oven to get crispy skin.

You can chill the chicken after the sous vide phase, allowing you to do that part of the cooking on a different day from the finishing.

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  • 1
    Serious Eats suggests roasting the skin separately as a garnish. seriouseats.com/…
    – ceejayoz
    Sep 21 at 14:12
  • +1 Sous vide is really the magic weapon for people with time constraints. Also it just is so easy to get it right every. single. time. Granted, chicken is probably one of the more complicated ones since you need great heat to brown the skin and that's not easy on a pan - maybe one of those flamethrowers would be good, or if OP has an oven with a grill feature that may work as well.
    – AnoE
    Sep 21 at 15:29
  • 1
    not roasted. Also heating plastic repeatedly can't be too good, no matter what they tell you about that plastic
    – njzk2
    Sep 21 at 21:00
  • 1
    @njzk2 [citation needed] — or, put differently, please don't rely on hunches when it comes to heath information, and don't create your own facts. Sep 21 at 22:04
  • 3
    @njzk2 Glyphosate is another excellent example, since glyphosate is almost certainly completely safe in its regular application: the so-called “evidence” to the contrary is largely (at least party intentionally) flawed, financed by industry lobby groups. The anti-scientific scare-mongering surrounding glyphosate are a prime example why you should listen to the scientific consensus rather than to uneducated peer juries. Ironically the demonisation of glyphosate has the effect of making vastly more toxic and harmful, or alternatively less effective, chemicals be used instead. Sep 22 at 21:28
1

As said it can be done, but i wouldn't do it. Especially on chicken is it important that it is 'well done', if you put it in the oven it needs time to get warm inside. So if you stop heating it, you will heat the outside 'twice' but you still need a lot of time to heat the inside on the necessary temperature. So cooking don't get much faster, but the chicken gets dry outside. You should considering it to put it in the oven with a fitting temperature, so that it is finished when you are back (low temperature) or finish the chicken and then just heating it when you want to eat.

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