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A chicken hypothesis

I’m listening to an interview on the Splendid Table podcast about roasting; specifically, about salting chicken beforehand for a day. The interviewee claims that by salting chicken and letting it sit out uncovered, the salt will first pull out water from the chicken, then slowly get absorbed into the chicken and pull the juices back in. The skin will become ‘taut’, as she says.

I have to say, I’m skeptical. For one, my wife makes a damn good, crsipy-skin roast chicken, and she salts just before putting the bird in the oven. Second, the fact that the interviewee specifies that the chicken should be uncovered makes me suspicious about what’s really going on.

First, it’s an undeniable fact that salt pulls out the juices at first. That fact, I’m not contesting. It’s the second part, about the salt getting absorbed into the chicken and pulling the juices back in. The hypothesis I have is that the salt may get absorbed, but that all this does is alter the collagen in the skin. The juices, I think, get dried up by the fridge, since the constant cold air circulation in the fridge often leads to things drying out (such as cheese, a fact mentioned just 15 minutes prior on the same podcast!)

The Experiment

Take two chickens (or maybe just two chicken parts?), salt both. Let one sit uncovered in the fridge, as stated. Put the other in some sort of airtight covering, such as a ziploc freezer bag. Let sit overnight, and then see how much water remains in the covered chicken. If there’s a lot, that indicates that the moisture is actually lost to the air, rather than absorbed back into the chicken.