Fifteen Spatulas

Should you Truss a Chicken or Not?

Should you truss a chicken

Should you truss a roast chicken or not?

This question has been weighing on my mind for a while now because I have heard arguments for both.

The hilarious part is that people say the chicken cooks unevenly if you don’t truss it, yet people say the exact same thing about if you DO truss your chicken. Well my friends, it can’t be both. It just can’t. Reading the same arguments for both options made me bonkers so I decided to test it out on my own, and today I would like to share the results with you.

Trussed vs Untrussed Chicken

I went to the store and bought two chickens, of the same brand, and of the exact same weight (they were each 4lb chickens).

I cooked them the same way I cook all of my roast chickens. My roasting vegetables of choice are always leeks, carrots, and parsnips.

Root Vegetables for Roast Chicken

I trussed one of the chickens by taking kitchen twine and plumping up the breast, then coming around with the string to lasso the legs and I tied them together:

How to truss a chicken

Then I laid the trussed and untrussed chickens side by side on a bed of vegetables in order to ensure that the chickens would roast in an oven with the exact same temperature conditions.

The skins both turned out more or less the same. Brown and delicious!

Trussed vs Untrussed Roast Chicken

But then came the tasting of the meat. My husband and I tasted and compared all the parts of the chicken…the breast, the thigh, the drumstick, the wings…and here’s what we found:

  • The trussed chicken’s breast meat was perfectly moist and juicy, while the untrussed chicken’s breast meat was significantly drier.
  • The dark meat on the trussed chicken and the dark meat on the untrussed chicken were pretty comparable. They both retained their juiciness and it was hard to notice any differences between the two.

Here’s the fascinating part: When I was checking the chickens for doneness by measuring the thickest part of the thigh, the trussed chicken and untrussed chicken registered at nearly the same temperature, 162 degrees F for the trussed chicken, and 164 for the untrussed. What does this mean? It means we can’t blame the dry breast meat of the untrussed chicken on being from an overcooked bird, because both chickens were cooked to the proper temperature for the thickest part of the thigh. What really happened is by the time the dark meat was done on the untrussed chicken, the breast meat was already long overcooked.

Conclusion: Trussing your chicken not only looks better but yields a more evenly cooked, moister bird. When you don’t truss your chicken, the breast cavity remains wide open and too much hot air circulates inside of it, drying out the breast before the thighs and legs are properly cooked. So always truss those chickens in order to protect the breast and make the chicken a more even mass for roasting.

So tell me, do you usually truss your chicken or not? If you have any comments please leave them below. And here’s my roast chicken recipe:

Roast Parsnips with Carrots, Leeks, Potatoes

Yield: 1 roast chicken, serves 2-3

Ingredients:

4lb chicken
1 lb parsnips, chopped
1 lb carrots, chopped
1 large leek, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
lots of salt and pepper
2 sprigs rosemary
5 sprigs fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, smashed

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 475. We're starting the oven out really hot to brown the skin of the chicken well.

Toss the chopped parsnips, carrots, and sliced leek with 2 tbsp of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper in a large bowl. Dump the vegetables in a roasting pan or cast iron pan.

Rub the inside of the breast cavity with lots of salt and pepper, and rub the outside of the chicken all over with salt and pepper as well. Stuff the cavity with the aromatic rosemary, thyme, and garlic cloves, then truss the chicken (and don't forget to tuck the wing tips under themselves so they don't burn). Place the chicken on top of the bed of vegetables and roast in the 475 degree oven for 15 minutes, then lower the oven to 400 and roast for another 40-50 minutes. You want to cook the chicken until it registers at 160 in the thickest part of the thigh. Let the chicken rest for 10-15 minutes (you can tent the chicken with aluminum foil to keep it warm), then you're ready to eat!

Roasting method adapted from Thomas Keller's Roast Chicken recipe from his cookbook Ad Hoc at Home.

Leave a comment:





Comments

  1. Sandy Miller posted on February 4, 2013 at 12:36 pm (#)

    Hi Joanne,

    I do not truss my roasted chicken. I do fully stuff the cavity where the herbs (rosemary, thyme, garlic, etc.) and sliced lemons are falling out and closing up the opening. My breast meat is always moist. I will have to try it trussed next time, but I won’t be able to stuff the inside with as many goodies.

    • Joanne Ozug replied on February 4th, 2013 at 12:43 pm

      Hi Sandy, if you are stuffing the cavity with tons of aromatics and mass, you are doing a good job of preventing too much hot air from circulating inside and drying the meat out (and you are accomplishing what trussing effectively does). As an FYI to others, if you don’t have string, stuff that cavity and you should get decent results like Sandy. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. denise posted on February 4, 2013 at 12:46 pm (#)

    Amazing result, but I guess as you think about it, it makes perfect sense ! Thanks so much for doing this and for sharing !

  3. Kathleen posted on February 4, 2013 at 1:29 pm (#)

    Thank you for this…I stuff and truss and always have a good result, but have often wondered if the trussing was necessary…

  4. Emilie posted on February 4, 2013 at 2:00 pm (#)

    I do not truss simply because I don’t have the string and always for get to buy some. I do put small pats of butter under the skin, on top of the breast meat. The chicken always comes out juicy. I’ve tried rubbing light tasting extra virgin olive oil instead if butter, but that dried the chicken breast out. Maybe someday I will actually remember to buy the string so that the chicken doesn’t come out flat looking.

  5. Ga Viewer posted on February 4, 2013 at 4:12 pm (#)

    Very interesting results. I don’t normally truss a chicken or turkey in the traditional way, but I do tie the tip of the legs together sometimes – and sometimes not. Regardless I always rub the inside of the bird with salt, pepper, and dried aromatic herbs – or use fresh pieces of thyme, basil and sage. I also stick 2 onion quarters and some 2 inch pieces of celery inside the cavity. I have trussed chicken and found that the innermost portion of the dark meat doesn’t get reliably done, or takes long enough that I feel like the white meat is drying out. As a sidenote – one of the best ways to ensure crisp skin and juicy meat is to let the raw bird set uncovered on a rack in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before cooking. This food-safe ‘air drying’ step will evaporate every last vestige of moisture in the skin to prevent sogginess.

  6. Jennifer Johnston posted on February 4, 2013 at 9:09 pm (#)

    I wish I had known this when I roasted my first chicken a couple of weeks ago. I made it in my crock pot (busy mom and all) so I didn’t have an issue with it being dry. it was quite delicious and juicy. I am going to try roasting it in the oven next time so I can get that wonderfully crispy skin that was so lacking with my crock pot attempt. I’m going to have to get myself some kitchen twine so I can get my next bird properly trussed.

  7. Susan posted on February 4, 2013 at 9:33 pm (#)

    I made a chicken tonight and I did truss the bird. I used a rotisserie also and the bird came out incredibly juicy. I have never made a bird without trussing it but after reading your post there is no way I will. I did see a recipe that you could cook a whole chicken in a crock pot and did not say to truss it but I’m not to keen on doing that.

  8. Dorothy @ Crazy for Crust posted on February 4, 2013 at 11:10 pm (#)

    Thanks for this! I always have dry chickens. I’m totally trussing from now on!

  9. Trish posted on February 5, 2013 at 7:01 am (#)

    I don’t truss. I always roast my chicken on a bed (one whole kilo) of coarse kosher salt. It comes out amazingly succulent, not salty and very tasty. I don’t add condiments as the minerals in the salt give flavour to the chicken.
    You have to chuck out the salt afterwards, which irks my stingy side a bit, but it’s worth it.

    • Trish replied on February 5th, 2013 at 7:04 am

      Forgot to add something. The salt extracts all the fat from the chicken so the skin comes out all luvverly crispy and brown and less fattening.

  10. Jen @ Savory Simple posted on February 5, 2013 at 9:24 am (#)

    I’m glad to see the side by side comparison. I always just thought of it as a way to stuff in more filling but I’d glad to know it also improves the quality of the final product!

  11. Suzie posted on February 5, 2013 at 5:03 pm (#)

    Thank you for doing the comparison. I have never trussed them but, I certainly will now!

  12. Rose from Magpie's Recipes posted on February 6, 2013 at 12:17 am (#)

    I love that you put this to the test in such a delicious looking way Joanne! I have mostly used the smaller Cornish hens and usually never bother to truss. I saw this trick on a food show ( don’t remember which, Alton Brown most likely) where you use the chicken’s own skin- cutting a hole in the tail area and pushing the opposite leg through, and tucking the wings back behind the neck so you can effectively truss the bird without using any string.

  13. Dawn (Dawn's Recipes) posted on February 6, 2013 at 8:34 am (#)

    I don’t bother with the string. You can tuck the ends of the legs into that little flap of tail skin at the end to hold the legs in place. Sometimes it’s easier if you cut a little hole in it, so it acts like a rubber band. Then the wings can be bent so the tips are held in place by the thigh bones. Kind of hard to describe in words, but it works well, and it’s quicker than string.

  14. Chung-Ah | Damn Delicious posted on February 7, 2013 at 12:32 pm (#)

    What a fun experiment! I’ve never trussed my chicken (I actually don’t make chicken that often) but I will most definitely have to truss them from here on out!

  15. Myrtle posted on February 7, 2013 at 7:52 pm (#)

    We don’t truss our chickens, but it still turns out really well, because (and I think I’ve told you this before) we cut out the spine of the bird so that it doesn’t arch, therefore allowing it to cook more evenly.

    Leeks is an interesting addition…we usually do potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and beets. It’s really good. :)

  16. Stephanie posted on February 14, 2013 at 8:35 pm (#)

    I don’t usually truss my chickens. I do always make sure to stuff the cavity with whatever I may have on hand (citrus fruits, apples, onion, garlic, herbs, etc) as well as surrounding the bird with the standard roasting veggies (potatoes, carrots, parsnips, garlic, etc). I also rub the skin (and under the skin of the breast) with some butter. I salt the skin liberally to get that crispiness that is so yummy. I always have moist and juicy breast meat using these tricks.

  17. laura Bednarski posted on June 5, 2013 at 5:13 pm (#)

    Yes I always truss. As a food stylist we always were trained this way as well as just the way my Grandmothers cooked all birds. It keeps there shape nice and I believe keeping the wings close to the breast prevents them from drying out.

  18. Sharon posted on September 30, 2013 at 5:20 pm (#)

    Thank you for answering the question that has been on my mind every time I go to roast a chicken lately. I know my Mother and Grandmothers always trussed theirs but I wondered if it was really necessary. I have a habit of forgetting to cut the string before getting my hands all slimed up. I guess I will just have to learn to do that first thing and keep on trussing.

  19. peabody3000 posted on December 20, 2013 at 12:55 am (#)

    i have been roasting chickens for about a year now, perfecting my technique, and trussing has not worked out for me. i salt and then dry the skin out in the fridge for 36 hours. i bring it up to room temp for 4 hours. i salt and pepper it and truss it. i flash-roast it at 500F degrees for 30 minutes, a crucial step, before cooking another hour at 325. the entire bird cooks perfectly, except for the tied up parts which are downright pink and veiny, a just bit bloody, with all the signs of undercooking. i believe in my method, but i now know that trussing is not right for it at all. old cookbooks from 50 years ago or more have much longer cooking times because meat raised the old-fashioned way took much longer to cook. chefs will tell you that to modernize old recipes you absolutely must reduce cooking times. plus i think flash-roasting may have been far less common, but thats a guess. my point there is that those extended cooking times may have made trussing more necessary, whereas today it can be an outdated and outmoded concept, especially if you flash-roast.. which i HIGHLY recommend

  20. Lisa posted on August 14, 2014 at 12:22 pm (#)

    I don’t truss the bird, but I do fill the cavity with oranges, or lemons, spices; as much as I can stuff in! Apples & raisins with brandy or applejack, naturally moist veggies like mushrooms and onions. Whatever I have on hand. It is safer than stuffing the bird with bread stuffing and the flavor is fabulous.

    • Joanne Ozug replied on August 20th, 2014 at 1:25 pm

      Thanks for sharing Lisa!