Chemist in the Kitchen

October 21, 2015 at 2:04 pm

Salt Dome Baked Chicken

Salt Dome Baked Chicken

It’s time to introduce one of my favorite cooking methods: the salt dome.

 

Now, I know what some of you might be thinking: A salt dome?!?!?! Are you CRAZY? Doesn’t the food come out way too salty? Wouldn’t that dry the chicken beyond anything safe or reasonable? Although it may seem as though the food would get over-salted, this cooking technique is one of the absolute best and most delicious methods of cooking (but yes, I am sort of crazy…). So how does it work?

 

salt mixture

 

First and foremost: what is a salt, and what is the salt that we have in our kitchens? A salt is a molecule that results from when an acid and a base react with each other. The name of the game here is “opposites attract”: a salt contains a cation, which is a positively charged atom, and an anion, which is a negatively charged atom, which are then attracted to each other and form an ionic bond. The positive cation and the negative anion cancel out each other, resulting in a neutral molecule of salt. Salts can be comprised of any elements, but table salt and kosher salt are specifically comprised of sodium (Na) and chloride (Cl) to form the salt sodium chloride, or NaCl.

Salt is a particularly interesting molecule because it has the capacity to act as either an insulator, meaning it cannot conduct an electric current, or a conductor, which can conduct an electric current. When salt is dissolved in a substance such as water, the ionic bonds that hold the cations and anions together are broken and the two ions are freely circulating with their charges (meaning they are no longer neutral). In this case, the charged atoms are able to conduct an electric current and act as conductors. When salt is still solid, the ionic bonds are still intact and the neutral salt crystals are in the form of a lattice. In this case, the neutral salt molecules are unable to conduct an electric current and thus act as insulators.

 

chicken and cheesecloth

 

building salt dome

 

So how does this salt dome shenanigan work? Coarse kosher salt is mixed with egg whites as a binder to create a mixture with the consistency of wet sand to completely surround the chicken. When in the oven, the egg whites harden to keep the salt dome intact. The salt, which remains in its solid form, act as an excellent insulator, allowing the chicken to bake evenly in its own juices and lets it infuse with the aromatics of the herbs that are stuffed inside. The result is a shockingly delicious, moist chicken like you’ve never had before.

 

baked chicken

 

The best part is that you can utilize salt domes to cook just about any meat you can think of. The possibilities are, as they often say, quite endless.

 

With love,

Tamar

 

Salt Dome Baked Chicken

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 1 whole chicken

Ingredients

  • 8 cups coarse kosher salt (approximately 3.5 pounds)
  • 5 egg whites
  • 4-5 pound whole fryer chicken, skin on, giblets removed
  • 1-2 feet cheesecloth (available in the kitchen supply section)
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 3 sprigs sage
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • Half a lemon, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, whole
  • 2-3 Tbsp sweet paprika

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Farenheit with a rack placed in the middle of the oven.
  2. Combine the coarse kosher salt and egg whites in a large bowl and mix well.
  3. Pat the whole chicken dry with paper towels. Stuff the chicken with the thyme, sage, rosemary, garlic, and lemon.
  4. Rub the outside of the chicken with the sweet paprika.
  5. Wrap the chicken lengthwise in the cheesecloth.
  6. In a deep casserole dish (I like to use my slow cooker dish), place approximately 1/4 of the salt mixture on the bottom in an even layer. Place the chicken on top of the salt layer. Cover the chicken with the rest of the salt mixture making sure that no parts of the chicken are exposed to the air.
  7. Bake for 75 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  9. Carefully crack the salt dome open with a sharp knife. Discard the salt dome. Remove the chicken from the cheesecloth and serve.
http://chemistinthekitchen.com/salt-dome-baked-chicken/

 

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