Chicken Roasted in a Salt Crust

  • To test for doneness, push an instant-read thermometer into the chicken through the salt crust, eyeing where the thigh is through the crust itself. If you’re unsure of placement, make a little fi  nger indention in the crust as you’re shaping it to show you where to guide the thermometer in. Or use an old-fashioned, oven-safe probe. 
  • Once the chicken is covered in the leaves, insert the probe into the thickest section of the thigh through the leaves, then build the salt crust over the bird and around the probe, leaving its display sticking outside the crust, which should hold it in place while the chicken roasts.
  1. 6 pounds kosher salt
  2. 3 cups water
  3. One 16-ounce jar grape leaves, drained and rinsed
  4. 2 lemons, cut into quarters
  5. 2 bay leaves
  6. 1 tablespoon cracked black peppercorns
  7. One 4- to 5-pound chicken, giblets and neck removed
  8. Butcher’s twine
  • Position the rack in the lower third of the oven; preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Stir the salt and water in a large bowl to form a thick, doughlike paste. Place 3 cups in the bottom of a large roasting pan, patting it out to about 5 inches larger than the chicken. Pack down, then cover completely with a double layer of overlapping grape leaves (perhaps 15 in total), leaving a 1-inch border of salt at the edges.
  • Place the lemon quarters, bay leaves, and peppercorns inside the chicken, then truss the bird with butcher’s twine.
  • Place the chicken on the grape-leaf bed, then cover the chicken with the remaining grape leaves, leaving no exposed holes. Fold up any exposed leaves on the grape-leaf bed to meet those already on the chicken.
  • Gently mound the remaining salt dough onto the leaves, thereby covering the chicken but taking care not to disturb the leaves. Mold the salt mixture to the bird’s shape. Seal any and all cracks by wetting your hands and patting the salt in place.
  • Roast until a meat thermometer inserted in the thigh registers 160°F (our preference) or 175°F, about 1 hour and 30 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. (In this case, the internal temperature will rise in the salt dome as the chicken sits.)
  • Whack the crust a couple of times with a meat mallet to break it. Carefully remove the pieces, making sure they don’t crumble into the meat. Remove and discard the grape leaves, lemon wedges, bay leaves, and peppercorns; transfer the chicken to a board for carving.


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