If you’re like most people, you grew up watching the great Jacques Pepin on PBS, blowing us all away with his incredible culinary skills and captivating French charm. Not only was Pepin one of the original celebrity chefs long before The Food Network was even a thought, but his welcoming persona and warmth also make him the darling French grandfather we never had.
Pepin makes even the most complex recipes seem easy, and that’s probably because his focus has always been exquisitely delicious, beautifully simple food that anyone can make. There’s nothing pretentious about his skill, he’s too confident for that nonsense.
Trussing a chicken is one of the most basic kitchen skills that most of us stumble over gracelessly, but he demonstrates it in this video effortlessly. With an ease that would make any Michelin-star chef green with envy, he trusses his bird perfectly before bathing it in butter and roasting it.
If you, like most of us, have struggled with this process in the past, it’s time to take a lesson from the master himself and learn how to properly truss a chicken. While it isn’t a necessary step in cooking chicken, the advantages are twofold. Firstly, it creates a much tidier appearance. When legs and wings aren’t sticking out all over the place, the result looks much more finished and elegant. Second, by trussing poultry, you’re taking an awkward shape and making it somewhat uniform, which will help with even cooking. You’ve probably noticed that certain parts of poultry will cook more quickly than others, and trussing will help with even doneness.
His first step is to remove the wishbone from the bird — a step that’s often neglected when roasting chicken. Pepin explains that this will provide a much more graceful carve when the chicken is done, delightfully adding that the wishbone can be a “pain in the neck.” Oh, how we love you, Jacques. The wishbone is removed by cutting two slits at the top of each breast, near the triangular hole at the top. After cutting these slits, he inserts his fingers inside to push the bone forward and remove it.
After removing the wishbone, he pulls the skin from the breasts over the top, tucking it underneath the chicken.
He then tucks the wings of the chicken behind its body. This is done by turning the wing tips backward, and resting them behind the back.
Next, he grabs a generous amount of butcher’s twine, sliding it underneath the legs of the chicken before crossing the twine above. He then loops underneath each drumstick, and pulls the twine to close the legs. The next move is to turn the chicken over, breast-side down, running the twine along the sides of the bird, and tying on the backside, behind the wings. He expertly twists the twine a few times before tying a knot here, to ensure it will not unravel.
And that’s how it’s done.
- Remove the wishbone.
- Pull breast skin over the opening in the top of the bird, tucking it underneath.
- Tuck wings back.
- Using butcher’s twine, wrap the legs of the chicken, pulling them closed.
- Flip the chicken over, running the twine down the sides, and tie a knot behind the chicken’s back.
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