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How to make the best Chinese roast chicken with super crispy skin

There is nothing more satisfying to enjoy the perfect Chinese roast chicken with super crispy skin.

I know there is nothing simpler than roast chicken. However, you need to know certain tricks if you want this crispy skin chicken with tender meat underneath.

And it can be more satisfying to make a crispy roast chicken with golden brown skin, gleaming and juicy.

Update:

“I had posted the Chinese roasted chicken recipe two years ago. I spent the last few days in the kitchen to revisit the recipe and completely rewrote this article.
To my readers who have tried my recipe, I hope the tips help to bring your roast chicken skill to the next level.
To the first-timer, I will be extremely thrilled if you inform me that you have picked up some technique and happy with the result.”

Chinese roast chicken

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info. I may receive commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

The criteria for the best Chinese roast chicken

This Chinese-style roast chicken recipe is developed based on two other famous Chinese dishes, crispy fried chicken (琵琶鸡) which is a favorite Cantonese recipe, and Peking duck (北京鸭).

The skin is so crispy that it resembles crackers when it is fresh from the oven. The aroma that perfume in the kitchen will make everyone wanting for more.

The setback is, you need to know how the inside tricks. I have revealed all these tricks here so that you can enjoy making this Asian roast chicken at home.

What is the roast chicken standard that you need to measure up?

1. How to let the flavor penetrate to the deepest part beneath the skin

Drip dry by placing it vertically
Drip dry by placing it vertically

No matter what marinade you use, you must marinate the chicken for at least half a day, or 24 hours if you have sufficient time. The long marinating time will allow the flavor penetrate to the deepest part of the meat beneath the skin.

The original Cantonese recipes include maltose, but honey is equally good. It is also readily available in any part of the world. Both ingredients add flavor to the meat and help to develop a golden color skin through caramelization.

Szechuan peppercorn has a unique flavor. You can use black pepper if you wish. Use a blender or mortar and pestle to grind the Szechuan peppercorn until it becomes a fine powder. Toast it in a pan for a while and cool it before using it.

Tips: Leave the chicken in the refrigerator overnight to get the best result.

2. How to create the crispy skin

Making crispy skin chicken

This this the most challenging part of the recipe

To make crispy skin chicken, the moisture of the chicken must be driven off. It’s hard to crisp the skin by relying on the high temperature to brown it.

The best way to achieve this is to marinate it with a little liquid, which in this case is only soy sauce and honey with no water is added. That is why we marinade the chicken in an upright position, uncovered and refrigerated it for at least 12 hours. the longer you do this, the crispier the skin will be when roasting.

Secondly, the fat beneath the skin must render and drain. That is why we separate the skin from the meat. By doing so, the fat will render and drip off from the skin and leave the skin dry and crisp during roasting. Carefully insert a small knife of use your fingers under the skin of the breasts and slowly working your way up to separate it from the breast. Be careful not to tear the skin.

Apply some additional salt and baking powder to the skin right before roasting. The extra salt is required because part of the salt from the marinade will not adhere to the chicken. Baking powder weakens peptide bonds in the skin, and help create ultra crisp and crackly skin.

The traditional method to make crispy roast chicken and duck is to roast it while hanging vertically in a wood-fired brick oven. The oil in between the skin and meat will render and drip out from the chicken. The skin will be crispy and crackly. This method is of course hard to replicate at home.

I did the following to replicate as close to the restaurant way with the limitation of the most home kitchen:

  • Keep the chicken as dry as possible. That is why I use minimum liquid (no water) to constitute the marinade.
  • Keep it vertically during marinating in the refrigerator to drip off any excess water. (I insert a can into the chicken cavity so that it stand vertically during marination.)
  • Blow dry by using a fan before roasting. (Note: I am living in a country of high humidity, it is OK as long as the skin is dry and feel like leather when touching). I find it helpful to leave the bird in front of an air conditioner vent. The airflow will help dry the bird faster.
  • Drain off the excess juice before turning the chicken over to roast the other side.

Tips 1: Marinade the chicken in an upright position, uncovered and refrigerated it for at least 12 hours.
Tips 2: Carefully separate skin from breast meat by inserting fingers of a small knife

Chinese roast chicken recipe

3. How to ensure the chicken is juicy and tender

Making a simple but perfect crispy roast chicken is a technique that should be in every home cook’s arsenal. But the reality is that perfection is difficult to achieve.

Roasting Chinese chicken
Roasting at 220 Celsius than 160 Celcius

Here are my tips to roast a tender and juicy chicken.

  • Truss the chicken. Trusting the chicken means to tie the legs and wings close to the body. It helps to have a more even cooking as the extended legs and wings tend to cook faster and turn dry. It also results in a more attractive appearance. You can also wrap the tips of the chicken wings with aluminum foil to prevent over roasting.
  • Roast the chicken at 220°C for the first 20 minutes to brown the chicken skin. Reduce the temperature to 160°C for another 90 minutes.
  • Flip over the chicken at least once for even roasting.
  • Baste the chicken with oil help to preserve the moisture of the chicken.
  • Let the chicken cool down before cutting into pieces. Be sure that the chopping board is dry. Turn the skin side on top and not sticking to the chopping board, as it may affect the crispiness of the skin as well as its appearance if it is the other way.

Crispy Chinese Roast Chicken Recipe

Yield: 1 chicken

Roast Chicken Recipe - Chinese Style

Roast Chicken Recipe - Chinese Style

This recipe used the traditional method to prepare the traditional Chinese roast chicken.

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients

Marinade for the chicken skin

Marinade for the chicken cavity

Marinade for skin after drying

Szechuan peppercorn salt

  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorn

Instructions

  1. Slaughter the chicken. Dress, eviscerate, and rinse. Pat dry and keep it vertical to drain off the water in the cavity. Let it stands for two hours.
  2. Carefully separate skin from breast meat by inserting the fingers or a small knife in between the skin and the breasts.
  3. Combine the salt, honey, light soy sauce and applied to the entire surface of the chicken.
  4. Apply the salt and Szechuan peppercorn mixture to the cavity of the chicken.
  5. Refrigerate the chicken in an upright position. Leave it uncovered for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours until the surface is completely dry.
  6. Apply additional salt plus some baking powder to the surface. Hang the chicken upright and allow the chicken to drip dry for an hour.
  7. Truss the chicken.
  8. Place the chicken on an oven rack. Rub some oil on the surface. Roast in the preheat oven at 220 degree Celsius for 20 minutes.
  9. Hold the chicken carefully to drain off any juice on the skin and inside the cavity.
  10. Reduce the heat to 160 degree Celsius for another one and a half hours.
  11. Cut the chicken into pieces and served with Szechuan peppercorn salt 椒盐.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

4 servings

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1183Total Fat: 66gSaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 41gCholesterol: 470mgSodium: 6079mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 2gSugar: 13gProtein: 122g

This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 5/28/2019

Three simple steps to prepare the Szechuan peppercorn salt

  1. Toast the peppercorns lightly over low heat in a pan for about ten minutes. Remove from the pan when it becomes totally dry, and the color turns darker slightly.
  2. Place the Szechuan peppercorn and salt in a food processor or mortar and pestle.
  3. Blend it until it becomes powdery. Sieve the salt and peppercorn mixture to remove the husk.

How is the original Cantonese crispy fried chicken prepared in restaurants?

Chinese roast chicken
Chinese roast chicken at restaurant

This style of dish is a favorite, and it differs from the typical convenient and quick method of cooking many Chinese dishes. The quick method used in restaurants and many Chinese cooks first involves boiling chicken in water and spices. These could include cinnamon, anise, pepper, and scallions and other herbs and spices. After cooking, the chicken is dried, coated with a syrupy sauce of maltose, honey, and vinegar, and then deep fried after the skin has been completely dry.
Lifting the bird will improve the air circulation around it and help it cook a bit more evenly

The origin of southern Chinese (Cantonese) cuisine

Chinese food
Pao (包) is the favorite Cantonese food for breakfast among the Chinese

Pao (包) is the favorite Cantonese food for breakfast among the Chinese
Southern Chinese or Cantonese cuisine comes from the Guangdong province of China. It is one of eight culinary traditions of Chinese cooking, and many immigrants from this area spread the culture outside its home country. In fact, when many Americans think about Chinese food, they are thinking of Cantonese cuisine.

This province, Guangdong, is a busy trading port. Because of this, Cantonese cuisines incorporates both local and essential ingredients. Pork, chicken, and beef are common types of meat, but other examples include snakes, ducks, and snails. It is not likely that many Americans will find the snake on the menu at a local Cantonese restaurant.

Since this province of China is near the sea, seafood is also a big part of the cuisine. Chefs prefer very fresh seafood, and some restaurants even keep tanks on the premises to keep fish and shellfish alive until right before they are ready to be cooked. This tradition continues in the West, but many Chinese restaurants just keep it with beautiful aquariums and not livestock tanks.

Restaurant dishes and street food

Southern China is one part of the world that made street food famous. Very commonly, street food dishes are noodle dishes. However, noodles are also served in homes and restaurants.

In Cantonese cuisine, noodles might either be boiled in soup or fried. Toppings for noodle dishes could include fish balls, shrimp balls, or slices of meat.

Chow mein is one of the most commonly recognized noodle dishes from Cantonese cooking. Typically, Hong Kong style chow mein is made with crispy deep fried noodles, but other restaurants use soft noodles.

The roast chicken recipe can be found in most restaurant menu instead, as it involves a longer preparation time that is inconvenient for most hawkers.

How is Cantonese food usually prepared?

Typical additional ingredients in dishes include sesame oil, soy sauce, salt, sugar, and rice wine. More sparingly used are Chinese five-spice powder, hot peppers, star anise, and black pepper. You may notice that I use some of these ingredients in my Chinese Roast Chicken recipe.

Typical cooking methods include stir-frying and steaming. These methods are usually quick and convenient. However, some dishes from this region are sauteed (shallow fried), deep fried, or braised. Most Chinese restaurants serve roast chicken and duck. Because of the significant number of ingredients and methods of cooking used in this style of cuisine, menus at Cantonese restaurants might be very diverse. Conservative Cantonese chefs use spices, but they strive to produce very balanced dishes. They do not believe in adding too many spices that might overwhelm the flavor of the basic dishes. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule with dishes that make liberal use of garlic.

Other related recipes

Here are some of the recipe similar to this Chinese roast chicken that you will find interesting.

Hainanese Chicken Rice was listed as one of the “world’s 50 best foods” by CNN. Many chicken stores in Malaysian also served the roast chicken with rice. Please find out how to prepare the chicken rice in my post.

The roast chicken legs recipe is my simple recipe if you do not intend to roast the whole chicken. This recipe shows you how to prepare the juiciest roast chicken legs we ever roasted. It is served with a unique Asian inspired vegetable side dish compliment.

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Leonard Banks

Wednesday 14th of April 2021

Hi kp, just trying your chinese roast chicken, I have got up to the part where I have made the two marinades, the only thing I am confused with is in the recipe it says HONEY SALT SOYA SOUCE FIVE SPICE. You also say salt when you are mixing the marinade, but when you actually marinade the chicken you say HONEY SUGAR SOYA SOUCE AND FIVE SPICE , so obviously I am bit confused is it salt or sugar, please help , please loving the recipes. Keep them coming please. All the best lennyboy.

KP Kwan

Wednesday 14th of April 2021

It is salt, honey, soy sauce, and five-spice powder. Sorry for my mistake that confuses you.

Rika Adhi Hapsari

Sunday 19th of April 2020

Hi KP i made the recipe exactly like your instruction, it turned out super crispy chicken skin and very juicy meat inside. Thumbs up! The only modification i made i roasted in a proper semi pro oven, so i managed to sit the chicken properly (not hang it like the real version though) maybe it helped the final result.

KP Kwan

Monday 20th of April 2020

Hi Rika, So glad to know that the recipe works, and you like it. It definitely helps if you have a good quality oven. KP Kwan

YASUA

Monday 27th of January 2020

Amazing website and Delicious recipe

YASUA

Wednesday 8th of January 2020

Delicious recipe

KP Kwan

Friday 10th of January 2020

Thank you :)

Carl

Tuesday 17th of December 2019

Hi KP Kwan, Thank you - This looks like an interesting recipe, im going to try it over Christmas..

There are western style dishes that use similar methods of separating, seasoning and drying to make the skin crispy. But i woud like to ask - Is there any reason you marinated the chicken first before loosening the skin ? and not the other way round ?

KP Kwan

Tuesday 17th of December 2019

You are welcome. Merry Christmas!

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