Who would’ve guessed that the secret to the juiciest, most tender chicken breast you’ve ever tasted was a brick? Not a fancy culinary instrument that happens to be called a brick, but an actual brick, the type used to build houses and fireplaces and to landscape yards. A brick set on top of a cooking chicken applies just enough pressure to push the bird against the hot pan, crisping up the skin and cooking all the meat evenly and quickly before it dries out. The bird comes out juicy and tender on the inside, crispy and golden on the outside.
As long as you have a few bricks laying around, the technique couldn’t be easier. First, remove the backbone from the chicken so the bird can be splayed out flat. With a pair of kitchen shears, this is quick work. Next, rub the chicken down with something tasty. In this case, a smoky, herbal rub made from thyme, oregano, garlic and smoked paprika add tons of flavor. You can go this route, or use any of your own favorite rubs or marinades.
Now, it’s time for the bricks to work their magic. Heat an ovenproof skillet on the stove and set the chicken in it, skin side down. Put the bricks on top and leave it alone for 6-8 minutes. Transfer the skillet to a hot oven and leave the chicken alone again, with bricks on top, for 20 minutes or so. Flip the bird, let it cook a little longer, and you’re minutes away from tasting a culinary miracle. The chicken breasts are not only moist, they’re down right succulent. The rest of the bird is amazing too. You might as well make room in your kitchen cupboard now to permanently store two bricks. After trying this recipe, you’ll never want to roast chicken any other way.
In a bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of the oil with the thyme, oregano, garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Set the chicken on a cutting board breast side down.
Starting at the tail, use a knife or better yet, kitchen shears, to cut all the way down the back, keeping as close to the backbone as you can. Then, cut down the other side of the backbone, splitting the chicken open. Remove the backbone.
Spread the chicken open, lightly pressing down to flatten it. Rub the spice mixture all over the chicken, getting some under the skin and directly onto the meat.
Preheat oven to 400 °F (204 °C)
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is really hot, add the chicken skin side down and place the bricks on top to push the bird down against the skillet. You can get away with using one brick if the chicken is small, but larger birds usually need two bricks.
Cook until the skin is golden brown, 6-8 minutes (it’s okay to take the bricks off and peek).
Put the skillet in the oven and roast the chicken with the bricks on top for 25 minutes. Take off the bricks and turn the chicken over. Put the bricks back on and roast another 10 or so minutes until the chicken is done. The juices should run clear when you pierce the bird with a fork; you can also stab it with a thermometer and make sure it reads at least 165 °F (74 °C).