Do You Actually Need to Truss a Chicken?
Every now and again, I have a strong desire to post up in my kitchen for hours on a Sunday and slow roast a chicken. In my latest episode of this incredible way to get a head start on the week, I realized something as I was about to carve into my beautifully crispy and succulent bird—I didn’t truss it. To be honest, as I was prepping the chicken and stuffing the cavity, the thought to do so never even occurred to me...OOPS. Yet, as I picked apart my whole-roasted chicken, I found no flaws in the final product. Which leads me to my current moral dilemma...to truss or not to truss?
Trussing a chicken is the act of tying up the limbs in a way that holds the bird together and promotes even cooking. According to Time Inc. Food Studios recipe developer Robin Bashinsky, while some trussing techniques involve wrapping twine around the whole body, including tucking the wings up front, you can also simply cross the thigh bones, and tie them together. By intentionally lifting and securing the thigh bones in this manner, the idea is that the meat in between the thigh bone and the cavity (AKA the section that takes the longest to cook) will be finished around the same time as the breasts.
Some home cooks swear that if the thigh bones aren’t trussed, then it’s nearly impossible to settle on a bake time where all parts of the chicken are cooked to perfection. While we’re on the topic of uneven cooking, let me just go ahead and say that none of this logic applies to turkey. Because it is a significantly larger bird, the cook time discrepancy between a breast and thigh could be upwards of 15 to 20 minutes, according to Bashinsky. Plus, the cavity is inherently way bigger so it’s far more prone to leakage. So in the case of the turkey, trussing is a must.
Another reason some suggest trussing is because if you’ve stuffed the cavity of your chicken, fastening the thigh bones together will ensure that all of those aromatics and flavors will be properly sealed in throughout the entirety of the cooking process, says Bashinsky. You’re way more likely to lose a couple cloves of garlic or lemon slices if the cavity is gaping open in the oven. The good news about trussing: Even though it sounds a little intimidating, you don’t need to have professional kitchen twine to get the job done. Unflavored floss, a rubber band, a strip of aluminum foil, a new hair tie—you name it. If it can hold the bones together and it’s okay that it touches your meat, then it’s just fine. You’re not going to be consuming it, so don’t sweat the binding material too much.
All these pros to say, I did not truss my chicken, and my refined palate and often times harsh culinary criticism on myself had no objections. Every section was fully cooked, and the breasts did not reach a point of distasteful dryness. Plus, my cavity was stuffed to the brim, and there was, by the good grace of God, no spillage. So, what’s the takeaway? Do I need to truss or what?!
No—you don’t have to truss your chicken.* However, if you’re worried about uneven cooking or keeping the cavity fillings secured, then it is a very useful technique to employ. If looks are a priority, a trussed bird coming out of the oven, with its thighs positioned ever-so-majestically as opposed to strewn out of control, is way more impressive. In my scenario, I don’t give AF about how my chicken looks because it is for me, myself, and I—and sometimes, I like to live on the edge (read: I’m lazy). So if I had to make a chicken again tomorrow, I’d probably skip the trussing. But, you do you.
*You don’t have to do anything. Live your poultry truth.