Let’s learn how to cook enough chicken for a large group or party. Ok, it is not Cooking For Two but still useful and you can do this at home.
Editor’s Note: Originally Published June 12, 2011. Updated with updated text, added material, and re-edited photos.
This is something you can do, and it wasn’t that hard. We were hosting a large retirement party for several family friends. It was a potluck type affair, but we felt we should provide a “main course” of meat.
So my “what I wanted” list:
1) Not to make anyone sick. Any “mass cooking” can easily lead to food poisoning. Well, not at my house!
2) Not too much work. There was a lot of other things that needed attention also.
3) Had to have good taste and be able to be kept warm.
After flirting with several plans that involved:
1) Grilling only – maybe not safe enough to get the right temp on all the chicken without a lot of continuous attention.
2) Oven baking the day ahead and then crisp up on the grill the next day. This was too fussy but did work out well in trial runs. Would work well for 20 to 30 but not 100. The grilling took too much direct time.
3) But finally, the oven won the day. Easy to control the outcome, being sure to get to a safe internal temperature and staying moist.
I was quite happy with the results. Tasty and moist.
Pro Tips: Recipe Notes for Chicken for a Hundred
1) Start with 45 to 50 pounds of chicken. Half split breast and half drumsticks.
2) Trim the breast and cut into hand eating friendly sizes (thirds or quarters).
3) Spice with salt, pepper, garlic powder and a little cayenne.
4) Oven bake the breast pieces to 165 and the drummies to 180.
5) Keep warm in a large roster. You will need a rack in the bottom, or the draining moisture will pool with the bottom layer will be affected.
I had tried the drumsticks at 165-170, and the connective tissue was still intact, and they were not tender. 180 gives good results. The chicken breasts are good at 165.
It took about 1/2 hour trim and cut the chicken. The breast had to have the rib section cut off, any visible fat removed and then cut into 3-4 pieces each depending on the size.
I did about 50 pounds that makes about 150 pieces total pieces. I did this earlier in the day so it would be ready when needed.
I cooked on racks to get as much crispness as possible. I did two pans at a time in the convection oven and one at a time in the regular oven.
I consider racks almost required for this.
Once cooked, the chicken needs to be kept above 140 degrees or below 40 degrees or you are risking food poisoning.
What you need is a “roaster.”
Think of a roaster as a cross between a countertop oven and crockpot. Roasters are first much bigger than the crockpot. Most are 16 to 24 quarts, so they hold masses of food. The traditional picture of roasters always has a huge turkey in them cooked to perfection.
It is the size that makes this appliance both very useful when you need the size and why you don’t see them much anymore since most people don’t need that size. Most but not all, roasters go from 150 to 400 plus. Some will have even wider range.
Second and most important here, the temperature control is totally different. In a crockpot, you have low and high. The low usually aiming for 205-210 (just under boiling) and gets there in 5-8 hours. High is the same temperature but faster so more aggressive. Plus some crock pots run hotter than that. Both of those settings would continue cooking the chicken. Not what we want.
Some crockpots have a “keep warm” setting that might do, but the exact temperature varies by manufacturer. Some will be 145-165 (good kind of) Some will be 185 (bad for us here). Cooking will continue in the chicken if above 155.
We want to keep the chicken in “the safety zone” which is above 140 for safety. Also, you want to serve hot chicken. But you don’t want it to continue to cook. So 150 is a great setting for our needs, and the chicken can stay there for hours safely and not continue to cook.
Most roasters cost $25-$50 and are quite useful if you have parties. Many use them as an oven during the summer due to the low energy consumption. Some newer roasters don’t go under 200 degrees so check out the product closely before you buy.
This recipe has lead to several other.
Other Recipes You Can Do For Large Groups
Pat dry the chicken. Trim the breast of rib section and then cut into 3-4 pieces each. Check the drumsticks for any loose bone and extra skin. We do not wash chicken anymore. See Chicken… To Rinse or Not To Rinse?
You can now cover and refrigerate or proceed to cook.
Preheat ovens to 425. Use convection if you have it but use 425 either way. It will be a little faster with convection. Prep cooking pans. Line the pans with foil. Use a rack if you have them and spray heavy with PAM.
Mix seasoning and place in shaker with large holes. I’m not hand sprinkling 150 pieces of chicken.
Season to your taste. I now use my Homemade Everyday Seasoning Salt – 7:2:1 Mix (and 7:2:2) and add a touch of cayenne pepper if you want. The 7:2:2 stands for kosher salt:pepper:granular garlic powder.
Place on prepared pans and sprinkle seasoning on all sides.
Place in 425-degree oven. I put two trays in the convection oven and one try in the non-convection oven. Both set at 425. Check the temp at 30 minutes. Aim for 165 on the biggest breast pieces and 180 plus on the drumsticks. Most of the time this was 35 minutes.
If using two trays in an oven, at about 20 minutes into cooking, rotate the trays top to bottom and 180 degrees.
Place in a large roster preheated to 150 with a rack in the bottom.
Originally Published June 12, 2011