Knowing how to truss chicken can be a big help in the kitchen. You can definitely get by without knowing how. But if you know how to truss a chicken, you suddenly have a bunch more cooking techniques available to you.
For example, when I roast a chicken, I like to start it roasting breast side down and then flip it over during the last third of the cooking time – it keeps the breast nice and juicy. But flipping an untrussed chicken can be a bit of a disaster. Legs and wings, they’re just waiting to fall off!
Or a rotisserie chicken… trussing the bird is really important, or the wings and legs will burn before the rest of the chicken is cooked.
In this article, I’ll tell you all about trussing chicken. First, I’ll go over the various reasons why you would want to truss a chicken, as well as situations where you wouldn’t want to! Then, I’ll give a step-by-step instructions for trussing chicken.
Why Truss Chicken?
I like learning new cooking techniques. I think it’s a lot of fun. And I like using them when I know it’ll make a difference. But I’m not usually a fan of adding unnecessary steps when I’m cooking.
With practice, trussing a chicken doesn’t take all that long, but it’s still an extra step. So why do you want to do it?
Trussing: The Good
Well, here are a few good reasons to learn to truss chicken:
- Because of the way the legs cover the breast when you truss chicken, the breast meat is protected from drying out and ends up a lot juicier.
- For larger birds, trussing helps the meat cook more evenly, so that everything is ready at the same time. That means the whole chicken is just perfect!
- Trussing the bird means that you don’t have any loose limbs flopping around. So, if you need to move the chicken around or flip it over, you won’t lose a leg or a wing.
- A trussed chicken will keep its shape while cooking and it’ll just look a lot better. But it’s not just looks – it’ll be easier to carve, too!
- If you want to use a rotisserie to cook the chicken, you need to truss it or the chicken will cook unevenly and the legs and wings will burn.
Trussing: The Bad
But, like anything, trussing isn’t perfect. There are a few downsides:
- Trussing chicken causes the legs to cook a bit more slowly. On bigger birds, it’s a good thing, but on a smaller bird it could mean that the breasts will cook faster than the legs and end up dry.
- When you truss chicken, less of the skin is exposed to the oven’s heat, which means that you’ll have a bit less crispy skin. Not a whole lot less, but if that’s your very favorite part, keep that in mind.
- It’s an extra step. With practice, you won’t have any trouble trussing a chicken, but we’re all in a rush sometimes!
Trussing: The Bottom Line
Here’s my advice. If you have the time, go ahead and truss the chicken, unless it’s a very small bird of about 2 or 3 lbs. But there are a few situations where you really don’t need to. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- If presentation isn’t an issue, for example if you’re going to carve the chicken before bringing it to the table, trussing is less of an issue.
- If you’re going to slow cook the chicken, at 200F or 300F, the bird will cook evenly whether you truss it or not.
- Don’t truss chicken for the very first time when you have 10 guests coming over and you only have an hour and a half to prepare and cook the chicken. It takes a bit of getting used to, so it’s best to practice a few times before trying it out when time is short. Remember, one of the keys to loving cooking is to not be stressed out when you do it!
How To Truss Chicken?
Okay! Now that you’ve decided that it’s worth taking the time to learn to truss chicken, you need to know how to do it!
A little tip before we get started: you may want to print out this page or have the instructions in front of you the first few times you do it. It’s pretty easy to forget what to do!
What You Need
First things first: the materials you need!
- One piece of kitchen twine, about 3 or 4 times the length of the chicken.
- Kitchen twine is a string made out of cotton or linen. Since it’ll be in contact with your food, it has to be non-toxic. It also needs to be heat-resistant, which is why certain synthetic materials like polyester just don’t work for kitchen twine.
- One chicken! Any size chicken will do. And remember, trussing is the last thing you do when getting your chicken ready.
- Trussing hides some of the skin, so get your seasonings on before you truss!
- You won’t be able to stuff the chicken after you truss it, so be sure to do that first.
And that’s it!
How To Do It
Now that you have everything you need, it’s time to truss up that bird and get it ready to cook! Here’s how to truss a chicken:
With the breast side up, line up the middle of your piece of twine with the chicken’s tail and tie a knot around the tail. You don’t actually need to knot it, but I find it makes the trussing a bit easier.
Make a loop around each drumstick.
Pull them close together and tie a knot. Again, the knot isn’t necessary but can make the whole trussing process easier, especially at first.
Keeping the twine tight around the chicken, pass each half of the twine through the wing.
Tuck the wings under the chicken so that they’re holding down the twine.
Flip the chicken over so that it’s breast side down. Tie the twine around the neck so that it’s holding down the wings. Make sure the knot is secure, then cut off any excess string.
And now you have a nicely trussed chicken that will cook nice and evenly!
One more thing… there’s more than one way to truss a chicken! I presented this one because it works well for me, but everyone is different, and you should do what works best for you!
If you’d like to try a different technique, there’s a great video of Alton Brown’s show “Good Eats” on the Food Network’s website. He shows how to truss a turkey, which is pretty similar to trussing chicken, although because of the size difference his method won’t work as well on smaller birds.