Chicken Gets Frisky When You Give It Whiskey

The other day I Tweeted a recipe and people really dug it. It’s not so much a recipe as it is an idea: “Next time you take a roast chicken out of the pan, pour in a glug of Maker’s Mark and whisk in 3 Tbs butter on high heat. You’re welcome.”

The truth was I’d only done it once before and liked it so much, I wrote that Tweet. Then after writing that Tweet I felt inspired to do it again and take pictures. That’s how this post was born.

Roasting a chicken is like using a credit card that gives you bonus miles. Yes the thing happens that you want to have happen; the process produces a scrumptious bird:


In this particular case, all I did was take the chicken out of the packaging, pull out the sack in the middle, pat everything dry with paper towels, sprinkle it all over with salt and pepper and put it in a metal All-Clad skillet. No trussing, no fussing. I put some sliced butter (2 tablespoons worth) on top of the breast and placed the whole thing into a 475 oven. After 20 minutes, I lowered to 425 and roasted for 40 minutes more (it was over 4 pounds) until it looked like it does in the picture above and an InstaRead thermometer inserted between leg and thigh said 170.

I chose that skillet for the bonus miles. See, if you roast in a roasting pan surrounded by vegetables–like in Thomas Keller’s Roast Chicken–those bonus miles (ok let’s drop this metaphor; I’m talking about caramelized chicken bits and juices) go into the vegetables and the vegetables become the best part.

Here, I wanted to make an awesome sauce so I used a skillet so all those bits would be there at the bottom of the pan when I removed the chicken.


Before turning the flame on (you’ve got to be careful) I poured in about 1/2 a cup of Maker’s Mark.


Then I turned up the heat and started scraping. When it started bubbling, I added 3 tablespoons butter:


I whisked that in and the butter thickened everything, making a sauce.


Meanwhile, I’d roasted some broccoli per The Best Broccoli of Your Life and after cutting apart the chicken, I plated everything, pouring a generous amount of the Whiskey Sauce over the whole shebang:


People, this is a very good dinner. The whiskey sauce is almost sweet (Craig likened it to chocolate) but really, because it’s savory, it has great depth of flavor. It transforms a humdrum dinner into something you’ll be craving night after night after night.

Just don’t set your kitchen on fire like someone on Twitter almost did. Add that whiskey off the heat and save a sip or two for yourself. Then maybe you’ll get frisky too.

12 thoughts on “Chicken Gets Frisky When You Give It Whiskey”

  1. Whiskey aside, I’m not sure why I don’t use a skillet more often for chicken-roasting. Easier for saucing, as you demonstrate and easier to wash in the sink than a big roasting pan that a 4-5lb little chicken rarely needs anyway. Thanks!

  2. Chicken in a skillet is my favorite way to cook it because it makes gravy a cinch. I haven’t used a roasting pan in ages (okay, probably because I’m only cooking for two, but you can’t beat the convenience of skillet roasting!)

  3. Do you reckon that a Scottish whisky would also work well or is Makers Mark specific for a reason? (I have never had Maker’s Mark before as it’s not the most common in Europe).

    If using a Scotch or other bourbon, what would you be looking for?

    1. Adam may have another answer but my immediate guess is that you want a bourbon– not a Scotch or an Irish whisky– for the sweetness that it imparts. I would guess that any bourbon type of whiskey would do for this, if you can find it. Maker’s is a pretty nice brand and, while I wouldn’t recommend that you go and drink just whatever bourbon you can find, cooking with it seems a little less exacting. If you can’t find bourbon, maaaaybe a sweeter Irish whisky? Definitely not a Scotch.

      1. Thanks Nina for chiming in. Truthfully, Vincent, I don’t drink a lot of Whiskey but Craig does and he had Maker’s Mark laying around so that’s what I used. I’d say play around and see what you like!

  4. I made this for dinner tonight and loved it! I may dial back the amount of butter, though, for a healthier approach. (I did use a cheaper brand of bourbon – no matter, it was delicious.) Paired with the broccoli and brown rice, it was a great, easy meal. I’ll never roast a small chicken in anything but a skillet! I haven’t done the dishes yet but I am not dreading it as much as I would if I had a big roasting pan sitting in there.

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