Trussing a chicken (or any other bird) ensures that the legs and wings are firmly fastened against the body. This helps the chicken maintain its shape and cook evenly without drying out any of the extremities.
This basic form of trussing is dead easy, and takes less than a minute once you know how. The Instructable has enough pictures to make sure you nail it on your first try.
I used to think trussing was a bunch of fiddly nonsense, but once we started quick-roasting chickens in the oven it became an absolute necessity - the entire bird comes out perfectly in under 45 minutes when properly trussed. Check out the quick roast chicken Instructable, and use it as an excuse to give trussing a shot.
Step 1: Gather Tools and Ingredients
- one chicken (or other bird)
- a clean (and cleanable) surface to work on (I use the interior of the butcher paper the chicken came in)
- a piece of clean natural kitchen twine, long enough to loosely wrap around the entire chicken without touching1, at least 30 inches (cotton, hemp, etc - nothing that will melt, discolor, or otherwise isn't fit for contact with food or heat)
- soap and water to clean yourself up
- bleach to clean any bits of counter contaminated with raw chicken
1 The first few times you do this, start with a longer piece than you think necessary; you can always cut the extra ends off.
Step 2: Loop Around Front
Place the chicken breast-side up, and run the center of the string under the neck in the front of the bird.
Consider the neck more of a guideline - you don't have to actually loop it under the neck (it may have been cut off too short anyway) but just be sure to get your string in that vicinity so it's far enough down.
Bring the string up towards the wings and legs.
Step 3: Tuck Wings
Use your thumbs to tuck the wings in as you bring the string around towards the legs. Keep the string tight to force the wings firmly against the body. The string should roughly follow the contours of the chicken breast.
You can do all sorts of fancy wing-tuck procedures, but I don't bother - the goal is to get these delicate bits attached to the body of the chicken so they aren't burned before the rest of the chicken cooks. Do as you prefer. Just create one large thermal mass and you're set.
Step 4: Tie (Chicken Push-up Bra!)
Bring the string around between leg and breast, then give it one overhand knot and pull tight. The wings will be solidly pinned to the body, and the chicken breast will pop up - much like you've just given it an underwire push-up bra1.
Note that this is NOT a solid knot - we just want to be able to tighten up on the string.
1(Silly, yes, but it helped me remember how to do this when I was learning.)
Step 5: Tie Legs
This is actually quite simple, just hard to describe in words. Check out the pictures and photonotes for details.
Bring the ends of string down between the chicken's legs, then cross the legs at the "ankles" above/behind the point of the chicken breast. Make sure your previous knot is still pulled tight. (You could turn it into a square knot if you need to, but I just keep tension on it during this next part.)
Separate the strings, loop them around the outside of the chicken ankles, then tie a square knot to finish it off. The legs should now be cinched in close to the body.
Step 6: Trim and Finish
Snip the extra ends of string, and throw them out. I use a knife because it's easier to clean than scissors.
Now you have a lovely trussed chicken - wasn't that easy? Proceed with roasting.