The First Meal Emeril Lagasse Recommends For Beginner Chefs

When you're just starting out in the wide world of cooking, it can be important to temper your expectations. The culinary craft is one that can take years of training to master. You can't expect to nail certain dishes on the first try, but it helps to start with the right ones. 

Mastering a well-made salad, soup, grilled cheese, or pasta dish can be a great way to get some culinary experience under your belt. Celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse tells Food & Wine that every beginner cook's list of dishes to master should include a roast chicken. It makes sense considering that chicken is the most popular meat in the U.S., and a nice chicken with a batch of roasted vegetables makes for a great one-pot meal that can feed a small family.

But before you follow Lagasse's advice and go buy a whole chicken, there are a lot of elements to consider. Just like there's more than one way to crack an egg, there are a lot of different ways to roast a chicken. Don't let that scare you off though. All it takes is a little practice, and you'll feel like a master chef in no time. 

Roasting a chicken

Mastering a whole roast chicken is an admirable feat for any beginner chef. SLATE credits Julia Child as saying, "the real test of a good chef is a perfectly roasted chicken," so if you're going to pass Child's test you'll need to decide on your preferred cooking method. And there are quite a few to choose from.

Emeril Lagasse tells Food & Wine that his favorite preparation is to cook the vegetables and chicken together in a single roasting pan for about an hour. The vegetables are blanched first so that they cook evenly, and he gives the chicken a thorough coating of seasonings to make sure that the bird is loaded with flavor. He adds aromatics like thyme and rosemary inside the chicken as well. He says, "Perfecting a roast chicken with vegetables is an art." Perhaps so.

If you're just starting out in the world of food though, this dish can be a great introduction to trying out lots of different recipes and finding what works best for you. You can even build around what's in your kitchen, and how much time you usually have to devote to this new passion.

How to get the crispiest skin

One thing that no good roast chicken should go without is a golden-brown crispy skin. Not only is this essential to a picture-perfect presentation, but it tastes heavenly too, and contrasts with the rich, juicy bites of the meat.

One essential step for perfectly crisp chicken skin is to let the bird rest uncovered in the refrigerator before cooking. The key to crisp skin is a dry surface. By letting the chicken rest uncovered you're able to dry it out slightly before it cooks. Best of all, this step doesn't add any extra cooking steps. It just takes a bit of foresight to make it work.

If you really want to go for next-level crispy skin though, there are also a few extra steps you can take. Poking holes in the chicken's surface is one of the easiest ways to help crisp up the skin. It allows for rendered fat to come through the surface, and essentially fry the skin while it cooks. You can also use a rub of baking soda and salt to help further dry out the skin, and start breaking down the proteins. This is similar to the 'velvet' effect used to create juicy stir-fried meats and will help keep the meat moist as well.

With these hacks and a little practice, you'll feel like a master chef in no time.