Friday, February 14, 2014


We have had the coldest, snowiest , and now windiest couple of days, that it seemed like a great idea to roast some chicken in the fireplace. I know that sounds really good!  It is my favorite way of cooking chicken because it is so crispy outside and nice and moist inside . Plus you get a tiny bit of a smokey flavor.
  The first thing I do of course, is to light the fire in my old kitchen fireplace. I let it get nice and hot,with lots of coals. That usually takes about an hour. Then I take out my wonderful BIG tin roaster, that my friend, Bill McMillen , made for me. Another name for them is Reflector oven or Tin kitchen.

 Billy  made it a bit larger then the standard Tin Roaster, so I could roast a turkey or two chickens in it. I have an antique one that I used to use, but this one is much better. The reason for that is, it is nice and shiney. The heat can reflect off the shiney tin and roast the chicken or what ever you are roasting, must quicker and evenly. You can line an antique one with tin foil, I suppose .
 Okay, so now that the fire is going, I next get my chicken ready. I  slide the birds onto the spit  and then skewer them onto it. I tie up the legs. Most of the time I like to keep it simple, since the fire will flavor the chicken anyway. I simply rub some olive oil on and sprinkle salt over it. Done. Skewer it and then roast. Today, however, I thought I would do a little more prep. I melted some butter in a small sauce pan and added some Madeira to the butter to create a butter sauce. I also added some sage and parsley . I then loosened the skin a little on the chicken and spooned some of this sauce in and under the skin. I poured the rest over the chicken . You could also save a bit to baste with if you wanted. I do this with my turkeys and it makes a delicious gravy when you use the drippings.  A little sea salt sprinkled on the outside of the chickens and then you are ready to place them into the reflector oven.

 I like facing the breast or top of the chicken toward the fire first , but I don't think it matters. You will notice that on the side of the tin kitchen, there are some little holes, which the spit will fit into . This is how you rotate the bird or birds. I do it about every 15 or 20 minutes. The door on the back of the oven will open up so you can see what is going on. I am always amazed at how quickly my chicken cooks. I usually roast a good size chicken and they take about an hour and 15 minutes. I just keep checking toward the end to make sure they are done and not pink inside the legs. I have taken them out of the tin kitchen and slid a knife inside the leg to see if the juices run clear. I guess you could also use a thermometer to check. If it still needs a little more time, I simply put them back in and roast a little longer.

 About 15 years ago, I went to Old Sturbridge Village and saw a kit they had for roasting chicken on a string. We were living in a house built in 1799 , that had a smaller but great kitchen fireplace. Perfect for trying out this kit. I was new at this and hadn't bought a tin roaster yet, so I thought this would be a great way to get my feet wet , so to speak.  At the time,  my nephew, Justin , was about 12 years old and he used to get off the school bus in front of my house. He would usually stop and come in to say hi before walking the 1/2 mile to his house. I always had cookies or something that I was baking that I would give him to munch on while he walked home. This particular day I was determined to try out this chicken on a string thing and had hammered a nice big rosehead nail in the middle under the mantel . Then I strung up the chicken, according to the directions, and hung it from the nail. The fire was going nicely and I had twisted the string so that the bird was slowly turning in front of the fire. So Exciting!!!!  Now you have to understand that my children were very used to my crazy obsession with the past and as they walked into the house, they hardly even glanced at what I was doing. I  even remember my daughter asking casually if THAT is for dinner. I said excitedly ,"Yes it is , do you want to help?" No Mom, as she went up stairs. She also rolled her eyes.

  I was happily watching my chicken when I realized someone was standing behind me. There was my nephew with the most horrified look on his face. "Aunt Peggy, what is that ?", he quietly asked.
Dinner! You want to stay?  I think he left skid marks on my floor, as he ran out the door.  I waited about 20 minutes and then the phone rang. It was my Sister calling to ask what her son was talking about.  "What are you doing to a chicken?" she asked. I explained. Since then I have cooked many chickens and yum is what they say!









  1. So interesting, I swear I could smell that chicken roasting. MMMMMMgood!

    1. It does smell so good when it is roasting! I love doing this knowing that!

  2. Boy that looks super good. Wonderful way to make chicken. Your husband looks happy too.

  3. How wonderful. I would love to be able to do this. Roast Chicken is my very favorite thing. LOVE your home and your post. Wishing you a joy filled day, doreen

  4. What a wonderful way to spend a cold winters day ~ I have a tin kitchen, also and cook several times a year. It's the best feeling. Stay warm, happy and keep the fire going.

  5. Thank you for a beautiful post. You are an artist with your cooking too!

  6. Dear Peggy,

    Your chickens and your meal look delicious! So delightful and cozy beside the fire!

    Your friends,
    Diane and daughter Sarah, and the Dolls at Corgyncombe

  7. Diane, I have to say that the food you cook and picture on your blog , looks so delicious and beautiful!!!

  8. *****thanks for such a great post...we cook all the time in our fireplaces, but with a house full
    of young women, it wasn't always easy. least we didn't make them dress in period
    costume, but now they appreciate the years of living with mom and dad recreating 18th century life. the grandchildren are now becoming very curious themselves. i think that sturbridge is very underappreciated, especially by people from outside of the region. we used to take fireplace cooking with them and have had a great membership for thirty plus years. you don't have to publish this, but thanks for reading and writing!!! fellow friends in newburyport.