At first glance it may seem unnecessary, but trussing a chicken for roasting ensures delicious, evenly-cooked poultry that looks as good as it tastes. Here I’ll show you how to truss a chicken using twine, to make your best roast chicken yet.
As a youngster, I would always watch my mom work her magic with the Thanksgiving turkey, tying it up into a picture-perfect roast. Now I realize that it’s actually really easy. It takes some practice, but the best roast turkey and homemade rotisserie chicken is worth learning how to truss.
If you love roasted chicken as much as my family, consider learning this easy method. Trussing can be done a number of ways, but the most popular way is to use kitchen twine. Trussing a rotisserie chicken is especially important, because it holds everything in place as it cooks.
By the way, I perfected the art of making my own rotisserie chicken, using a homemade rotisserie chicken seasoning blend. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate your first trussing!
What is trussing?
Basically, trussing means tying poultry (turkey, chicken, capon, or Cornish game hen) into a compact little bundle that ensures you’ll get a beautiful, table-worthy roasted bird that’s evenly cooked.
Why truss a chicken?
Trussing a chicken helps ensure that everything cooks evenly — and that the wings and legs don’t burn.
When you don’t truss your chicken, the breast cavity can stay open allowing too much hot air to circulate inside of it. That dries out the breast before the thighs and legs are properly cooked.
If you want juicy white meat and properly cooked thighs and legs, truss the chicken before roasting for even cooking.
But really–do I have to truss a chicken?
Trussing a chicken isn’t an absolute must, in certain situations. For example, sometimes I roast a chicken with a whole lemon or shallot pushed inside the cavity. This helps the breast meat stay moist almost as well as trussing.
I especially love using a lemon to stuff a roasted chicken. First, I roll the lemon firmly on the counter to loosen up the juice, then I pierce it with the tip of a paring knife a few times. As the chicken roasts, the lemon juice gives everything such great flavor.
What can I use to truss a chicken?
Standard kitchen twine, or butcher’s twine, works best. It’s plain, unbleached cotton twine that’s strong enough to hold a chicken together but won’t burn, melt or otherwise ruin your roast. If I don’t forget, I usually ask my butcher for a long piece when I visit, so I don’t run out.
Even if you don’t have any kitchen twine, there are a few different things that will allow you to truss a chicken without string.
Dental floss: Unwaxed, unflavored dental floss can be used to truss a chicken. (It also cuts cake layers like a dream!)
Aluminum foil: A length of aluminum foil can be twisted into a rope to wrap around the chicken.
Toothpicks or skewers: Wooden toothpicks or skewers, soaked in water to prevent burning, can be poked into the chicken skin and secured, much like a pin.
If none of these work, you can simply go without. Wrapping the wing tips with some foil keeps the wings from burning.
Can I use elastic ties to truss a chicken?
Please be super careful about using elastic, rubber, plastic, or anything out of the ordinary to truss a chicken or turkey. These items can catch on fire or introduce harmful chemicals into the food you’re making.
How to truss a chicken:
First, pat the bird dry and place it on a clean work surface. Position the chicken breast side up with the legs facing you.
Next, if you have an average-sized chicken, cut yourself about three feet of twine. You might not need that much, but it’s better to have a little too much than not enough.
Place the chicken breast-side up, and run the center of the string under the neck in the front of the bird. 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 general area so it’s far enough down.
Bring the string up towards the wings and legs.
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.
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. Note that this isn’t a solid knot – you just want to be able to tighten up on the string.
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.
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.
You did it! Now you’re ready to roast. Maybe this is a good time to make my Pesto Roasted Chicken….
Can you truss a chicken without using butcher’s twine or anything at all?
Maybe you’ve seen this done before with grocery store rotisserie chickens. It’s a nice way to use the skin of the bird to keep the legs close to the body.
How to truss a chicken using the stringless trussing method:
- If you look at the cavity of the chicken, you should see two skin flaps on either side of the cavity, close to the legs.
- Take a sharp paring knife and cut a small slit in the center of each flap, going through the skin. Use your finger if necessary to widen the hole. Your finger should just be able to fit in each slit.
- Next, tuck the end of each leg into the flap on the opposite side. When you’re finished, the legs should be crossed over each other and held tight against the body of the bird.
- Now, grab the wing by the tip, twist it away from you, and fold the tips of the wings behind the back so the weight of the bird holds them in place while everything cooks. How easy was that?
How to Truss a Chicken
- 1 (3-5 pound) chicken
- 3 feet unbleached cotton butcher's twine
- Place the chicken breast-side up, and run the center of the string under the neck in the front of the bird.
- Bring the string up towards the wings and legs.
- 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.
- 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. Note that this is NOT a solid knot - we just want to be able to tighten up on the string.
- 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.
- 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.
- Snip the extra ends of string, and discard them.