Adding orange zest to the brine and reducing fresh orange juice to a sweet, sticky glaze gives this dish bold, bright orange flavor.
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS: Bright, tangy orange-glazed chicken wins points for simplicity, but the recipes we tested produced painfully sweet glazes, soggy skin, and dry meat. To ensure crisp skin, we placed the chicken breasts in a skillet and weighed them down with a heavy saucepan. The extra weight pressed out the fat from under the skin, allowing the skin to crisp. To infuse the chicken with both moisture and orange flavor, we processed salt with grated orange zest and used it to brine the chicken before cooking. For a bright, citrusy glaze that wasn’t too sweet, we reduced orange juice with a little sugar and a pinch of cayenne. The fat will render best if you pat the chicken thoroughly dry after removing it from the brine. Brining is crucial to the flavor of this dish; do not omit this step and do not use kosher chicken here. In step 2, weight the saucepan with a 28-ounce can or two 15-ounce cans. See the sidebar that follows the recipe.
You will need to make ORANGE-GLAZED CHICKEN
¼ cup salt
4 teaspoons grated orange zest plus ⅓ cup juice
2 (12-ounce) bone-in split chicken breasts, trimmed and halved crosswise
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon cornstarch
Pinch cayenne pepper
1. Process salt and 3¾ teaspoons orange zest together in food processor until zest is finely ground, about 10 seconds. Dissolve orange salt in 1 quart cold water in large container. Submerge chicken in brine, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Remove chicken from brine and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Wrap bottom of large saucepan with aluminum foil, then place 1 large can or 2 smaller cans inside. Heat oil in 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Lay chicken skin side down in skillet and weigh down with prepared saucepan. Cook chicken until skin is well browned and crisp, 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Remove saucepan and flip chicken skin side up. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, without weight, until chicken registers 160 degrees, 5 to 10 minutes; transfer to plate. Pour off fat from skillet.
4. Meanwhile, whisk orange juice, sugar, cornstarch, cayenne, and remaining ¼ teaspoon orange zest together in bowl. Add orange juice mixture to now-empty skillet and bring to simmer over medium heat. Return chicken, skin side up, and any accumulated juices to skillet and simmer until glaze is thick and glossy, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn chicken to coat evenly with glaze. Serve.