On the website for the Dyson Supersonic, the high-tech hairdryer with a $400 price tag, the company says that it's "inventing new methods of testing to solve real-world hair problems." But in the hands of one food writer, the Supersonic is also solving a real-world cooking problem: getting super-crispy skin on roast chicken.
Last week, instead of binging on Netflix or trying to sleep until the temperatures got above freezing, a snowbound Helen Rosner decided to roast a chicken. She live-tweeted much of the process, starting at the point where she carried her Supersonic into the kitchen and used it to remove the moisture from the chicken's skin before she put it in the oven.
"Happy snow day, I am using an astonishingly expensive hair dryer to remove all moisture from a chicken to maximize skin crispiness when I roast it," Rosner wrote.
Rosner, a food writer for the New Yorker, further explained that the chicken (a Joyce Farms Poulet Rouge, for those who want to accurately recreate this magic in their own homes) had been air-drying in her refrigerator for a full day, but it wasn't quite as dry as she wanted it to be. Enter: the Dyson Supersonic, which she enlisted for "final touch-up moisture removal."
Although a hair dryer in the kitchen seems so unexpected — and Rosner's mentions are full of people whose minds were blown (and some inevitable idiots who insisted she was doing it wrong) — she told Allure that it's far from being an original idea.
"[Cookbook writer] Marcella Hazan was definitely the progenitor of the idea, but it also owes a little bit to Alton Brown," Rosner said. "He famously has a recipe for homemade beef jerky that uses a box fan, which stuck in my head. For crisp skin, whether you're cooking a chicken or a duck or a fish, you want there to be as little water moisture as possible, which is sped up by a fan. And that's all a hair-dryer really is — a hand-held fan that you can pretty easily bring into the kitchen."
In a follow-up piece for the New Yorker, Rosner wrote that hair dryers are a go-to tool for barbecue specialists in the American South, yakitori chefs in Japan, and kebab cooks in Brooklyn.
Drying poultry's skin is crucial if you want it to come out of the oven with maximum crispiness, a secret that Hazan shared in her now-classic duck recipe in her book Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking: "Pat [the duck] dry inside and out with paper towels," Hazan wrote. "Turn on the hair dryer and direct the hot air over the whole skin of the duck for 6 to 8 minutes." The end result, she said, would be succulent — but why?
"To crisp up and brown, the skin has to heat up to a high temperature — above 300°F," food scientist and America's Test Kitchen alum Guy Crosby told NPR. "So the bird's flesh has to go into the oven very, very dry." If it's not completely dry when it starts cooking, the skin won't get hotter than the boiling point of the water inside it, a comparatively cool 212 degrees.
Engineered to not overheat your hair... or your chicken— Dyson (@Dyson) March 21, 2018
Although you don't need a Dyson to perfect your roast chicken recipe, the company seems to be enjoying its crossover into the kitchen. "Engineered to not overheat your hair... or your chicken," the company tweeted.