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Chinese 5-Spice Chicken

Posted by Shelley on May 17, 2024


One of the most impossible questions I get asked as a chef is “What is your favorite thing to cook?” It's hard to answer because I rarely cook the exact same dish twice! The exception to this rule is when I am trying to deepen my knowledge in a specific cuisine or technique. Over the last few years, I have been spending a lot of time deepening my knowledge in Chinese cooking. Anyone that knows much about Chinese cooking might laugh at the thought that I would lump all of China together into one cuisine… please excuse me for that.

Chinese 5-spice chickenChina is a large country with distinct cooking styles in different regions of the country. Some you may be familiar with are Sichuan, Cantonese, Hunan, and although there are similarities in ingredients and cooking styles throughout the country, there are distinct differences.

My first step in trying a new Chinese dish is to source an authentic recipe. After trying the authentic recipe, I may continue to tweak the techniques in the recipe or make some subtle shifts in the ingredients or ratios of the ingredients. As I make these adjustments, I am always looking to honor the original recipe versus change it. What I mean by that is that I want to bring out more of its authentic self. That might include things like tweaking the technique to improve the crispness or browning or to achieve a moister result. I might up the salt, acid or sugar a tad to bring out the flavor of the main ingredients or increase the sauce yield so there is plenty to go around.

What I am also careful about is the source of the original recipe - I don’t generally go to the big recipe sites for authentic ethnic recipes, I go to sources who are highly educated in the specific cuisine. My favorite source for Chinese recipes, techniques and the inspiration for this blog is Red House Spice Chinese Recipe Central.

Wei Guo, is the do-it-all creator of Red House Spice and a true expert not only in Chinese cuisine but in the art of communicating authentic techniques and posting well tested and easy to follow recipes. So for the first time in all my years of blogging, I am not posting an original recipe but rather walking you through my experience as a chef preparing someone else’s recipe. Today, I prepared Wei Guo’s wonderful 5 Spice Chicken recipe, you can find her full recipe here Chinese Five Spice Chicken (五香烤) - Red House Spice.

Step 1: Spatchcock the Chicken

Spatchcocked chickenI’ve included a link to one of our TCB blogs that gives a little more detail on how to spatchcock a chicken. This process can seem intimidating, but I can assure you if you have a sharp pair of kitchen or poultry shears, it only takes minutes to do it.

Patting chicken dryFirst, rinse the chicken and pat it dry. You want to get all the moisture off before applying the marinade. Place the chicken on a cutting board breast side down. Identify the back bone, basically the big bone running right down the middle of the chicken. Take your kitchen shears and cut along both sides of the back bone and remove the back bone. Freeze the back bone for stock or soup, if you like.

Press down on chickenTurn the chicken over, breast side up. Place the chicken on a parchment lined sheet pan and press down to flatten the chicken as much as you can. The chicken is now spatchcocked!

Step 2: Marinade the Chicken

Combine 1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce (you can use regular soy sauce or tamari if that is all you have) and 1 teaspoon Shaoxing rice wine ( if you don’t want to use alcohol or don’t have this ingredient, simply omit it). Brush the surface of the chicken on both sides with the soy and Shaoxing mixture.

Brushing chicken with soyWei Guo creates a wonderful spice mix of 2 teaspoons of salt, 3/4 teaspoon of 5 spice powder, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder and 1/4 teaspoon white pepper. Simply mix these ingredients and rub all over the chicken on both sides.

*I was out of white pepper so I used some espelette pepper instead. I also brushed the liquid ingredients on first then put on the spice mixture, to me this spice mixture stays on better this way.

Spice mixPlace the chicken on a sheet pan and let marinate for 24 hours uncovered. It is essential to get a good marinade on the chicken so at least 12 hours is preferred.

Marinade applied*Note: When I made this recipe, I missed that I should have left the chicken uncovered. I would recommend strongly not to make my mistake. The refrigerator is a rather drying environment and in this case that is a plus. I covered mine and it made for a moist environment so the marinade did not cling as well or offer as potent of a marinade because of it.

Don't cover the chickenStep 3: Roast and Baste the Chicken

After marinating the chicken for 24 hours, remove it from the oven for an hour before cooking. This really helps the chicken cook more evenly.

Chicken ready for roastingPreheat the oven to 390 degrees if you have a convection oven and 425 degrees if you don’t.

I love Wei Guo’s technique for roasting chicken. She uses a sheet pan and cooling rack like we do at The Chopping Block for roasting but she adds water to the bottom of the roasting pan as well. This really assists in a beautifully moist chicken.

Place the chicken in the preheated oven and cook for 15 minutes.

Turn the oven down to 350 degrees and check the water level and add more as needed. Cook the chicken for an additional 20 minutes.

*Note: My comment here to Wei Guo’s recipe would be to check the temperature in the breast. I would like to see the breast temperature be at least 160 degrees internal temperature before I start basting it with the honey mixture.

Mix 1 tablespoon of honey and 1/2 teaspoon of dark soy sauce together and brush over the surface of the chicken. Let the chicken cook for 5 minutes. Check to make sure there is water in the pan.

Turn the heat of the oven up to 390 degrees on your convection oven or 425 degrees on a regular oven. Baste the chicken 1 more time and cook another 5 minutes or until the chicken reaches 165 degrees I the breast.

Remove the chicken from the oven and let rest for at least 5 minutes. I might suggest closer to 10 or 15 minutes. Cut and serve.

chicken out of ovenI simply made some rice and garnished the chicken with some sliced green onions and it was delicious!

5 spice chickenClearly, I loved this recipe as I have all the recipes I have tried from Red House Spice. There are many wonderful vegetable dishes and recipes to be found on Red House Spice.com that would complement 5 spice chicken. I happen to love the Chinese Broccoli, the Stir-Fried Cabbage with Chinese sausage and the stir-fried eggplant with plum sauce. Of course, we offer hands-on Asian cooking classes at The Chopping Block including:

See our class calendar


Topics: Chinese, Chinese cooking, Asian, chicken, Recipes, chinese five spice

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