Why You Should Avoid Roasting Chicken With Pesto

Recipes with chicken and pesto are all over the internet. They're popular, not too challenging, and most importantly, they taste good. This is why it's so surprising to learn that roasting your chicken with pesto is not necessarily a good idea.

Chicken and pesto are one of our favorite culinary duos, maybe not coke and pizza level, but they're up there. Of course, pesto doesn't only go with chicken. We put it on sandwiches, pizza, pasta, and anything we want to enjoy just a little bit more. An excellent pesto is light, herby, and has a healthy dose of salt and garlic. A dish of plain pasta becomes a little bowl of joy with some freshly made pesto thrown on top. Italian families share and enjoy their own pesto recipes over generations. It's an integral part of Italian heritage and cuisine, and as much as we love to eat and make pesto, it isn't anything new.

Pesto the original

Originating in Italy thousands of years before your local Olive Garden opened, pesto's staying power comes from its simplicity and versatility. It's mentioned as early as the poetic works of Virgil as a kind of mixture of herbs, garlic, and cheese. The ancient origin of this delicious Mediterranean sauce continues to enthrall and fascinate us.

Making a great pesto yourself requires a bit of culinary knowledge and high-quality ingredients. There are some clear mistakes everyone makes along the way, but most budding chefs can produce a delightful pesto with a bit of practice. Pesto's rich, savory flavor pairs perfectly with chicken, the humble bird that's always ready to absorb the best flavors of any ingredient. It's a match made in heaven, two peas in one tasty pod. So, it may come as a surprise that roasting a sumptuous chicken with pesto in a roast chicken recipe, isn't the best idea.

Roasting your pesto chicken might be a big mistake

It might seem counterintuitive to not roast pesto chicken in a recipe that refers to the chicken as "roasted," but chicken and pesto can't co-exist in the oven as well as they do on a plate. High heat and pesto go together like anchovies and applesauce, which are fine on their own but not very desirable together. Pesto is a delicate sauce that is prepared at room temperature. The blazing heat of your oven is required to cook your chicken thoroughly, but if you've prepared it with pesto already, the ingredients within the pesto will burn and will have lost their flavor and luster.

Fear not, for there are ways to both roast or cook your chicken thoroughly and still enjoy the flavorful delights of your fresh pesto sauce.

The main issue with roasting your pesto chicken is the prolonged exposure to very high temperatures. Methods that involve limited heat exposure or lower heat give the chef a much better chance of both cooking their chicken and not burning their pesto sauce. You can try a lower heat setting while roasting the chicken to avoid burning the pesto, but other, faster cooking methods also work to mitigate the sauce's prolonged exposure to high heat. Grilling, frying, and or searing the chicken, are all alternatives worth trying to get the most out of your chicken and pesto without ruining them.