Roasting a chicken is a life skill I think everyone should master. There is something earthy yet elegant about the finished product, and no matter the occasion, a roast chicken is always lovely.
Would you like to hang out in the kitchen together and learn how to roast a chicken? Awesome! Let’s begin by answering a few chicken-related questions.
Q: What kind of chicken do I buy?
A: The kind of chicken (air chilled, organic, farm-raised, etc.) matters less than the size of chicken you buy. Four pounds is the perfect size. You can go a little smaller, and a little bigger. Anything over five pounds is not advised. The meat of really big chickens is too…big? Injected? Wrong? Chickens that are larger than five pounds have had things done to them to get them that big, and you can always tell in the finished product. I would rather roast two three pound birds than one six pound bird.
Q: Do I brine it? Stuff it? Rub it? Marinate it?
A: You can, but you don’t have to. Since this is Chicken 101, I am going to keep it basic (but not boring). The most important prep step is plenty (and I mean plenty) of Kosher salt. Without it, your chicken is going to taste like cardboard. I suppose it’s possible to over salt a bird, but I have never experienced this first hand. I am a liberal salter, and honestly, I think it is the secret.
Q: How long do I cook it? At what temperature?
A: Standard (non-convection) ovens should be preheated to 425. A four pound bird, if left out at room temperature for one hour before going into the oven, will cook in 75 to 90 minutes.
Q: What if I have a convection oven?
A: I do not have a residential convection oven, so don’t quote me on this. But I would reduce the temperature to 400, and begin checking the temperature at 60 minutes.
Q: How do I know if it is done?
A: The internal temperature of the deepest portion of the meat (usually between the breast and thigh) should register 165 on a meat thermometer.
Q: What do I serve with it?
A: I always add some walnut-sized potatoes to the pan and serve them with the chicken. Don’t forget to liberally season the potatoes!! I would advise against adding more vegetables to the pan, because the steam from the cooking vegetables (like onion or carrots) can really interfere with the chicken’s ability to brown.
Q: How do I carve it?
A: First, do not touch it for AT LEAST twenty minutes after it comes out of the oven. Once it has rested, take a sharp knife and clean hands, and begin to cut away the leg quarters. Then slice away the breast meat from the breast bone. Remove the carcass, and serve the pieces in the pan with the juices and potatoes. It’s beautiful and delicious!
Q: What do I do with the carcass?
A: You can certainly throw it away. Or, if you cover it with water, add an onion and a carrot (or whatever vegetables you like), and let it simmer, you can make stock. I truthfully rarely do this, but it is quite delicious.
Ready to roast? Here is how!
When you are ready to begin, take the chicken out of the refrigerator, and if possible, let her rest on the counter for one hour. This will just make her cook quicker.
Gather all of your ingredients and supplies. In addition to the ingredients listed on the recipe below, you will need a roll of paper towels, a piece of kitchen twine, a roasting pan (sheet tray and cast iron skillet work well too!), a meat thermometer, and I strongly suggest you find some disposable gloves. The gloves are not mandatory, but they make the job a bit more lovely in my opinion.
Dry that bird. Take her out of the packaging, toss any giblets or paper or plastic into the trash and go to town drying her off. Inside, outside, under the wings. Pat her down really well. We want to remove all the moisture so that she will turn a nice golden brown color once she’s in the oven.
Rain down salt. All over the outside. All over the inside. And in between the skin and breast meat. You will have to use your fingers to loosen the skin on top of the breast, which is why the gloves are super handy dandy. Once the bird is doused in salt, tie her legs together with the twine. Don’t overthink this. Tie a knot around one leg, the grab the other leg and tie another knot. This is called trussing, and it keeps the leg meat from drying out. In a pinch, you could skip this step.
Put the bird in the pan. Cut two whole lemons in half, cut two whole heads of garlic in half, and both of them to the pan. Add some walnut-sized potatoes to the pan (if you like). Throw in a few sprigs of fresh thyme (if you like). Drizzle everything with a nice little glaze of olive oil. MAKE SURE YOU SALT THE POTATOES.
Into the oven. 425 for 75-90 minutes. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the deepest part of the breast meat. It needs to register 165.
Let her rest. Walk away for at least twenty minutes, but ideally, thirty or forty.
Carve. Use clean hands and a sharp knife. Start by slicing off the legs. Then slice the breast meat away from the breast bone. I put all the available meat into the pan with the potatoes and juices. I remove the carcass from the pan, and I squeeze the roasted lemon all over everything and serve it up!
I would want you to know that it took me roasting a chicken every week for a several weeks to really start to understand what works and what doesn’t. Like most things, it’s not going to perfect the first time. But now I can do it in my sleep, and I know it’s going to turn out every time.
If you have questions, problems, challenges…I am here! I love to help, so please reach out.
Happy roasting! Click below for the recipe…
PS. I roasted a chicken on Insta-Live, and the raw footage is below. The sound quality is poor, but the visual demonstration might be helpful.