I roast a whole chicken almost every week for a few reasons...first, our family of 4 gets at least 2 meals + a good batch of bone broth from one chicken and second, I can control the ingredients and know exactly what's going in it. Also, IT'S SO EASY (like, you don't even need a "recipe" easy). And economical.
How I roast a chicken is also one of the most frequent questions I get asked. Here's the thing...like for most things I cook, I don't follow one for this. It's ridiculously simple and nearly impossible to mess up so I figured it was about time I write up a post sharing how I do it and encourage any of you who are intimidated by a whole chicken- because I promise that you can do this! If you want to start cooking from scratch more or learn how to cook intuitively (without recipes, measuring everything, etc.) I honestly think that learning how to roast a good chicken is the best place to start. It can be used as the base for so many great meals and, trust me, once you start making your own broth you won't go back to the boxed stuff.
I don't want to write a long winded emotional life story that ties into roasted chicken and make you have to scroll for 20 years to get to the part that actually explains how to do this but I do want to ramble just a bit about how much the ingredients in your food matter. I know it's really easy to grab those rotisserie chickens from Costco or the grocery store (and I'm not shaming anyone for doing so) but, just know that they're full of really gross and unnecessary ingredients. When roasting your own it's GREAT if you get a pasture-raised/free range/natural bird but even just starting with a whole chicken you can get at the grocery store is a step in the right direction...because I guarantee you that those grab-and-go rotisserie birds were not free range or raised in a great way AND they're filled with things like carrageenan, sugar & dextrose...seriously, read the labels. Blah.
Okay, lets get to it.
I always start by removing the gizzards (they're either in a little pouch all together or just loose down inside the bird). If you're going to make bone broth with your carcass and bones later (you're crazy if you don't!), keep those (in the fridge or freezer) to throw in your pot when you do. Then, I rinse the bird and set it, breast side up, in a shallow baking dish (a cast iron skillet or a dutch oven works too) and pat it dry with a paper towel- this will help your butter/oil and seasonings stick a lot better.
Then you're going to want a few tablespoons (around 3 or so) of softened butter or olive oil or avocado oil, etc. I'll use any of those depending on what I have on hand but butter is our favorite! I keep the seasonings fairly basic so that the meat is delicious to eat on its own but also has a great base seasoning and is really versatile for anything else I might use the meat for...soups, tacos, chicken salad, fried rice, added to regular salads, etc. One thing that I think is important is plenty of salt...you're seasoning a lot of meat here and while I definitely don't like overly salty food, I also don't like bland chicken. A lot of recipes will tell you to "salt & pepper to taste" or to "sprinkle generously with salt & pepper" but if this is your first rodeo maybe it will help you to know that I use close to a tablespoon of salt (usually either kosher salt or Redmond salt). A couple of big pinches will do the trick. I like to add my seasonings to a little dish with my butter or oil and sort of make a paste out of everything.
As far as the other seasonings go, I use about half a teaspoon of pepper and lots of garlic...either about 4 big, fresh garlic cloves chopped up fine or a generous (borderline obscene) amount of garlic powder. Whichever I have on hand or the time for- if I'm in a big hurry I just grab the garlic powder and go. I also usually do a little bit of dried thyme and a pinch of rosemary. Oregano is really good, too. I promise that this is really hard to mess up so play around and see what you like! Sometimes I'll also slice up a lemon to stuff inside or do about 4-5 drops of lemon essential oil but our favorite/old standby is sans-citrus.
Combine your seasonings with your butter or oil and then start smearing that goodness all over the bird. I try to save a little for inside the cavity but I at least add a little bit of S+P in there. It also helps to tie the legs together to keep them tight up against the rest of the bird...it will keep the legs from getting overcooked and dry. If I'm lazy I'll use a metal skewer to hold them together but they usually pop loose without being tied.
After that, I wash up and then add just a little bit of water to the bottom of my baking dish...that will keep things from sticking and also give you plenty of goodness to make some gravy with, if you're in the mood for it. I'll often make mashed potatoes & gravy and a green veggie to go with it for dinner the day I roast the chicken.
I roast at 350 degrees for about 1.5 hours. I have a convection oven and 1.5 hours does the trick for us but you can (and should, if you're unsure) use a meat thermometer to check the temp and/or check to see that the juices run clear. Obviously the size of the bird is going to affect cooking time too but a lot of whole chickens are around 3-4 pounds. Once you take it out of the oven you're going to want to let it sit for at least 20 min or so before cutting into it.
All together you're looking at maybe 10 minutes of actual work/hands-on time here. It's so quick and easy!
Our girls love roasted chicken and always ask for the legs but if your family isn't used to the idea of eating it freshly roasted, try roasting a whole bird instead of buying just chicken breasts, thighs, etc. and use the meat for all of the recipes you normally use chicken for.
For a quick recap:
- remove the gizzards & save for later
- rinse & pat your bird dry
- combine 3 or so tablespoons of softened butter or your oil with your salt (plenty!), pepper and other herbs (always lots of garlic and usually some thyme and rosemary for me)
- rub that mixture all over the outside of the bird (and at least a little S+P to the inside of the cavity, too)
- add a little bit of water to the bottom of your baking dish & tie the legs together to keep them tight against the rest of the bird, if you can
- roast at 350 degrees for about 1.5 hours until the skin is nice and crispy and the juices run clear (and/or you've got an internal temp of at least 165 degrees)
- let rest for 20 minutes or so before cutting
I would love to know if you give this a try, especially if you've never roasted one before! Another "recipe" I get asked for constantly is for bone broth so I'm working on a post to cover that next!