Most people I know have never roasted a chicken. For some reason, just the thought of it intimidates them. If that’s how you feel too, then this post is for you! It really is one of the easiest things you’ll ever make. All it takes is time.
This is one of the best things you can learn to make on this diet. Not only is it ridiculously easy, but having cold chicken on hand throughout the week is often a lifesaver. There have been many times that I’ve waited too long to eat and have let myself get hungry, and that quick, easy protein has saved me. It’s absolutely delicious and tender and satisfying. Since we no longer eat lunch meat, it’s a perfect protein for lunch, and my kids pack it for their school lunches often. Basically, having cold roasted chicken on hand is just plain convenient, and so it’s a great food to have around.
And, it’s cheap! The organic chickens I get from my regular grocery store are just $1.99/lb! You could never get the equivalent amount of meat for this cheap if you were buying separate boneless parts.
If you have access to pastured chickens, that’s of course best. I use them when I can, but I usually just get an organic chicken from the store. It’s not as good of quality as a pastured chicken, but is at least better than standard chickens, and is really affordable at $1.99/lb. Get the best you can find and afford.
This is the first thing you have to do to successfully roast a chicken that’s not all dried out: Bring it to room temperature first! This is true for any meat that you roast. If you start out with a cold piece of meat, it won’t cook as evenly and this results in drying out parts of the meat before the whole thing is cooked through. So, plan ahead. Take it out of the refrigerator at least 2 hours ahead of time.
When you’re ready, remove the chicken from the packaging and thoroughly rinse it in cold running water. Run it under the faucet, rubbing the skin and washing out all cavities. If the neck and giblets (organs) are inside the cavity, remove them. You can just throw those out, turn them into cat or dog food, or cook them up and use the broth in a gravy. (That’s actually delicious, believe it or not.) Just don’t cook the liver for a gravy, because it’s bitter.
Then get out the things you’re going to stuff in the cavity. These add super flavor and moisture!
You can use whatever you want, really, but what I always use is half an onion, half a lemon, a bit of butter (about 2 Tbsp), and some fresh herbs – rosemary, sage, and thyme. As you become more confident, you can experiment with other things as you like.
Put all ingredients in the bird, making sure the butter is deep enough in that it won’t just come dribbling back out again as it melts.
Technically, this is the point in which you need to use a toothpick or skewer to close the skin over the cavity, and tie up the legs. You should probably do this. I never do because I just can’t be bothered and it comes out fine. But I wouldn’t be a good food blogger if I didn’t at least let you know that, yes, you SHOULD do those things. (But…if you don’t feel like it it’ll probably be okay.)
Pat the chicken all over with a paper towel to dry it. Put some olive oil in your hand and rub it all over, making sure to get the legs and wings as well. Sprinkle it generously with salt and pepper and rub it in. Tuck the wings under the legs so that they don’t cook too quickly.
Put the bird on a tray with a rack. If you have a roasting pan with a rack that’s the appropriate size, you can use that. My roasting pan is huge, large enough for a big turkey, so for something like this I just use a rack (which is technically a cooling rack) and put it on a baking sheet. You just don’t want it sitting in the juices. For easy cleaning, you can line the baking sheet with tin foil first.
Cook the chicken at 450 for 20 minutes. Then, without opening the door, turn the temperature down to 350 and let cook for 20 minutes per pound. (This will require math, unfortunately!) Putting it in at a high temperature first results in very crispy, browned skin, so don’t skip that part!
When time’s up, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast and make sure it’s at 180. Also test for doneness by wiggling one of the legs. It should be extremely loose and offer up little to no resistance.
See how brown and thin the skin is? It’s perfectly crisp, not fatty at all, and full of flavor!
Cover the chicken with tin foil and let it rest for 10 minutes. This lets the juices redistribute so that they don’t just all run out when you cut into it, and also allows the temperature to rise a bit.
After it’s rested, uncover and carve! If you don’t know how to carve, it’s easy.
First, remove the legs and wings. They should just come right off if it’s been cooked long enough. Take a sharp knife and cut the meat off the bone onto a serving dish. Don’t forget the skin! It’s the best part.
Then cut the breast into long slices, from front to back, starting on the outside edge.
Work your way toward the center spine, and then do the other side.
Flip the bird over, and remove any meat from the back and thighs. If it’s cool enough, it’s easiest to just do this with your fingers.
If you’re serving to guests, you’ll probably want to arrange all this nicely on a platter, separating the dark from the white parts. Since I do this just for us to casually eat through the week, I put it unceremoniously right into a dish that has a lid I can pop on.
And that’s it! You have a week’s worth of lunches, or an excellent night’s dinner!
This is just a basic roast chicken recipe that can be changed up as you like and as you get brave enough to experiment! Stuff it with different things, try to rub spices or garlic or butter under the skin, whatever you want to try.
When you’re done, don’t toss the bones, and DEFINITELY don’t toss the drippings! The drippings are full of magnificent flavor. The bones from a roasted chicken, along with bits of meat attached, make an absolutely excellent broth, especially when you add in the drippings. It has more flavor and richness than a raw chicken could ever give! So turn that chicken into a broth, make a soup, and you have meals for several days!
Simple, Delicious Roast Chicken
- 1 whole chicken, preferably pastured or organic
- Fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme (or herbs of your choice)
- Half an onion
- Half a lemon
- 2Tbsp butter
- Olive oil
- Salt and Pepper
Preheat the oven to 450. Bring the chicken to room temperature by leaving it out for at least 2 hours – this ensures even cooking. Remove from the packaging and rinse thoroughly, inside and out, in cool water. (Make sure to remove the neck and giblets if they’re inside the cavity.) Pat the entire chicken, top and bottom, dry with a paper towel.
Stuff the herbs, onion, lemon, and butter into the cavity of the chicken, making sure the butter is deep inside. If you want, you can close the opening by “sewing” the skin together with a toothpick or short skewer, but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t. Pour some olive oil in your hand, and rub all over, making sure to get the legs and wings as well. Sprinkle salt and pepper generously all over and rub in. Tuck the wings under the legs.
Put it in the oven and bake at 450 for 20 minutes. Without opening the door, lower the temperature to 350 and continue to cook for 20 minutes per pound. Insert a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the breast and make sure the temperature is 180. If it’s done the legs should easily wiggle, the joints moving with little to no resistance. Remove from the oven and cover with tin foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes before carving.
Use the drippings for gravy, or use to add flavor when cooking up the bones for broth.
(This post is part of Fight Back Friday)