Whole chickens are inexpensive. I buy them when they are on sale for about $4 for a 3-5 pound chicken. Cooking chicken with the bone and skin will be tender and have the most flavor. The best part, cooking a whole chicken is simple, and they can look quite elegant when you serve them. I have written previously about preparing chicken “rotisserie” style on the grill in my Beer Butt Chicken post. But, the evening I wrote this, I was dodging thunderstorms so I decided to just roast the chicken in the oven.
This post isn’t so much about the flavors because you can use whatever sounds good. I’m doing my go-to favorite: Lemon Garlic Rosemary Roast Chicken. I am rubbing the chicken beneath and on top of the skin with a compound butter made by mixing softened butter with minced fresh garlic and chopped fresh rosemary. I squeezed the juice of a lemon over the chicken and stuffed the cavity with the lemon and sprigs of fresh rosemary. This post is more about the technique. Once you know how to roast a chicken, you can get creative. Some other ideas include lemon or orange, thyme, Cajun spices, paprika, and …
Okay, to roast a chicken you need to have some kind of a roasting pan. The higher the sides, the less splatter and the more brown the sides of the chicken will get. Many roasting pans come with a rack to elevate the meat, another reason you want the sides to be a bit higher. If you don’t have a rack, you can form one out of aluminum foil. I use a silicone roasting rack that can be used in any pan. By elevating the meat, it browns more evenly and doesn’t sit in the grease or juices that come off of the meat. A lid isn’t necessary. If the top of the roast is browning too quickly, lay a piece of foil over it. Foil can be your friend when roasting. I also line the roasting pan with it to make clean up easier.
It is good to have a meat thermometer so that you will know when the meat has reached the desired internal temperature. For chicken, 155-160 degrees. Remember that the meat will continue to cook in the ten minutes after you remove it from the oven and allow the juices to redistribute. A 3-5 pound chicken that is fully defrosted will take about 80-90 minutes at 425 degrees.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Prepare the chicken by making sure the giblets are removed from the cavity, dry the skin so you can season it, and secure the wings and legs. You can tie them in technique called trussing by tucking the wings behind the back and securing with twine over the legs, around the back, and then down around the feet. Or, you can simply cut little pockets to tuck the wings in to and tie the feet together. If you do not have twine, you can use dental floss. Just don’t use mint flavored unless it compliments the seasonings you are using, haha!
Now, here is a part of the process that can be a bit controversial. Breast up or breast down?? I say breast up for the first 20-30 minutes to crisp the skin and seal in the juices. Then, flip the chicken over for the remaining cooking time to keep the breast meat tender as the juices flow downward. Pour a half cup or so of liquid in the bottom of the pan. Water, juice, wine or a combination will work. Add more if needed as the liquid evaporates. The juices from the meat will mix with the liquid and can be used to baste the chicken periodically.
That’s it! Other than the initial flipping of the bird, and the periodic basting and watching for over-browning of the skin, the chicken becomes a beautiful, juicy, flavorful meal practically on its own. If you want to get really fancy, toss some cut up vegetables such a carrots, onions, and potatoes in the bottom of the pan for the last 30-40 minutes of the cooking and you have a pretty side dish. Simple.
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