December 19, 2012

Simple Roasted Chicken

Roasting a whole chicken intimidated me. The final product looked so impressive, I was convinced it was going to require culinary school-level skills. It doesn't. This is not just a simple dinner, but it is so economical and delicious--a combination that means I make this often. The whole chicken is far cheaper per pound than a package of chicken breasts or drumsticks. Everyone gets to have some of their favorite parts and, if you have the time, you can make your own stock too--also easy!

Roasting is baking, but with a savory food. Do not fear your oven. This verb was another culprit in making me think this recipe was out of reach. If you can successfully preheat and own a meat thermometer, you can do this.

You could dedicate a Ph.D. to researching roasted chicken recipes. The kinds of herbs you use are all just a matter of taste. The oven temperature and internal temperature of the chicken, I think, should be constant regardless of if you make a thyme and rosemary chicken or a beer-can chicken.

Ingredients & Tools

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 4-5 root vegetables
  • 4 tablespoons or 1/2 stick of cold unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • pepper
  • baker's twine
  • meat thermometer
  • roasting pan

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. This may seem high if you've roasted chickens before, but this hot oven produces excellent results: crisp skin, and moist meat, since the cooking time is reduced.

Use whatever root vegetables you're in the mood for. Carrots, parsnips, and potatoes all work. I was in a potato kind of mood and I'll be using the celery in a stock. Chop your vegetables and place in the bottom of your roasting pan. Season them with salt and pepper, but using olive oil, butter, or some other fat isn't necessary since the chicken will take care of that. This is the bed for your chicken.

This is my least favorite task: cleaning and handling raw meat. Do it quickly and move on with life. 

Season the inside of the chicken liberally with Kosher salt and pepper. In more involved recipes, you may be tying a bundle of herbs together, but the title of this post is simple roasted chicken and simple it will stay.

Cut the lemon in quarters and the head of garlic in half--no need to peel. Put both in the chicken. 

Cut the cold butter into thin pats. Use your fingers to gently separate the skin from the meat. Put the pats of butter under the skin. This is going to keep everything moist and flavor the chicken and the vegetables.

Rub the entire chicken [the outside now] with olive oil. I prefer this to butter on the skin because the milk solids in butter burn more easily.

Use some kitchen twine to tie the legs together. I have never attempted to truss a chicken. I will and I'll report back. In the meantime, if you haven't trussed either, just tie the legs together in a very simple knot and tuck the wings underneath so the tips don't burn. Leave the ends of the twine long enough to make removing it after cooking easy.

Roast until the dark meat reaches 165 degrees. This will vary depending on the size of the chicken and even by oven, but it will take roughly 75 minutes. I check the temperature after an hour and fifteen minutes exactly and judge how close to done it is at that time, but don't baste [that's what the butter's for!] or keeping opening the oven. That will just increase cooking time and that will increase the likelihood of a dry bird.

If your bird comes with the plastic pop-up timer, ignore it. As you can see it, it's in the breast and that cooks faster than the dark meat. When you're 75 minutes are up, place your meat thermometer in the leg. At 165, it's done. The breast meat won't be dry because of the butter. Life is good.

This will be your final product. Impress millions or just your family. We ate this the potatoes and spinach. 

The potatoes were amazing because of the garlic. If you need another reason to try this recipe, it's the potatoes. 


  1. Ooooh, looks yummy! I have to admit, I would normally be intimidated to try. Since you insist it really is easy, I think I'll clip this to Evernote. ;)

    1. Do it! This is in my oven right now. I make this every other Sunday because the leftovers are just as good.