How to Roast a Whole Chicken (Perfect, Simple & Easy)
This simple and versatile recipe is the launching point for so many other recipes. It is a great roasting technique for every level of home cook.
Let’s Go Shopping!
When selecting a whole chicken to roast, keep it between a 3-pound chicken and a 5-pound chicken. This is about the average weight you will find at your local store. The size of the bird does matter as well, as larger birds will end up with tougher breast meat. No one wants that. Last, if you can find one, a true pasture-raised organic chicken does make a difference. And buy fresh! No need for a frozen bird when fresh is readily available.
Get Ready to Roast the Whole Chicken
Now that we have the bird home you want to carefully remove it from the packaging. I cut the top open where the drums are. I then gently pull up while holding the bag over a trash can. This way, any excess juices will go into the trash can and not all over your cutting board or countertop. Now use paper towels to dry the bird off, both inside the chicken cavity and outside. Don’t forget to remove the giblets! The bird is now ready for seasoning! This is where you can have fun experimenting with flavors.
Let us approach this two ways. A Dry Rub is a combination of dry herbs and spices. Second, a wet rub in which we use fresh herbs and oils. The recipe listed below will use the fresh herb approach.
To begin, season the 5lb chicken first with kosher salt only, rub it in, and let it sit while we prepare the herb rub. This helps us evenly distribute the salt and also gives the salt time to do its thing.
While the bird rests, combine a good quality olive oil with fresh thyme, rosemary, lemon zest, cracked black pepper, and minced garlic. Spread it onto our chicken and massage the rub onto the outside of the chicken. Using the lemons you zested, cut a few slices, about ¼” thick, and toss them into the cavity of the chicken. This keeps the lemons from going to waste and helps season the meat from the inside.
Using a large roasting pan, place a mixture of carrots, celery, and onions on the bottom of the pan. Gently lay the whole bird on top of this nest. This will reinforce the pan drippings which we can later use to make the sauce, it will also make for easier cleanup. If you are using, or want to use a roasting rack, go ahead but keep the mirepoix on the bottom of the roasting pan.
The Roast (Cook Time)
How To make the perfect roast chicken you ask? We will be cooking it at two different temperatures. First, the roasted chicken starts at 300ºF and goes for about 2 hours. Then we crank up the oven temperature to finish cooking and get us crisp skin. At the end of the first hour, baste some of the drippings onto the top of the bird. Repeat this every 30-45 minutes. We do this for a few reasons. The first is that high heat will only leave you with overcooked chicken in some parts and raw in others. A chicken will stay juicy and tender while cooked at 300 but the skin will be a sad mess, so that’s why will turn it up later to finish.
We will then take an internal temperature using a meat thermometer. Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh. We want this to be around 155. Keep the temperature at 300 until we get to this point. Then turn up the oven to a temperature of 375ºF to finish. The high temperature is what will give you crisp skin. The final internal temperature of the thickest part of the thigh needs to be 180º. Take a look at my shop for more tools and ingredients I use everyday.
Finish the Dish!
Now that this perfect roasted whole chicken is out of the oven, let it rest for about 15 minutes before carving it. This helps keep it juicy. Don’t tent the chicken with aluminum foil either. It will trap the steam and all the work we put into creating the crispy skin will be for nothing. While the chicken is resting, drain the juices from the pan into a small bowl. In a small fry pan, saute minced garlic and fresh thyme before deglazing with the pan juices. Bring to a simmer and then remove from heat. Spoon off any excess fat, but not all of it. Carve the roasted chicken into two chicken breasts, and then the chicken legs and thighs. Save the bones for making homemade chicken stock. After you carve the bird, you will spoon this over the chicken pieces for that next level of flavor.
Even if you don’t like chicken breast meat as it can be dry and not very flavorful. You will love this traditional method of roasting a whole chicken. It is the closest thing you can get to a homemade rotisserie chicken. Also, as a general rule of thumb, cooked chicken does not reheat very well. Plan to shred any leftovers into a sauce like for a chicken tinga.
More Notes: This method will also work if you are looking for a spatchcock chicken recipe. Adjust the cooking time as the cooking process is slightly different, but it’s a great way to get a roasted chicken cooked in a short time.