Few things are as simple and versatile as a roast chicken. It’s a great go-to weekend dinner that if you’re cooking for one or two two people, will yield you leftovers for chicken salad, avgolemono chicken soup, or other quick meals all week long. It’s also hard to go wrong with the basic method that is as quick and hands off as comfort food gets without being delivered by your friendly neighborhood Chinese restaurant.
Roasting a chicken is about as domestic as you can get without actually becoming a stay-at-home housewife, right? Roast chicken is tasty, comforting and really, quite simple, especially if you choose a smaller bird that requires less cooking time than the big kahuna you get for Thanksgiving dinner — 3 or 4 pounds is usually the perfect size for 2-4 people. I like to make roast chicken year round and it’s a great standby meal for real dinner parties and
Before you start, you’ll need something to actually cook the chicken in, like a roasting pan with a rack. I somehow inherited one at some point during the past eight years since I’ve been food blogging and I keep it in its original box in my shoe closet because I use it about twice a year.
The rest of the time, I use a cast iron skillet or even a large casserole dish to roast chicken. Because lifting the bird helps improve the air circulation around it so that it cooks more evenly, I like to roast chicken on top a layer of chopped potatoes, onions, carrots or other root vegetables — an easy one-dish meal. I prefer roasting fingerling potatoes, which somehow feel fancier than diced veggies.
Remember, we’re aiming for domestic goddess-dom here.
How To Roast a Perfect Chicken
Prepare Your Workspace, then Your Chicken. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place the rack in the lower-middle of the oven and set up a cutting board with your chicken, salt, pepper, olive oil, and one lemon, cut into wedges, nearby. Next, reach inside the chicken and remove the bag of giblets, which you can discard or save to make stock or gravy. Then, pat the chicken dry with paper towels and absorb any liquid on the outside and inside of the chicken. It should be as dry as possible when you get started.
Season Your Chicken. Rub the chicken with olive oil or softened butter, even under the skin. Pay special attention to the breast and the drumsticks to help the skin become nice and crispy. Season the outside of the chicken with salt and pepper, and if you want to get creative, add a blend of your favorite spices — Italian seasoning, Chinese 5-spice blend or za’atar spices are all tasty ways to flavor roast chicken. Place lemon wedges and garlic cloves inside the chicken cavity. Some people also like to add herbs, apple slices or orange slices to impart added flavor to the chicken. A basic recipe is below, but you can really choose your own adventure here.
Cook Your Chicken. If you are looking to create a one-dish meal, place a selection of chopped vegetables on the bottom of the pan. If not, place the roasting rack in the pan. Set the chicken in the pan, lower the oven to 400 degrees F and roast the chicken for 50 minutes undisturbed. The roast chicken is done when it registers 165°F in the thickest part of the thigh and when the juices run clear. After 50 minutes if the chicken still isn’t done, check every ten minutes — cooking time will vary depending on the size of the chicken.
Serve Your Chicken: After roasting, the chicken should rest for about 15 minutes, and you can whisk a little flour into the chicken juices until they thicken to make gravy. Carve the roast chicken and serve with your potatoes or vegetables. Leftovers will keep for about 3-5 days in the fridge or can be frozen for up to 2 months.
There’s a super basic recipe for roast chicken below, and here are a few others I can’t wait to try.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon dried herbs (thyme, sage or rosemary)
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt
- 1 whole chicken (3-4 pounds)
- 1 onion, peeled
- 8 ounces (1/2 pound) fingerling potatoes
- Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. In a small bowl, combine butter, herbs, garlic and black pepper. Mix to make a paste and spread half of the mixture underneath the chicken skin. Rub the rest on top and season liberally with salt and pepper.
- Place the onion in the cavity of your cleaned and prepared chicken and tie the legs together (truss) with kitchen twine. Place the fingerling potatoes on the bottom of your roasting pan and place your chicken on top of the potatoes.
- Roast until chicken is golden brown and juices run clear when pierced between breast and leg (an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of a thigh, avoiding bone, should read 165 degrees), about 1 hour.
- Serve chicken with potatoes and garnish with fresh herbs, as desired.