How To Make The Best Roast Chicken
Whenever possible, buy the best quality chicken you can find. The taste difference between a pasture-raised organic chicken and a traditional feedlot chicken is huge. Big chickens ― often labeled roasters (generally 6 lbs.) have a richer and more complex flavor than smaller ones. Young chickens (also called broilers and fryers; about 3-4 lbs.) can be roasted but by the time the skin is an appealing color, the breast meat of smaller birds is dry. A roasting chicken, however, cooks evenly.
Season the entire chicken generously with salt and pepper. Don’t forget the back, underneath the wings, between the thighs and inside the cavity. Other additions, like ground spices and finely chopped herbs add flavor to the outside. Stuffing the chicken with aromatic ingredients, like citrus quarters, full sprigs of herbs, smashed garlic and onion can infuse it with flavor from the inside.
Some of my favorite flavor combinations:
All Purpose Dry Mix For Poultry
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
- 1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Mix the salt, basil, rosemary, garlic powder, mustard, paprika, black pepper, thyme, celery seed, parsley, cumin and cayenne pepper together until blended. Rub all over chicken, inside and out before roasting.
Other flavorings that go well with chicken include: lemon and orange juice, garlic, white wine, ginger, pesto, honey, maple syrup, smoked paprika, mustard and chili peppers.
Before you prepare the chicken for roasting, give it time to come to room temperature, about 45 minutes. Placing the chicken directly from the refrigerator into the oven will increase its roasting time and the chicken will cook unevenly. Another common mistake is not properly drying the chicken before roasting it. A damp chicken makes for limp, soggy skin. There’s no need to rinse the chicken, simply remove it and place it on a paper towel-lined sheet tray. Thoroughly pat it dry, inside and out, then proceed with your recipe.
While it is probably hard to break the habit, don’t wash raw chicken before cooking as germs can be spread through splashed water on the counter or in the sink. Cooking chicken at the right temperature will destroy any bacteria present and you need to make sure that chicken is properly cooked through; the juices should run clear and the meat should not show any signs of pink.
There are two common ways to roast a chicken: low and slow or hot and fast. To make the right decision, you first have to decide how you want to serve the chicken. For sticky, rotisserie-style skin with fall-apart meat, cook it at a low temperature for several hours. If it’s crispy, crackling skin you’re after, cook the chicken quickly at a high temperature. Sear the chicken on the stove-top in a pan (preferably cast-iron). Once the skin is golden, transfer the skillet to an oven set at 425˚F. The chicken will cook in just 35-40 minutes—depending on its size.
Once you take the chicken out of the oven, remove it from the pan and let it rest for 15 minutes. The juices need time to redistribute throughout the meat or else they’ll wind up on your cutting board. After 15 minutes the chicken will also be cool enough to carve.
Classic Roast Chicken
It is very practical to roast two chickens at the same time, so that you can have plenty of leftovers for weeknight meals.
- One 5 pound roasting chicken, at room temperature
- 2 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 medium yellow onions
- 10 sprigs fresh thyme, plus 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
- 4 garlic bulbs
- 2 carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces (cut any large pieces in half lengthwise)
- 2 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1/4 cup chicken broth, plus extra
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs fresh sage
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and sprinkle inside and out with 1-1/2 teaspoons of the salt and the pepper. Cut one-half of one of the onions into two pieces; place onion pieces and the thyme sprigs in the body cavity of the chicken. Skewer neck skin to the back; tie legs to the tail. Twist wing tips under the back. Place chicken, breast side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.
Cut the remaining 1-1/2 onions into wedges. Cut off the top 1/4 inch of the garlic bulbs to expose the ends of individual cloves. Keeping the garlic bulbs whole, remove any loose, papery outer layers.
In a large bowl combine onion wedges, garlic bulbs, carrots, celery, 1/4 cup broth, oil, bay leaves, sage sprigs, thyme leaves and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Arrange vegetables around the chicken; spoon liquid from the bowl over the chicken.
Roast, uncovered, for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours or until drumsticks move easily and the chicken is no longer pink (180 degrees F), stirring vegetables a few times. Add small amounts of additional broth if the vegetables and the bottom of the pan begin to get too brown.
Remove from oven when cooked and cover with foil. Let stand for 15 minutes before carving. Remove and discard bay leaves and sage sprigs. Serve chicken with vegetables and pan juices.
Sticky Chicken Rotisserie Style
- 4 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 onions, quartered
- 2 (4 pound) whole chickens, at room temperature
In a small bowl, mix together salt, paprika, onion powder, thyme, white pepper, black pepper, cayenne pepper and garlic powder.
Remove and discard giblets from the chicken and pat dry with a paper towel. Rub each chicken, inside and out, with the spice mixture. Place 1 onion into the cavity of each chicken.
Place chickens in a resealable bag or double wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 to 6 hours.
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F (120 degrees C).
Place chickens in a roasting pan. Bake uncovered for 5 hours, to a minimum internal temperature of 180 degrees F (85 degrees C). Let the chickens stand for 15 minutes before carving.
Honey-Spiced Roasted Chicken
- 1 (5-6 pound) whole roasting chicken, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and place in a roasting pan.
In a bowl, mix together the honey, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and garlic powder. Using your hands, rub the honey mixture all over the chicken. Baste chicken with the melted butter.
Roast the chicken in the preheated oven until the skin begins to brown, 30 to 45 minutes. Baste the chicken with juices in the roasting pan. Cover the pan with foil.
Reduce heat to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and roast until no longer pink at the bone and the juices run clear, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, basting occasionally during roasting. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, near the bone should read 180 degrees F (80 degrees C).
Remove the chicken from the oven, cover with a doubled sheet of aluminum foil and allow to rest in a warm area for 15 minutes before slicing.
Italian Flavored Roast Chicken
- 1 roasting chicken (6 to 8 lbs.), at room temperature
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
- 14 cloves garlic, peeled
- 6 rosemary sprigs, rinsed
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
- 2 red bell peppers (about 1 1/2 lb. total)
- 2 yellow bell peppers (about 1 1/2 lb. total)
- 2 onions (about 1 lb. total)
- 8 Roma tomatoes (about 2 lb. total)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/3 cup oil cured black olives
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 1 cup chicken broth
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Remove giblets and pull off and discard lumps of fat from the chicken. Pat dry and fold wing tips under the first joint. Set chicken, breast side up on a V-shaped rack set in a medium pan.
In a small bowl, mix chopped rosemary and basil. Starting at the neck, gently ease your fingers under the skin to loosen it over the breast area. Push 1/3 of the rosemary-basil mixture under the skin and spread it evenly over the breast.
Place 6 garlic cloves and 3 rosemary sprigs in the body cavity. Sprinkle chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Stem and seed the bell peppers; cut into 1/3-inch-wide strips. Peel onions and cut each into 6 wedges. Core tomatoes and cut in half lengthwise.
Distribute peppers, onions, and remaining garlic around the chicken in the pan. Set tomatoes, cut side up, on top of the pepper mixture and sprinkle vegetables with another 1/3 of the herb mixture and the remaining salt and pepper; drizzle with the olive oil.
Roast until the vegetables begin to brown and a thermometer inserted through the thickest part of the breast or the thickest part of thigh at joint reaches 180°, about 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 hours.
Insert a carving fork into the chicken cavity, lift the chicken and drain the cavity juices into the pan. Set the chicken on a rimmed platter; let rest, covered with foil, in a warm place for 15 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a shallow bowl; sprinkle with olives and keep warm.
Skim and discard fat from the pan; add vinegar, wine, broth and remaining herb mixture. Stir often over high heat, scraping browned bits free, until reduced to 3/4 cup, 6 to 8 minutes. Pour through a fine strainer into a small pitcher or bowl.
Carve the chicken and serve with the vegetable mixture. Add pan juices and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish the serving platter with the remaining rosemary sprigs.