Easier Than It Looks: Roast Chicken

There are a lot of recipes for roast chicken. This one is not the most sophisticated. If you want to stuff the cavity, tenderize with buttermilk, or marinate with citrus and herbs, this is not the recipe for you. But if roasting a chicken intimidates you, I am here to convince you that it is NOT HARD. Moreover, whole chickens are the cheapest way to purchase chicken, and you can eat off them for days, make your own stock from the carcass, and cook soup or rice with your stock. I learned how to roast chicken because I needed an inexpensive way to keep buying meat for my dog, who eats homemade food, and I was surprised by how easy it was.

[At a Minimum] You Will Need:
  • Whole chicken
  • Roasting Pan
  • Oven
  • Paper towels

If you feel adventurous, you can add salt, pepper, olive oil, butter, herbs, a roasting rack, twine, and a meat thermometer. 



1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. You want a rack in the middle.

2. Remove chicken from packaging and remove any organs. Many chickens come with the organs wrapped in the cavity, and you don’t want to cook the chicken with paper inside.

3. Rinse chicken under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. (If you’re paranoid about salmonella, like I am, you’ll want to prep for this step by removing other dishes from the sink, having the roasting pan ready off to the side, pre-tearing your paper towels from the roll, and washing your hands nine times with antibacterial soap. But my husband tells me this is abnormal and excessive.)

4. [Optional] Season. This could mean sprinkling the bird with salt and pepper, drizzling it with olive oil, sticking herbs or chunks of butter under the skin, or throwing a lemon into the cavity. Salt encourages the release of water, so bear this in mind when salting the breast, which is prone to drying out. You can offset the salt with butter or oil. (If this all feels too complicated, just keep going–I learned to roast chicken with no seasoning because my pup couldn’t have any, and it came out juicy, though bland.)

5. Place the chicken in the pan breast-side up and put it in the oven. If you don’t know which side is the breast side, it’s the side that will allow the wings and drumsticks to be pointing away from the bottom of the pan.

6. Cook until the chicken skin is nicely browned. Yes, you can use a timer, but it will be better if you use your eyes and nose. When the chicken looks like the turkey in Christmas Vacation, take it out and check for doneness. If you’re using a thermometer, you’re looking for 165ºF. If you don’t have a thermometer, you want juices that run clear and meat that tears easily from the bone (and from the rest of the meat).

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