Making a whole roasted chicken is one of those big boy steps in your cooking career. For a first timer, it’s an intimidating process. First you have to go into the store, resist the urge to purchase those boneless chicken breasts (again) and leave with the whole bird. And once you get it home, then what? Luckily, oven roasted chicken is incredibly easy, and incredibly versatile too.
We’ll show you how to make it, give you tips for making it even better, and show you how to change it up and use every last bit.
Why Cook a Whole Chicken?
buying a whole chicken is generally way cheaper, for one. For two, you get great flavor from the meat, bones, and skin cooking in harmony—and various textures too. Then, you can use those bones to make a second recipe when you’re done. Plus, the satisfaction and coziness of roasting a whole chicken is off the charts.Considering price per pound,
It’s also easier than buying an intact bird in order to break it down into smaller parts (which is a valid option, but a whole different lesson; ditto spatchcocking chicken).
If you’re a first timer, or even a semi-seasoned pro, we’re here to give you some of the basics on how to get the perfect roast chicken. Follow the steps below and we’ll guarantee that you’ll get a chicken that is crispy on the outside, moist on the inside, and perfectly cooked all of the way through.
Do You Need a Roasting Pan?
No! If you have one, great, but if not, you can use a cast iron skillet (or other oven-safe skillet), Dutch oven, or baking dish that comfortably fits your chicken and vegetables. Or, just do as we do here and put everything on a rimmed baking sheet.
Food52 x GreenPan Roasting Pan with Rack, $139 on Food52
If you do want a roasting pan, this one is both pretty and practical.
You also don’t need to truss your bird with kitchen twine, nor do you need to baste the chicken.
What You Need to Roast a Chicken
- 1 (4- to 5-pound) whole chicken, neck and giblets removed from the cavity
- 1 onion
- 1 carrot
- A couple of stalks of celery
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 medium lemon, thinly sliced (optional)
- Fresh herbs, such as parsley, rosemary, or thyme (optional)
Steps to Making Roasted Chicken:
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
2. Place the chicken on a work surface or cutting board and pat it dry with paper towels. Cut off and discard any extra fat hanging around the body cavity.
3. Chop the vegetables into chunky pieces and place on a baking sheet (or in whatever other vessel you’re using to roast your chicken).
4. Drizzle the oil on the chicken and rub it all over the skin. Season generously inside and out with salt and pepper. Place the lemon and herbs inside the chicken cavity, if using. Place the chicken breast-side up on top of the vegetables on the baking sheet.
5. Roast the chicken in the oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 375°F and continue roasting until the juices run clear and a meat thermometer inserted into the inner thigh (but not touching the bone) registers 165°F, about 50 minutes to 1 hour more. The cooking time will depend on the size of your chicken, the temperature of your oven, and various other factors, so be sure to check the juices and temp of the bird.
6. Remove the chicken from the oven and place on a cutting board. Let it rest about 15 to 20 minutes before carving.
If you’ve followed the above, congrats, you’re now enjoying some of the best chicken of your life. Feel free to switch it up by tossing in root vegetables, garlic cloves, and other tasty tidbits—or try one of the recipes below.
If you have time (and adequate fridge space), you can make this even better by dry brining the chicken: Trim it as described above, pat it dry, and generously rub the inside and outside with kosher salt, then let it sit uncovered in the fridge overnight before proceeding with the rest of the recipe. You’ll get extra crispy skin this way, but the chicken will still be delicious if you skip this step. If you do dry brine, you should not add any extra salt when prepping the chicken for roasting, but otherwise follow the recipe as written (pepper, olive oil, etc.).
More Roasted Chicken Recipes
Once you’ve practiced a few times and got the basics down, here are a few more ideas to test out with your newly found skills:
Just like our basic roasted chicken recipe, only upgraded. Stuffed with lemons, garlic, and rosemary, this chicken is a delicious alternative to our classic preparation—and includes a citrusy, herby gravy to go on everything. Get our Roasted Rosemary and Lemon Chicken recipe. (And rather than cook potatoes separately, you can scatter them in the same pan to soak up the chicken juices.)
For an Asian take on roast chicken, try our version featuring five-spice powder—the Chinese blend of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Sichuan pepper, and fennel seeds. Get our Five-Spice Roasted Chicken recipe.
Sumac, a Middle Eastern spice, is known for imparting a lemony, tart flavor in foods. It’s no surprise then, that sumac is the perfect seasoning on roast chicken. Plus, this recipe details the aforementioned spatchcocking technique for faster cooking and as much crisp skin as possible. Get our Sumac Chicken with Bread Salad recipe.
If you’re jonesing for some tandoori chicken but live in a tandoor-less house—as many of us do, unfortunately—our Fake Tandoori Chicken recipe might just hit the spot. While not 100 percent authentic, the flavors are reminiscent of the South Asian classic. Try making roti to serve on the side, and don’t forget a chutney or two.
For the fancy pants chef with a little extra money to spend, try this luxurious bird. The earthy flavors of truffles—fresh if you can afford them, canned if you must—and Madeira butter make this a perfect dish for one of the cooler nights this spring. Get our Truffle-Roasted Chicken recipe.
Not only can Molly Ringwald steal your heart, she can also steal your stomach. Molly’s recipe for roast chicken pumps the oven temp up to 500° for super crispy skin. Get Molly Ringwald’s Roasted Chicken recipe.
What to Do with Leftover Roasted Chicken
If you have a lot of meat left over, use it as you would any rotisserie chicken—but don’t throw out the bones! You can use the chicken carcass to make chicken broth or stock (and if you like a hands-off method, try our slow cooker chicken stock recipe).
Header image by Chowhound.