How to Beautifully Roast a Whole Chicken
How to Roast a Whole Chicken
by Jacqueline Samaroo
Few dishes are as impressive to set on your table as a juicy, perfectly roasted and tasty whole chicken. Some persons, however, shy away from trying their hand at it, even when they are capable cooks who produce great dishes, otherwise.
It’s quite understandable why, really. When you roast a whole chicken, you can’t know exactly how well your efforts have turned out until you carve and serve it. Is it too dry? Is it cooked all the way through? How well did your choice of flavors work together? It can be quite stressful!
Luckily, just by bearing these few simple tips in mind, you can take all the stress out of whole chicken roasting. We’ll even share some mighty yummy recipe ideas with you – so read on!
Prepare Your Bird
For the perfect end result, you’ve got to start right. The first step is to thaw the chicken to room temperature. This can be done either in the refrigerator (will take up to a day) or in the sink in a pan of water (needs at least an hour per pound of chicken).
Once the chicken is defrosted, remove the giblets (that little bundle of parts you find in some whole chickens and turkeys) and rinse the bird completely, inside and out. DON’T throw the giblets away – they can be added to stocks and stews.
(Some chefs even season them up and set them to cook in the roasting pan outside of the chicken – they make great chef’s rewards!)
Lastly, pat the bird dry using paper towels and either set it on a couple sheets of parchment paper on the counter or in the roasting pan.
Choose Your Spices
Before adding your seasonings to the chicken, you have the option of first rubbing the outside of the bird with a little softened butter or olive oil. These work threefold by
- allowing the seasonings to stick to the meat
- helping the skin of the chicken to become crisp and golden
- forming the base of a lovely gravy in the bottom of the roasting pan
When it comes to seasoning the chicken, some cooks swear that salt and pepper, applied generously inside and out, are really all you need. By just using those two, you get the natural flavor of the chicken shining through.
If you wish to add extra flavor to the meat, however, here is a list of spices that go well with your roast chicken:
- onion powder
- grated garlic
- dried basil
- grated citrus zest
- dried oregano
Here is a simple yet scrumptious three-ingredient roast chicken recipe.
Basic Roast Chicken
Prepare the chicken by first removing the excess fat. Wash and dry the chicken, then season the inside with salt and pepper. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon onto the chicken and rub the juice into it’s skin. Both halves of the lemon go into the cavity before you truss the chicken.
Brush olive oil all over the bird and season well with salt and pepper. Set it to roast in a preheated oven and rest it for a few minutes when done. Drizzle the pan juices over the chicken when serving.
Once you’ve cooked a couple of roasts and have the fundamentals down, don’t be afraid to experiment with the flavors.
For example, to give your bird an East Indian flavor, you can use turmeric, a little cardamom and garam masala, plus some cumin and coriander. For a West Indian taste, try allspice, cinnamon, a little ground cloves and some dried thyme, along with cayenne pepper.
Add Stuffing and Accompaniments
Stuffing the cavity of the chicken with aromatics adds flavor from the inside. Popular options include peeled and smashed garlic, quartered onion, chopped celery, whole sprigs of thyme and rosemary, as well as lemon halves.
Many cooks like to roast their chicken on a bed of roughly chopped onions. They might add some carrots halved lengthwise, chopped potatoes, garlic cloves and celery stalks, as well. The veggies multi-task for you as:
- a way to raise the bird from the bottom of the pan so air can circulate all around it and help to it cook evenly
- additional flavors for the chicken and the gravy that collects in the pan
- a tasty roasted side dish once cooking is done
Here’s an awesome recipe built on this idea:
Sweet and Savory Viking Chicken
Fill the cavity with whole rosemary sprigs and a small lemon or clementine. Truss the chicken and prepare a bed of carrots or asparagus on top of chopped onion and fruit (such as pear and apple) in the bottom of the roasting pan. Season well with salt and pepper.
Place the chicken on top, then scatter more chopped fruits and vegetables all around. You can use Irish and sweet potatoes, mushrooms, garlic cloves and Brussel sprouts. Add a drizzle of olive oil all over and some butter on the chicken. Roast the chicken in the lower-middle of the oven until golden.
Rest the chicken for a few minutes, tented with foil, while you toss the fruit and vegetables in the roasting juices. Serve with pride!
Time It Right and Check for Doneness
Cooking times for your bird will vary depending on a number of factors. These include
- The size of the chicken– A large bird will require more time. Generally speaking, a three-pound chicken will cook in about an hour and 15 minutes. Add another 20 minutes per pound after that.
- Cooking temperature– At high heat, the chicken will cook faster, allowing you to knock roughly 15 minutes off the cooking time. The chicken will also end up with a crispier skin.
- Stuffing– Stuffed chickens will require more time to cook through. You will need to add approximately 15 minutes to the total cooking time for stuffed birds.
There are several methods you can use to judge whether the chicken is fully cooked. The safest way is a food thermometer that reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit when inserted in the thickest part of the thigh (not touching the bone).
Here are a few other ways.
- Cut the thigh all the way to the bone. If the meat is red, the chicken needs more time to cook.
- Pierce the thigh with a knife. If the juices run clear, the chicken is done.
- When the wings and legs wiggle freely in their joints, the chicken is cooked.
Rest Your Bird
Resting the chicken once it’s done cooking helps the meat to relax and the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. The chicken will also continue to cook due to the heat stored inside it.
You can rest it in the pan or remove it to your cutting board or resting mat. Place a loose tent of two sheets of aluminum foil over the chicken and let it rest for around 15 minutes before cutting into it. Some persons suggest tenting the bird in the roasting pan and placing it back in the oven. Just be sure to turn the heat off and leave the door open! This will keep the chicken warm while not overcooking and drying it out.
One of the best things about roasting a whole chicken is deciding how to enjoy the leftovers! From chicken sandwiches, to soups, stocks and salads, you have so many options that none of your delicious bird needs to get wasted.
- Darren Clunie