how to roast a chicken

Why? You know why.

Take the bird out of the fridge and let it rest on the counter for a little bit.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Get out your roasting dish. You can use a baking sheet or a glass casserole dish, assuming your bird is small enough (a 3-4 pounder would be fine, but we often get a 10 pound bird and prefer a true roasting pan). You don’t actually need a roasting rack. We often use one though, primarily because, uh, I have one. Thanks, Nina! The purpose of the roasting rack is to elevate the meat a bit, allow air circulation, ensure even heating, and so that the meat doesn’t braise. A purposeful braise is a lovely thing but it’s not what you’re shooting for with your roast chicken. If you don’t have a roasting rack you can cut up some potatoes, onions, and carrots to spread on the dish. Then you can plop the bird on the vegetables. You’ll get some circulating air, the bird won’t braise, and you’ll have the added bonus of potatoes roasted in chicken drippings and therefore hearing the angels sing. It’s that good.

So your dish is ready, with your roasting rack or your chopped vegetables. Your chicken’s chill has worn off. Take it out of the packaging (watch out for the mess!) and plop it in there, breast up. You’re not going to rinse it because that would just going to spread raw chicken drips and spray everywhere in your kitchen, ew. Look for feather remnants to dispose of. Without thinking too much about it, real casual-like, reach inside and grab the bag of bits. I frequently drop the contents of this bag in a saucepan, fill it with water, and simmer it to make broth to use in gravy. Good gravy. But no judgment if you just toss it in the trash.

You could truss. You could tuck wings. You could spatchcock. You can get fancy with herbs, shoving an onion or lemon up it, rubbing things in between the skin and the meat…or do nothing but shake salt and pepper over the bird, then drizzle a little olive oil over it. Simple is great for leftovers. Basic is nice for getting that bird in the oven fast so that you can relax for a little while before eating.

Pop the chicken in the oven, then drop the temperature to 375 degrees. Periodically open the oven and drizzle some of the juices from the bottom of the pan over the top of the chicken. Bake it until it’s done! Oh – did you want a time? There are formulas for estimating how long to roast meat, but it’s safest to just take the temperature. The first option is to wait for a period of time (maybe 40 minutes for a small bird, or an hour for a larger one), then stick a simple instant read thermometer in a thick part without touching the bone and see how close it is to 165 degrees – the magic number for poultry. Your second option is great if you are both very particular and lazy (like me). You get a probe thermometer, and then when the chicken goes in the oven, you push the probe in the breast or thigh and set it to alert you when it reaches 165 degrees.

Let the chicken rest on the counter for five to ten minutes so the juices don’t run out when you cut into it. Meanwhile you can finish making the gravy or pop the cork on that wine bottle.


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