There are lots of instructions on how to roast a chicken. Most of them work well, but many are complete flops when it comes to the moist, succulent deliciousness of what a roast chicken should be.
My grandmother taught me how to roast a chicken. Of course, living on a farm and raising five kids, the chicken was a frequent cooking ingredient. While she made a variety of wonderful chicken dishes, my favorite was her roast chicken.
I still follow her roast chicken instructions exactly as she taught me. I keep it simple like Grandma did and I always get amazing, mouth-watering, golden-crusted goodness.
The Tools You Need to Roast a Chicken
Learning how to roast a chicken is fairly easy, but there are three must-have tools. You can have a good roast chicken without them, but it won’t be quite as awe-inspiring.
These three all important tools are:
Roasting Pan – I recommend the Calphalon Stainless Roaster
All Cotton Cooking Twine – Get your twine at Amazon (best deal)
I don’t always subscribe to the idea that more expensive is better, but when it comes to roasting pans, I suggest getting the best you can afford. Look for tri-ply stainless steel like the Calphalon. However, it requires care so be sure to follow the instructions when using it.
Time to Learn How Roast a Chicken
- Never roast a chicken straight from the refrigerator. This adds a considerable amount of cooking time and toughens the meat. Always let your chicken set at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour.
- Remove any giblets from the cavity of the chicken.
- Preheat oven to 450° F.
- One of the most important rules when roasting a chicken is never to wash the meat. Washing actually applies to any meat you cook. Whether you buy your chicken at the store or from an area butcher, never wash any of it beforehand as this spreads bacteria to your sink and counter as well as yourself. All meat is cleaned before packaging, plus bringing the chicken to the correct internal cooking temperature of 165° F kills any bacteria or germs.
- Dry the outside of your chicken by patting with 2 or 3 paper towels. Make sure the meat is as dry as possible and discard towels. Dry the inside of the chicken cavity with 2 or 3 clean paper towels. Drying is an essential step to roast a chicken. Water on a chicken creates steam which dries out the meat.
- Mix together a ½ teaspoon of salt and a ½ teaspoon of black ground pepper. Sprinkle inside the chicken cavity. Simple is best, and this is the only flavoring my grandmother used. However, I sometimes like to place a 3-inch sprig of fresh rosemary and one clove of crushed garlic to the cavity of the chicken. By adding these to the chicken cavity, the flavor penetrates the meat, giving your chicken a slightly different flavor.
Anything you want can go into the cavity for more exotic flavors. Things like lemon and orange halves, onions and carrots, all lend a unique flavor. But for me, I prefer it plain and simple.
- Now your bird is ready to truss. You can skip trussing if you prefer, but you need this step for even cooking and a better roast chicken.
- Trussing requires four easy steps:
- First, you need some all-cotton twine for cooking. Never use anything but all-cotton. To make sure your twine is food safe, buy from the cooking or food department. It’s very inexpensive like this 500-foot cone I buy which costs about $5.00.
- Lay your chicken breast side up on a cutting board or baking sheet, with the legs facing away from you.
- Center about a 2-foot length of twine underneath the tail and bring up and round close to the end of the legs. Cross the ends of the twine then loop back under the legs, pulling twine tight to truss the legs close together.
- While holding the ends, flip your chicken over. Pull the twine up and around the sides, tuck in the wings and pull tight at the neck with a butchers knot. Trim loose ends of twine. Make a butcher’s knot by looping the string through the knot twice then tightening.
9. Mix together a ¾ teaspoon of kosher salt and a ¾ teaspoon black ground pepper per pound of chicken. Sprinkle the back of the chicken, flip over and sprinkle the front of the chicken, making sure to cover the entire bird.
Never pour the salt and pepper over the chicken. You want to make sure you evenly coat the chicken. You can cut back on the amount of pepper, but do not cut back on the salt.
10. Put a rack in roasting pan and place chicken, breast side up, on the rack. While you don’t have to use a rack, I highly recommend it to roast a chicken perfectly. Not only does it keep your meat from sticking to the pan, but it also allows the heat to circulate underneath the chicken for even cooking.
11. Place chicken on middle rack of preheated oven. Cook for 50 to 60 minutes or until you get a temperature reading of 165 ° F at the thickest part of the chicken, which is the junction between the breast and thigh. Do not overcook your chicken. Cooking too long causes the chicken to dry out and lose flavor. If your chicken weighs more than 3 pounds, adjust cooking time accordingly.
Roasting a chicken this way does not require basting. Even though it is tempting to check on the chicken during cooking, do not open the door until after 50 minutes. Opening the oven door during cooking dries out the meat and lengthens cooking time.
12. When the chicken is done, remove from roasting pan and place breast side up on cutting board. Let chicken set or “rest” for 15 minutes to allow the juices to soak in, which enhances the flavor of the meat.
Make this a great meal in one pan by roasting your vegetables with the chicken. Simply wash and chop your vegetables into a large mixing bowl. I like using red potatoes, carrots, onions, celery, asparagus, and two cloves of chopped garlic.
Liberally drizzle olive oil over vegetables and add seasonings. I use seasoned salt and Italian seasoning. Mix until vegetables are well coated.
Spread vegetables evenly over bottom of the roasting pan then place roasting rack and chicken over the top of the vegetables. The juices from the chicken will drip down, keeping the vegetables moist.
Using a slotted spoon, remove vegetables to a serving dish.