I am a firm believer that in order to cook “outside the box” you need to have a basic understanding of the ingredients you are working with. Knowing how to cook something will give you the frame work to really experiment and succeed in the kitchen.
In reality, all you need is a bird, a pan, some twine and a meat thermometer. While it is not required, I also recommend cooking the bird on some sort of roasting rack. I have used everything from a specialty stand-up rack to a basic cookie cooling rack, each with wonderful results! The racks allow the heat to circulate around the bird freely and keeps it out of it’s own juices while roasting. This keeps the skin nice and crispy!
Once you open your chicken, make sure to check the cavity and remove any innards. Rinse and pat dry. Regardless of whether you plan to eat it or not, always roast with the skin on. It helps to seal in the moisture and will keep your bird from drying out .
For a tender and juicy chicken, always let your thawed bird sit at room temperature for an hour before roasting. This allows the meat to cook evenly and fewer juices will leak out or evaporate during cooking. If you put a cold chicken into the oven, the heat will pull the moisture from the meat on the outside out before the inside is cooked.
For a simple and natural bird, a quick rub down with olive oil, salt and pepper will suffice. But these are easy flavors to build on and I suggest you do. Try lifting the skin and stuffing with herbs. Stuffing the cavity with onions, orange wedges and rosemary is another favorite of mine. Play around with your favorite herbs and spices and I am sure you will come up with your own ideas that will be a success. If you are not sure where to start, hit up a gourmet shop and try a chicken rub. These are all simple little steps that will add some wow factor to your dish. (For the recipe shown, click here)
Tie it Up:
It is not always necessary but I like to truss- or tie up- my chicken before cooking. First, it makes the bird easier to handle. Second, if you stuff your bird you are going to want to keep all your goodies inside. To truss, cut a piece of butcher’s twine long enough to fit around the bulk bird. Lay your chicken on a clean surface with the breast side up. Holding each end of the twine, loop the string under the tail of the bird and catch the ends of the legs with the string. Tie snugly, securing the legs to the belly of the bird. If you have stuffed the bird, cut a second string and repeat these steps securing the feet.
Roasting Methods: There are two standard methods for roasting a whole chicken. Both methods require a THAWED bird.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C)
- Roast chicken for 20 minutes per pound, plus an additional 15 minutes.
High Heat Method:
- Preheat oven to 450°F (230°C) and cook whole bird for 10-15 minutes (this will make the skin crispy).
- Reduce temperature to 350°F (175°C) and roast for an additional 20 minutes per pound.
- You do NOT add the additional 15 minutes at the end.
If all that math sounds a bit overwhelming, here is a little cheat sheet by weight:
|Weight||Regular Method||High Heat Method|
|2.5-3 lbs||1 hour & 15 mins||1 hour|
|3-3.5 lbs||1 hour & 20 mins||1 hour & 10 mins|
|3.5-4 lbs||1 hour & 35 mins||1 hour & 20 mins|
|4-4.5 lbs||1 hour & 45 mins||1 hour & 30 mins|
|4.5-5 lbs||1 hour & 55 mins||1 hour & 40 mins|
|5-5.5 lbs||2 hours & 5 mins||1 hour & 50 mins|
|5.5-6 lbs||2 hours & 15 mins||2 hours|
|6-6.5 lbs||2 hours & 25 mins||2 hour & 10 mins|
|6.5-7 lbs||2 hours & 35 mins||2 hour & 20 mins|
|7-7.5 lbs||2 hours & 45 mins||2 hour & 30 mins|
IMPORTANT: These times are for UNSTUFFED birds only. As a rule of thumb, you need to add 15 minutes to the total cooking time when roasting a stuffed chicken. As with the chicken itself, make sure the stuffing also reaches a temperature of at least 165°F (74°C).
No matter how you cooked your chicken, there is only one way to tell when it is done. A whole chicken is cooked when a meat thermometer inserted into the inner thigh (close to but not touching the bone) reads at least 165°F (75°C). The temperature of the meat will continue to rise after you pull the bird from the oven. This is called “carryover cooking”, so if you are within a degree or two of 165°F, you should reach the temperature while the bird sits. Always make sure to double check the temperature before serving, the last thing you want to do is make your nearest and dearest sick.
After you remove the chicken from the oven, cover it loosely with aluminum foil and let it sit for 10-15 minutes before serving. This lets the juices settle and keeps the meat tender and moist.
Serve with your favorite side dishes and enjoy!