People tend to be intimidated by roasting a chicken — after all chickens are easy to overcook and it’s hard to get the skin crispy brown, right? The truth is, whether you’re cooking for two or a crowd, there’s almost nothing easier or more delicious and comforting, than a perfectly roasted chicken.
So here’s how to do it, step by step, what to do with the tasty leftovers and how to make it your own once you nail this foolproof strategy.
A STEP-BY-STEP RECIPE
- Pat a 3 1/2–4-pound (1.6–1.8kg) whole chicken dry with paper towels and season generously with kosher salt inside and out. Use 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal or 1/2 teaspoon Morton kosher salt per pound. (Patting dry helps the skin to dry out, which is important for crispy skin.)
- Tie the legs together with kitchen twine, place 1 lemon (sliced in half) and a handful of fresh thyme in the cavity of the chicken and allow to sit for 1 hour at room temperature. By salting the chicken well ahead of roasting, you’re allowing the seasoning to penetrate the meat.Though allowing the meat to season for an hour is awesome, more is better in this case. Chill your salted bird for up to one day.
- Once your bird is seasoned, place a rack in upper third of the oven and set a 12-inch cast-iron skillet or a 3-quart. enameled cast-iron baking dish on the rack.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (218ºC). Once oven reaches temperature, pat the chicken dry with paper towels again, season with more salt and pepper, then lightly coat with olive oil.
- Remove the hot skillet from the oven and drizzle it with a bit more oil. This prevents the chicken from sticking to the pan. (Pro tip: You could add vegetables to the pan in this stage. They’ll cook in the chicken juices while it roasts and turn into a flavorful, fabulous side dish.)
- Place chicken in the center of the skillet, then place the skillet into the oven with the legs pointing toward the back of the oven.
- Roast for 50–60 minutes, checking the temperature and turning the chicken once halfway through so the breasts face the back of the oven. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast should register 155°F (68ºC); it’ll climb to 165°F (74ºC) as the chicken rests.
- Remove from oven and let chicken rest in the skillet for at least 20 minutes and up to 45 minutes.
There are a few bits of this recipe that render a perfect chicken every time. These are time tested:
- Be generous with the salt.
- Allow the chicken to sit out for at least an hour before roasting to allow the salt to work its magic.
- Roast in a cast-iron skillet so the bird starts crisping the second it hits the oven, meaning there’s no flipping required and no flabby underbelly.
- Let it rest. Wait a full 20 minutes after you pull the bird from the oven before you slice into it. This allows the juices to be reabsorbed back into the meat, becoming not only the prettiest, but also the juiciest chicken you’ve ever had.
WAYS TO MAKE IT YOURS
There are myriad ways to make an amazing roasted chicken. The easiest way to make it yours is by switching the seasonings. For any of these ideas, simply rub the spice mix all over the bird during the seasoning stage. Allow the seasoning to soak in, then roast.
Here are a few ideas to try:
- Coarsely grind 1 tablespoon fennel seeds with 1 teaspoon black peppercorns in a spice mill or with a mortar and pestle.
- Combine 2 tablespoons curry powder with 1 teaspoon garlic powder in a small bowl.
- Coarsely grind 1 tablespoon coriander seeds with 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper in a spice mill or with a mortar and pestle. Transfer to a small bowl and mix in 1 teaspoon mustard powder.
Now that you’ve got a perfectly roasted chicken, enjoy! If you have leftovers, sizzle it up in a stir-fry, stuff it into a chicken salad sandwich, make chicken soup or even chicken tacos with lime juice. Finally, you could make stock. (Simmer the carcass with water and any veggies you have on hand.)