How to Roast the Perfect Chicken
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Where to Start
First, LeFavour recommends buying a good quality chicken, one that is organic or antibiotic free (see the next slide for more info). Second, after rinsing the bird make sure to dry it off well and then give it a good rub with oil or butter and blast it at a high temperature (like 450 degrees) for a super-crispy skin. But — here’s the clincher — don’t overcook the bird. As she puts it, "In a perfect world, the breast should be just 160 degrees. and the thigh should be 170 degrees. (This is why the breast is often overcooked, because you need to get the thigh to a higher temperature.)"
Click here to see the Crispy Roast Chicken recipe pictured at left.
The Best Type of Bird to Buy
LeFavour prefers certified organic, human-certified, and antibiotic-free birds. While they are smaller and more expensive than the giant roasters in the supermarket cooler, they have great flavor. She writes, "Don't be fooled by the words 'Natural' or 'USDA Process Certified.' They don't mean a thing. After all, you don't really want to eat a bird thats raised on antibiotic-laced feed in a crowded, dusty warehouse, do you?"
Do You Need to Truss?
While LeFavour admits that trussing looks pretty and professional, it isn’t really necessary. She explains that it actually slows down the cooking of the thighs, which need to reach a higher temperature than the breast to look and feel "done." Alternatively, you could stuff the bird with a lemon or something else that would achieve a similar purpose to trussing.
Click here to see the Perfect Roasted Chicken recipe.
Get the Chill Off the Chicken
Before you season the bird, one of the most important things to do, LeFavour says, is to take it out of the refrigerator, dry it off, and rub it down with butter or oil and a good amount of salt. If you want to transfer some salt into the flesh, she recommends brining the bird 24 hours before cooking with a few herbs, peppercorns, a pinch of sugar, and plenty of salt.
The Perfect Canvas
The beauty of a chicken, as chicken lovers the world round will tell you, is that it goes with just about anything. With that said, LaFavour is a huge fan of fresh herbs — chopping them up and scattering them on a carved chicken before serving. She likes to mix tarragon, parsley, and thyme, but, for an Asian approach, recommends a mix of mint and cilantro, which is surprisingly delicious. Of course, almost every spice pairs well with chicken, she says.
The Ideal Roasting Temperature
This appears to be a general consensus among pro chicken roasters (see Michael Ruhlmans recipe); 450 degrees is best. LeFavour likes to blast the bird, which is perfect for a 3- to 5-pound chicken. She does note that for a really big bird, you'll probably have to turn down the oven to finish it.
To Rotate or Not to Rotate
A big tip of many chefs, bakers, and cookbook authors is to “know your oven.” This means knowing if there are "hot" or "cold" spots in the oven and if the oven temperature is accurate. (It might be programmed to be at 350 degrees, but the temperature inside could actually be 300 or 400 degrees.)
LeFavour’s response is similar; she says that it depends entirely on your oven. If your oven is uneven, then feel free to rotate the chicken during the cooking process.
Quartering or Spatchcocking (Butterflying) Chickens
While you can grill or roast a whole bird and then use a cleaver to chop it up, LeFavour says that sometimes it’s just really fun to hack up a whole bird. She calls for just that in her recipe for Gai Yang with Bird’s-Eye Chile Dipping Sauce (pictured at left).
In general, though, LaFavour thinks that cooking chicken in pieces is better because the breast cooks so much faster than the thighs and legs. "Timing is everything!"
Click here to see How to Quarter a Chicken.
LeFavour prefers a big, cast-iron frying pan for roasting chicken. Another tool thats helpful is an instant-read thermometer so you can make sure that your chicken reaches the 160-degree mark (indicating that it's done and safe for you to eat). The thermometer is also great for sticking in the deepest part of the thigh so you can remove the bird when it reaches 165 to 170 degrees. (While the thigh and leg are safe to eat at 160, they won't feel or look done until 170 degrees.)
Another favorite technique of LaFavour's for cooking chicken is dry braising. For instance, in her Roast Chicken with Kumquats recipe, the chicken is cooked uncovered with liquid. This method speeds up the cooking of the dark meat (which needs to be at a higher temperature than the breast), while still resulting in super-crispy skin. "It’s the best of all worlds — perfectly cooked, moist breast meat, crispy skin and perfectly done thighs and legs."
Click here to see the Roast Chicken with Kumquats recipe.
First, if you don’t already have an inexpensive instant-read thermometer, please go get one! It’s a simple tool that will change your chicken-roasting life.
Insert an instant probe thermometer into the breast meat parallel with the rib bones (not touching them).
Look for a temperature of 150-155F. Keep in mind the chicken will continue to cook when you remove it from the oven or grill.
Sometimes we roast it on the grill, which produces an even better chicken with crisp, golden skin and a delicious smoky aroma.
The method is from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, a cookbook I consider an absolute necessity in the kitchen.
How To Cook Moist & Tender Chicken Breasts Every Time
- Calories 231
- Fat 7.4 g (11.3%)
- Saturated 2.8 g (13.9%)
- Carbs 0.3 g (0.1%)
- Fiber 0.1 g (0.5%)
- Sugars 0.0 g
- Protein 38.3 g (76.7%)
- Sodium 404.8 mg (16.9%)
boneless, skinless chicken breasts, of similar size
Freshly ground black pepper
olive oil, unsalted butter, or combination of both
Heavy Mason jar or wide drinking glass
Flatten the chicken breasts. Pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness with the bottom of a wide jar or glass. You can also use the bottom of a small frying pan.
Season the chicken breasts. Lightly season the chicken with salt and pepper.
Heat the pan. Heat a frying pan large enough to fit the chicken in a single layer over medium-high heat. When it is quite hot, add the olive oil (or butter, if using). Swirl the pan so it is lightly covered with the olive oil.
Cook the chicken breasts over medium heat for 1 minute without moving. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the chicken breasts. Cook undisturbed for just about 1 minute to help them get a little golden on one side (you are not actually searing or browning them).
Flip the chicken breasts. Flip each chicken breast over.
Turn the heat down to low. Reduce the heat to low.
Cover the pan and cook on low for 10 minutes. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid. Set a timer for 10 minutes, and walk away. Do not lift the lid do not peek.
Turn off the heat and let sit for an additional 10 minutes. After 10 minutes have elapsed, turn off the heat. (If you have an electric stove, remove the pan from the heat.) Reset the timer for 10 minutes and leave the chicken breasts in the pan. Again, do not lift the lid do not peek.
Remove lid and take temperature. After the 10 minutes are up, uncover and your chicken is done. Make sure there is no pink in the middle of the chicken breasts. If you want to be absolutely sure it is cooked, you can use an instant-read thermometer to check -- the chicken should be at least 165°F. Slice and eat.
Dredge in seasoned flour: You can also dredge the chicken breasts in flour before cooking. Season the flour with spices or fresh herbs and make sure the chicken is golden on one side before you flip it over. This will give your chicken a very subtle crust.
Quick brine: You can make your boneless skinless chicken breasts even juicier and more flavorful with a super-quick brine. Even just 15 minutes in a simple brine will make them juicier. Watch the video above to see how this is done.
Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 2 months.
Updated from post originally published February 2011.
How to Make a Perfect Roast Chicken
1. Preheat the Oven and Set Up A Rack
Some cooks swear by higher temperatures, while others find that lower and slower gets them the chicken they want. I like 400°F to 425°F, which is also ideal if you are cooking additional vegetables along with the chicken.
Place a wire rack in a shallow roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet. Cooking the chicken on a wire rack allows air to circulate under the chicken, and the skin on the bottom will become a bit crispier than if you cooked it directly on the pan. This is optional, however – a chicken roasted directly on the pan will also be wonderful.
2. Butter Under the Skin
Make sure your chicken is very dry first – rinse under cool water, and blot well with paper towels. Also have the chicken at room temperature for more even cooking. Smearing some soft butter, on its own, or combined with herbs and other seasonings under the skin helps keep the breast meat moist and juicy. Gently lift up the skin over the breast, and use your hand to smear some butter underneath, trying not to tear the skin.
3. Butter Over the Skin
Rub the chicken all over with softened butter (or olive oil is also a fine thought), which will give the skin additional flavor.
4. Season the Chicken
Be generous with the salt and pepper! Some cooks like to season the chicken and then leave it uncovered in the fridge for a day or two to allow the salt to sort of dry brine the chicken, which is a nice way to create juicy meat, but it’s not at all necessary. Salt and pepper are the basics, other seasonings are welcome. Make sure to get the seasonings inside the chicken as well as outside.
5. Add Ingredients Into the Chicken if Desired
Often some extra ingredients are placed into the cavity of the chicken, like halved lemons, onions, or apples, or sprigs or herbs.
6. Trussing the chicken: HIghly Optional
Trussing the chicken is something some cooks like to do, and others think is not necessary. Trussing the chicken means to tie up the legs with kitchen twine, close to the body of the bird, so that it keeps a neater, more compact shape.
Sometimes recipes will instruct you to fold the wings behind the chicken (which I think is sort of awkward and hard). The intention is that the light and dark meat will cook more evenly. I kind of think all of it is overrated, partly because it’s just one extra step. So usually, no trussing for me
7. Add Additional Ingredients to the Roasting Pan, if Using
Other vegetables may be added to the pan to cook alongside the chicken. Make sure they are the right size and texture so that they will cook in the same time as the chicken takes to finish, like potatoes, or if they need less time (like broccoli florets), you might add them part way through the cooking process. If you are adding vegetables, scatter them around the chicken.
8. Roast the Chicken
If you are not roasting any vegetables with the chicken, it’s a good idea to add about 1/2 cup of water to the pan to prevent the drippings from burning. Place the chicken on the rack breast side up, slide the pan into the oven, and roast it for about 60 to 70 minutes. Basting is highly optional – some people feel like it makes for a crisper more flavorful skin, others (like Thomas Keller! Like Ina Garten!) feel like it’s not necessary. That’s the camp I like best.
9. Testing Roast Chicken for Doneness
The skin should be browned and crispy. A meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (but not touching the bone) should register 165°F. When you make a small cut in the thigh, the juices should run clear, not pink.
10. Let the Chicken Rest
Roast chicken, and really all meat, especially large pieces of meat, need to sit for several minutes for the juices to be able to regroup into the meat before you slice it and lose all of those delicious juices onto your cutting board. Make sure to tilt the chicken before transferring it so that any juices that have accumulated in the cavity of the bird go into the pan.
11. Make a “Jus” (Sauce) – Optional.
While the chicken is resting, you can make a jus, which is a very simple pan sauce, if you wish. You can simply pour all of the juices that have accumulated in the pan into a heat proof measuring cup, wait for the fat to rise to the top, then skim that off and drizzle the remaining juices over the chicken, though there probably won’t be much.
Or, once the fat has been skimmed off, place the pan you roasted the bird in on a burner (or two) set to medium high heat, return the skimmed juices to the pan, and add 1/2 to 1 cup of chicken broth or stock, and bring to a simmer, stirring to loosen all of the browned bits from the pan. Strain if desired. Pour into a small pitcher or cup, and drizzle over the meat.
12. Carve the Chicken
It’s best to use a cutting board or serving board with a moat to catch the juices that will emerge as you cut into the chicken. Start by cutting off the drumsticks.
13. Finish Carving the Dark Meat
Cut the thighs from the chicken.
14. Carve the White Meat
Cut the wings from the bird. You can then either cut the breast meat into slices directly from the chicken, or remove the breast meat as a whole piece, and then slice it on the cutting board.
15. Arrange and Serve
If you’ve roasted other vegetables along with the chicken, arrange them with the chicken on a serving platter, and serve with the jus, if desired. A sprig or two of fresh herbs really makes a simple roast chicken look very special.
16. Save Everything for Stock!
Place the bones and any bits and pieces and extra skin from the chicken into a large pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a simmer for about 1 hour, and you will have a light broth. More than one chicken carcass (recommended) will give you a richer broth, as will the option of using canned or boxed chicken broth instead of water to simmer the bones – use less-sodium broth if you’re doing this.
You can also add some vegetables, such as onions, carrots and celery, and perhaps some fresh herbs to the pot for a more flavorful broth.
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon caraway seeds
- ½ teaspoon dried sage
- ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
- ¼ teaspoon coriander seeds
- ¼ teaspoon dried rosemary
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 (4 pound) broiler-fryer chicken, cut in half lengthwise
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
In a spice grinder or mortar, combine kosher salt, caraway seeds, sage, fennel, coriander, and rosemary. Grind to a coarse powder. Transfer spice mixture to a bowl and stir in paprika, garlic powder, flour, and onion powder mix in vegetable oil to make a smooth paste.
Pat chicken halves dry with paper towels and tuck wing tips up behind the back. Brush spice paste onto chicken halves, coating both sides, taking care to season under wings and legs. Place chicken halves in baking dish or roasting pan with skin sides up, leaving space around chicken so halves aren't touching.
Roast in preheated oven until a thermometer inserted in a thigh reads 165 degrees F (74 degrees C), about 1 hour. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
How To Roast The Perfect Whole Chicken
All you need is a roasting pan (or a baking sheet in a pinch) and an instant-read thermometer.
Using a roasting rack set over the pan will help the chicken cook more evenly, since air can circulate freely. With a roasting rack, the chicken won't be resting in its own drippings, which will give you crispier skin. For easier cleanup, you can line the pan with aluminum foil.
A chicken roasted with nothing but salt, pepper, and butter is very tasty indeed. But it's also easy to build on these basic flavors. Chop up fresh herbs and tuck them under the chicken's skin along with a few pats of butter, or stuff sprigs into the chicken cavity along with quartered onions and cloves of garlic. Wedges of aromatic fruit such as lemons or oranges will perfume the bird as it roasts, infusing the meat with extra flavor.
Many cooks use a dry rub: a blend of dried and ground spices, rubbing them under the chicken's skin and inside the cavity. Since they're under the skin, the flavorings won't burn plus they'll infuse the meat. This is a great way to add some spice if you'll be discarding the skin.
•For a Southwestern flavor, try chile powder or pureed fresh chiles, cumin, and sage.
•For an Indian-inspired bird, mix together equal parts ground coriander and cumin, plus turmeric and a pinch or two of cardamom or garam masala.
•To give the chicken a Thai flair, try a paste of ginger, lemon grass, green chilies, cilantro and lime juice.
Crispy, fragrant roast chicken skin is delicious. It is a bit fatty, though. But whether you eat it or remove it, always roast with the skin on, as it holds in moisture and keeps the meat from drying out.
If you like, truss the bird before roasting it--that is, tie it with butcher's twine to keep the legs close to the body. This is not an essential step, but it does make the chicken slightly easier to handle, and it helps hold the stuffing in if you've stuffed the chicken.
•To truss a chicken, cut about a 3-foot length of heatproof butcher's twine.
•Lay the chicken on a clean surface with the breast facing up.
•Hold one end of the string in each hand, and loop the center of the string underneath the chicken's tail.
•Catch the ends of the legs inside the string, then cross the string over the chicken's breast, making an X.
•Loop the string under and around the wings, then tie the string snugly in a knot across the middle of the breast. Make sure that the ends of the wings are tucked in.
There are two methods for roasting a whole chicken:
•Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
•Roast whole (thawed) chickens for 20 minutes per pound, plus an additional 15 minutes.
High heat method (this creates a crispy, darker skin):
•Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) and cook whole (thawed) chicken for 10-15 minutes.
•Then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and roast for 20 minutes per pound. (Do not add the extra 15 minutes to the cooking time as with the regular method.)
Regardless of the method used, a whole chicken is ready when a meat thermometer inserted into the inner thigh (close to but not touching the thigh bone) reads at least 165 degrees F (74 degrees C).
•The temperature of the meat will continue to rise slightly when you pull it out of the oven (this is called "carryover cooking"), so if the thermometer shows a few degrees below the target, give it a few minutes--the internal temperature might still rise to at least 165 degrees F (74 degrees C).
•When you remove the chicken from the oven, cover it loosely with a doubled sheet of aluminum foil, and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing. This redistributes the juices and results in moister chicken.
Use this chart to determine how long to roast your chicken: (high heat method is the second time listed)
--2.5-3lbs=1 hour/15 minutes=1 hour
--3-3.5lbs=1 hour/25 minutes=1 hour/10 minutes
--3.5-4lbs=1 hour/35 minutes=1 hour/20 minutes
--4-4.5lbs=1 hour/45 minutes=1 hour/30 minutes
--4.5-5lbs=1 hour/55 minutes=1 hour/40 minutes
--5-5.5lbs=2 hours/5 minutes-1 hour/50 minutes
--5.5-6lbs=2 hours/15 minutes=2 hours
--6-6.5lbs=2 hours/25 minutes=2 hours/10 minutes
--6.5-7lbs=2 hours/35 minutes=2 hours/20 minutes
--7-7.5lbs=2 hours/45 minutes=2 hours/30 minutes
NOTE: These times are for unstuffed birds. Add 15 minutes to the total cooking time if you're roasting a stuffed chicken. And as with the chicken itself, make sure the stuffing reaches a temperature of at least 165 degrees F (74 degrees C).
More techniques to get the crispiest roast chicken
Millard told Food & Wine to get the skin perfectly golden, she lets the meat cure and dry out for 48 hours. She also suggests leaving the chicken uncovered and not wrapped in anything, making it easier for it to dry out. However, Millard admitted she hasn't always been an expert at cooking a flawless roast chicken. "I think it's something that you have to do over and over and over again," she said. "But it's also the test of a really good cook."
Another tip from the Food Network for mouthwatering crispy chicken is placing it on the top rack of your oven, which is the hottest portion. If you're feeling bold, you can also remove the skin and put it in a frying pan or convection oven to crisp it up. Bonus tip, if you love the taste of rotisserie chicken try putting it on different entrees like casseroles or even macaroni and cheese. Trust us, you won't be disappointed!
Prepare the Chicken
Preheat the oven to 375ଏ. Make sure to note how much your bird weighs, as this determines how long to roast a chicken in the oven. Set the chicken in a shallow roasting pan, breast side up. Tie the drumsticks together with cooking twine so the chicken keeps its shape and to ensure even cooking without overdrying the limbs. Since the wings are small and will cook the fastest if they&aposre sticking out, tuck the wing tips under the bird so they don&apost burn.
Test Kitchen Tip: Sometimes gizzards or other internal organs are stuffed in the cavity of the chicken remove this packet before cooking and discard or save for another use.
Why You Should Never Rinse Your Chicken
In the past, recipes recommended rinsing pieces of chicken or turkey (or the entire bird&aposs cavity) with water and patting it dry with paper towels. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has changed its stance on this practice. Research shows rinsing poultry can spread bacteria by splashing contaminated water onto the surrounding areas. If any moisture is present on your bird when you remove it from the packaging, simply pat it dry with paper towels, and don&apost forget to throw the paper towels away immediately.
For the Master Recipe:
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Remove the plastic bag of giblets from inside the bird. Wash the giblets if you want to roast and eat them. Put them in the roasting pan.
- Wash the chicken inside and out dry with paper towels. Place the chicken on a rack in the roasting pan. Rub the surface with the oil. Sprinkle the chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Place the chicken breast-side down on the rack.
- Put the chicken in the oven. Roast 15 minutes. Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees. Roast for 30 minutes, basting once or twice during that time with stock or juice. Turn the chicken breast-side up. Continue to roast the chicken for about 45-60 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees (F), or when the juices run clear when the thigh is pricked with the tines of a fork. Do not baste for the last 20 minutes of roasting time. After you take the chicken out of the oven, let it rest for 15 minutes before you carve it.
For the Lemon-Oregano Roasted Chicken:
Follow the roasting procedure directions for roast chicken but do not prepare the chicken with vegetable oil and spices and do not use the stock, white wine, or juice. Mix the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, oregano, basil and salt and pepper in a bowl. Either marinate the chicken for at least one hour before cooking OR pour over the chicken when you put it in the oven and use the pan fluids for basting.