Roasting a chicken is one of the easiest things you can do and also one of the most impressive. You just prepare it, stick it in the oven, set a timer and forget about it. What could be easier or prettier?
If this is your first time roasting a whole bird I recommend one in the 3-5 pound range. The bigger the bird the more intimidated people tend to get. They come wrapped in plastic similar to a turkey. Some will have the neck and giblets inside the main cavity, others will have the giblets where the neck should be. It depends on the company so check both places every time. You will also need something big enough to fit the whole bird. While a roasting pan with a rack is ideal they take up a lot of space, and in my teeny tiny kitchen we are already bursting at the seams so I use a cast iron skillet. The only disadvantage of this method is that the skin on the bottom of the bird does not crisp up. We usually just eat the breast skin anyway because it crisps up so nicely.
A lot of people overcook chicken because they are afraid of getting salmonella poisoning. If you are worried about it being cooked all the way through make it fail proof and buy an instant read thermometer for about $10. If you are a gadget person you can get one for about $20 that has a cord attached to a display that can be programmed to alarm when it is done. In any case, when the internal temperature reaches 165°F it is safe. Remember moist=tender and dry=tough and gross. As long as the meat is no longer pink and the juices run clear it is perfectly safe. You did not know chicken should be juicy, did you?
Once I rinse my bird off in cold water and dry it, I take softened butter, salt, pepper, rosemary and sage and make a compound butter out of it. This butter gets smeared in between the skin and the meat, as well as all over the entire bird. If you are not sure how to get under the skin, there is a great how-to video by Epicurious here. Try to make sure you have everything ready to go before doing this. You haven’t experienced stress until you have butter all over your hands and someone rings the doorbell. Then, you curse the faucet for taking so long to heat up, knowing it is an impossible task to wash your greasy hands in cold water. Meanwhile you are yelling at the front door to hold on a minute as you hastily squirt half a container of soap on to hurry the process only to open the door to someone soliciting you to get new windows. I am getting off topic here, aren’t I? Let’s get back to the bird. Don’t be stingy on the salt either! It is amazing how much difference salt makes in any dish. I use coarse kosher salt for almost everything. If you have coarse sea salt lying around sprinkle some of that on top just before putting it in the oven. You will get an amazing crisp skin.
Once it is thoroughly covered in the compound butter I stuff the cavity with onions, lemon and parsley. You aren’t going to eat what is inside the cavity, but you will be amazed how much flavor works into the meat while it cooks. I also tie the legs together. This isn’t a necessary step but it does help to cook more evenly. You can find cooking twine at big box kitchen supply stores and some grocery stores. The easiest way to tie the legs together is by taking a foot long piece of twine and making a loop around one leg and knotting it. Then loop the other side around and tie it like a bow. You will need to cross the legs (see the above picture) to get it nice and tight. I also pour just a little white wine or chicken broth into the pan and cover it to help keep it moist while cooking. The foil traps all the steam in and helps retain all the juice we want. The bad part is you get soggy skin so after about an hour you discard the foil and spoon the juices onto the bird. By the time it is finished the skin is nice and crisp. Once it is done, let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing is so all of those yummy juices stay in.
Give roasting a chicken a try- it is way too easy to put together and great for a lazy Sunday dinner. Post questions and comments below!
Lemon & Herb Roast Chicken
1 whole chicken, 3-5 pounds, giblets removed
Handful fresh flat leaf parsley
Half a stick of butter
2 Tbsp dried rubbed sage
2 Tbsp dried rosemary
1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
1 Tbsp kosher salt
¼ cup white wine of chicken broth
Kitchen twine (optional)
Preheat oven to 375°F. Rinse chicken in cold water and pat dry. Chop onions and lemon small enough to fit inside cavity of chicken. Set aside. In a small bowl thoroughly combine the butter, sage, rosemary, pepper and salt. Place compound butter in between breast meat and skin, being careful to not tear the skin. Rub all over the rest of the chicken. Sprinkle the inside of the cavity with a pinch of salt and stuff with onions, lemon and parsley. Tie legs together and place in cooking vessel. Sprinkle with another pinch of salt and cover with foil. After an hour discard the foil, spoon the juices over the bird and cook until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. A rule of thumb is approximately 20 minutes per pound, plus an additional ten minutes. Remember though, a thermometer is your best friend when cooking poultry!