How to Roast a Chicken

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There is something so simple and comforting about a good roast chicken.

A roast chicken reminds me of my grandmother. I have memories of chickens being cooked, matzoh ball soups simmering on the stove, and feeling loved.

It also might be from knowing that there is something beneficial to eating chicken. If you lean to that side of animal products, chicken is full of b-vitamins and choline, two nutrients known for brain function and memory. And these days I need all the help I can get just remembering where I left my car keys every day.

“How do you roast a chicken?” is a top questions I get asked from clients and people coming to take my cooking classes. Don’t be embarrassed. If you didn’t learn from your grandma, how would you know?

How to Roast a Whole Chicken

Roasting a chicken is pretty simple, and truth be told, so much better tasting than store-bought roast chicken.

You don’t need a lot to roast a chicken but one key piece of equipment you do need is a roasting pan. Not the size you would use for a Thanksgiving turkey, but big enough to hold a chicken. You need the roasting rack that fits on the inside of the pan too, and that typically comes with the pan.

You need a chicken, obviously, but what kind? I like Kosher chickens because they are brined, and brining equals a lot of flavor. If you can’t find a Kosher chicken, no worries. Above all, be sure to buy your chickens organic to avoid unnecessary pesticides and additives. Most roasting chickens typically are about the same size, five pounds. If your chicken is bigger you might have to adjust the cooking time a little bit.

You need some salt and pepper too. You can add other spices or herbs if you like. This go around I added chili powder and a lemon, just for interest. Dried oregano and thyme are also good additions.

Preparing Your Chicken to Roast

First, preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Yes, we are roasting, not baking and roasting requires high heat. Remove the chicken from the package. You want to be super careful with cross contamination so do this in your sink (and then be sure to clean your sink really well after with hot, soapy water). Check to see if there is anything inside the chicken, there is often the neck. You can discard this, or you can put it in the bottom of the pan to roast, and use it in the bone broth you might to make (more on that later). Place the chicken, breast side up, in the pan.

Sprinkle the chicken liberally with salt and pepper, and also on the inside. Again, be careful with cross contamination. If you have a lemon, as I did, cut it in half and place it inside the chicken. If you want to use chili powder, sprinkle about a teaspoon all over the chicken.   Next, take a cup of water and pour it in the bottom of the pan. Because the heat is so high, the chicken might smoke a bit from the fat hitting the pan and you can prevent that with the water.

Roasting Your Chicken in the Oven

So far, so good.

When the oven is heated, into the oven the pan goes. Set the timer for 30 minutes. You can take a peek, and if there is any smoking, add a little bit more water to the bottom of the pan. You should hear the chicken sizzling. The heat is high and should be browning the skin in this phase.

Once the 30 minutes is up, turn the heat down to 350 degrees F and set the timer for one hour. After the hour take the chicken out of the oven, place it on the stove and cover it with foil for at least 15 minutes. This gives the chicken time to rest and reabsorb the juices. A little known, but otherwise important step for making the chicken taste its best.

Rest, little bird, rest.

After that, the sky’s the limit. I typically make a roast chicken once a week. After it is cooked I take the meat off and use it for chicken soup, a chicken casserole, fajitas or sandwiches. I then take the bones and put them straight into my slow cooker with some cut up vegetables and water to make a bone broth. I’ve written about this and you can get that recipe HERE.

Good luck with your own chicken roasting adventures! Let me know how you do, I am confident that soon you will be a chicken roasting rockstar too.

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