How do you roast a chicken?

Someday I’d like to roast a chicken and have it come out good – like you might get in a nice restaurant, and not like you get at the typical wedding supper. Clearly shoving the thing in the oven at 375 is not the answer. So what are the variables? Brand of chicken? Type of chicken? Basting? Seasonings? Temperature? Pan?

I know, by the way, that Williams-Sonoma sells a fancy earthenware chicken-roasting thing. Not that I’m going to go out and get one (it would take a lot of convincing in this case), but has anyone used one to good effect?

Any advice?

I like roasted chicken. I get either a roaster chicken or a fat frying chicken. I take out the giblets , but you can also leave them in the cavity and eat them too, or feed them to your pets. I put the bird in an open roasting pan, breast side up. I kind of tuck the wing tips in to keep the wings from drying out too soon. I tie legs together. I don’t usually season the bird, but you can do that before cooking. It’s easier to spread spices or seasonings evenly if you mix them in just a little oil or butter and smooth that over the skin.

I put the bird in the oven at 425 degrees for five minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. This higher heat will seal the skin and help retain moisture. I open roast, so it’s necessary to baste every so often. Once the fat starts melting use a basting tool, or a spoon, to drizzle it over the bird, paying particular attention to the legs and wings. They are smaller and will dry out before the thicker breast is done. It takes about 20 minutes per pound, a little longer if you stuff the chicken. Poke it a little, or wiggle the leg, to judge how if feels.

The above gives me good results, but you will probably have to play around with it and judge for yourself what works best. The melted fat can be a base for chicken gravy, especially if you have seasoned the bird.

First, you get all the chicken’s celebrity freinds together, along with some second-rate comics, host a party and everybody gets up and makes jokes at the chicken’s expense.

Forgot to mention, if you don’t eat the giblets, you can save them, and when the meat is carved boil the giblets, the bones, extra skin, and those crispy bits from the roaster. Throw in a couple of pieces of carrot and onion, and fairly quickly you have some good chicken broth. Strain everything out and cool the broth, letting any fat rise. When it’s chilled you can scrape it off and have a good, fat-free broth that’s a base for soup, for cooking rice, or whatever you need. Works with turkeys too.

As it happens, I have a chicken in the oven right now. I use just about any decent brand of chicken, whatever pan comes to my hand first, and I almost never baste.

I open the chicken package, fish out the neck and giblets, and give the chicken a good rinse inside and out. I rinse the neck and giblets and set them to simmer in a big pot of water. I reserve the liver for my husband, who loves liver.

I don’t use bread stuffing. Instead, I stuff the neck and body cavities with chunks of carrot, celery, and onion. I always use at least one large onion per chicken. Usually I peel and slice five or six potatoes, and put a layer of the potatoes in the roasting pan. The fat and juices from the chicken will flavor the spuds as they cook. If I have leftover veggie chunks, I scatter them around the chicken. Sometimes I roast garlic cloves (WHOLE cloves) with the chicken. I sprinkle with poultry seasoning, seasoned salt, and sometimes a bit of rosemary. Be careful with the rosemary, a little goes a very long way.

I roast the chicken at about 300-350 until it’s done. Generally, I roast about 2 hours at the lower temp. Use a meat thermometer for accuracy.

This dish only needs a salad, and possibly rolls and dessert to complete it.

After dinner, pick out the chicken meat and place the bones and leftover skin in the broth. Simmer until it smells and tastes like chicken broth. Homemade chicken broth is a treasure, and you will want it for chicken soup or chicken ‘n’ dumplings.

Bah! Basting? Fuggetaboutit! It does nothing. Seriously - skin is waterproof, even before you’ve “sealed” it. How does pouring liquid over a waterproof surface get more liquid past that surface and into the meat? It doesn’t.

The best way to get around the whole dry breast/raw thigh dillemma is to rotate the bird during cooking. Preheat the oven to 400. Clean and pat dry your burd, them rub it inside and out with salt and fresh black pepper. Brush it with 2 to 3 Tablespoons melted butter or olive oil. Then put it on its side on a rack in the baking pan. This is easiest if you have a v-rack, but if all you have is a flat rack, prop it up with a few alluminum foil balls. Roast for 25 minutes for the first 4 pounds, plus 3 minutes for each additional pound (i.e. 5 pound roaster gets 28 minutes). Then, using a couple of spoons or a heat proof ove-glove (do not try this with ordinary pot holders!), gently turn the bird onto it’s other side. Roast again for the same amount of time. Turn the chicken breast side up and roast 15 to 30 minutes more, internal temp of 170. Let the bird stand for 15 minutes before carving.

I guarantee a moist juicy breast with this method. Once you’ve tried it, you will never roast a chicken any other way!

First you take the chicken to a Friars Club meeting…

I never thought basting was done to keep the bird moist. I always thought the grease from the bird made it brown nicely. Go figure.

I will brine a chicken for at least 2 hours, up to 8 hours. This helps keep the breast moist while cooking the chicken long enough for the thighs to cook.

I will season under the skin. I keep it simple; salt, pepper, crushed garlic, parsley, lemon juice. Work it under the skin anywhere I can reach. Fill the cavity same as **Lynn, although I’ll also occassionally add lemon or orange and whatever somewhat fresh herbs might be around. Externally, I will lightly oil the skin and sprinkle it with Essence of D_Odds (which surprisingly has the same ingredients in roughly the same ratio as Essence of Emeril) and a light dusting of flour. Put it in a roasting dish on top of last weeks carrots, celery, onions and any other veggies that didn’t get used. Stick it in an oven with a prope thermometer in her thigh, spin it once during cooking, and take it out at 165 or so degrees. Move to cutting board and loosely tent under foil - it should continue cooking until it reaches the ‘safe’ temperature. The vegetable I used to keep my bird off the roasting pan will also have given up a lot of flavor; adds a great dimension to the gravy I make while the bird rests. Finish gravy, remove probe, carve chicken, enjoy.

The few key things I do

  1. brine

  2. skin a lemon, poke it with a fork and stick it in the cavity

  3. Stick fresh herbs, mostly rosemary under the skin, in the cavity, all around

  4. lightly coat with olive oil

  5. Rotate once so the chicken is evenly browned

The thing is, once you brine it’s so much easier to cook because you’d have to turn it into charcoal before the meat gets dry.

Oh, I forgot…I remove the fat from around the vent and neck cavities, and then I slip this fat under the breast skin. This way, the bird bastes itself, and the breast meat doesn’t dry out. Some people prefer to put butter in this area. I cover the bird at first, and then remove the cover towards the end, to brown the skin. I always intend to put the bird breast side down at first, and then flip it breast side up, but I always forget.

When I first started cooking, over 30 years ago, chickens usually had a few quills left around their tails and wings, and I’d have to pull them out. I haven’t seen any quills on store bought chickens in a long, long time, though. The chicken plucking machines must have improved.

My ex-sister-in-law used to butterfly a whole chicken, and roast it on a bed of chopped onions. I had this once, and it was very good.

Okay, so how do I brine the chicken?

Oh, and** D_Odds, anu-la**, what temperature do you use?

Pretty much the same as WhyNot, except I start upside down, then flip right side up.

Seasoning: I rub in kosher salt, ground pepper, and dried rosemary. I then put a couple pats of butter on the bird. When I flip it, I put more butter on it. Mmm butter.

Alton Brown Brining Recipe

Adjust for weight. I started this a few years ago based on rave reviews from this board and I’ve never looked back. I mean, I think you’d have to stick it in a smelter to get dry meat.

You’re all gonna say I’m nuts (well, OK, I am), but my sister gave me one of those Ron Popeil rotisserie thingles last year (I thought she was nuts), but that thing makes absolutely the best damn roast chicken I have ever had, bar none. Crispy skin all over with no soggy spots, and the meat is tender and moist. I just use Spike, and that’s all. Even my husband likes it, and he hates chicken.

Sal…I think I roast at 400 for a while to get a nice brown tint then reduce to 375, rotate to brown the bottom a bit and then check every once in a while till the juice on the thigh runs clear??? Maybe D-odds can give you better directions. The thing is, once I started brining I stopped getting obsessive about temperatures and timings because it’s the easy way out of overcooking your meat.

I should note that I don’t do all the spices and stuff in the brine unless it’s the thanksgibbing turkey. For a roast chicken I’ll just do some lemon, brown sugar and the brine (kosher salt + water).

Oh, also I’ll open the oven door and give it a squirt of Pam Olive Oil blend once in a while. And once the oil plus fat starts running off and stays on the bottom of the pan sizzling, I’ll spoon it up and drop it on the breast.

Come to think of it, I bet it would be really tasty on a bed of new potatoes.

Any of the brines for turkey will work equally well with chicken. Here’s a simple one from Emeril, just cut in half for a chicken.:
1 cup salt
1 cup brown sugar
2 oranges, quartered
2 lemons, quartered
6 sprigs thyme
4 sprigs rosemary
2 gallons water

Dissolve sugar and salt in water, add other ingredients, insert bird, refridgerate. For chickens, I use 2 gallon ziploc freezer bags. Turkeys are a logistical nightmare for doing this.

I’ve gone as low as 325 and up to 400. Generally, I prefer a lower heat, slower roast, finish in a blast oven (450-500) for crisping. More work, but very good.

I don’t cook by time, I cook by temperature - which drives people crazy when they ask me how long to cook something for. I can’t tell you how many times I have had the following conversation about any cut of meat:

Not Me: This is good. How’d you make it.
Me: I brined it for 8 hours, seasoned it, then put it in a 365 degree oven until the thigh was 165 degrees.
Not Me: How long was that?
Me: Don’t know, I wasn’t watching the clock.
Not Me: Then how do you know when it is done?
Me: The thighs were 165 degrees.

Sometimes this will go around in a circle several times, as I can’t convince someone that I don’t roast meat by time, I roast by internal temperature.