Roasted chicken is one of my favorite foods, both to eat and cook. This is a really simple dish, and if you can, try to buy really good chickens (farmers markets are the best places for seriously tasty, chicken-y chickens). Two major things I’ve learned in trying to get these the way I like them: juicy and with a crisp, browned skin. First: Don’t baste (this was a hard one to resist doing). Second: Go with chefs’ doneness recommendations rather than the USDA’s. Chefs recommend 165º for thighs (160º for breasts), while the USDA would have you roast all the way to 180º, with the thigh juices running fully clear. This adjustment took me some time when I first started cooking this dish to get comfortable with, since my family had always followed the juices-running-clear method and had a deep-seated aversion to even the tiniest bit of pink color in cooked poultry (as is very common, I think, among Americans, especially during the mid-late 20th century, under the mandates of the USDA). If you’re trying to avoid dry breasts, though, 180º is just too high.
That said, I would also recommend going with the farmers market chickens if you want to roast to the lower temperature. If you need/want to use a supermarket brand, the higher cooking temperature is probably the safer route (and you can always use good barbecue sauce to combat dryness!).
1 Whole chicken
Fresh and dried herbs (any combination you like)
Lemons and/or Oranges
Chicken or Vegetable stock (optional)
- Preheat oven to 425º
- Set the chicken into a roasting pan, on a rack if you have one. Be sure to remove the giblets and any organs (heart, livers). Hearts can be roasted with the chicken; giblets can be used for stock; and livers can be sautéed or roasted.
- In a small bowl, combine a little olive oil with a handful of dried herbs (I used an herbes de Provence blend this time). Pour over the chicken.
- Dot the chicken with a little softened butter. You can leave this step out, but I can never resist… Many recipes suggest tucking the butter under the skin, but I have a hard time doing this without tearing it, so I just let it sit on top; some of it will float into the juices in the bottom of the pan to make a richer au jus.
- Sprinkle salt and pepper over the whole bird (I like a lot of black pepper).
- Stuff the cavity with a couple of sprigs of fresh herbs if you have them, as well as with half a lemon and/or orange.
- Roast the chicken for 20 minutes without adding any liquid to the pan. After 20 minutes, add stock (or water) and roast until thighs are at 165º, checking every once in a while to be sure there is still stock in the pan; add liquid as needed. Depending on how hot your oven runs, you may need to lower the temperature a bit.
- Once the chicken is done, let it rest for 5-10 minutes (or longer – I’m perfectly happy with not super-hot chicken). While the chicken is resting, remove the pan juices. You can make a gravy (make a roux (butter and flour), then add stock, pan drippings, and seasonings. Most times I make this, though, I just use the pan juices (au jus) as a simple gravy.
I made roasted carrots to go with this, which is one of my favorite roasted veggie dishes (I seriously enjoyed this meal!). Good vegetables don’t need more than olive oil, salt, and pepper, but for this meal I made a little rosemary-balsamic glaze (pretty old-fashioned in terms of culinary flavors in the trendy food world, but hey, it still tastes damn good.)
Garlic cloves, crushed
Rosemary (fresh if you have)
Red pepper flakes
Slice carrots to desired size/shape and set on baking sheet. For the glaze: mix 1-2 tbls olive oil with a small spoonful of honey, a dash of balsamic vinegar, a little bit of crushed rosemary, and a shake or two of red pepper flakes. Add the crushed garlic and let stir. You can let this sit until you’re ready to roast the carrots, which you won’t add to the oven until the chicken is almost done. When the carrots are ready to go in, coat them with the glaze and let roast to desired tenderness (I like my carrots a little crisp, though David prefers his softer).
Roasted chicken and carrots, served over a bed of greens.