Every home cook should know how to roast a chicken. It really could not be any simpler – the ultimate low effort for maximum reward meal. There is nothing quite like the smell of a roasting chicken – unless it’s the taste, with its crackling golden skin and juicy meat. There are plenty of ways to roast a chicken, and plenty of things to do to it before sliding it into the oven. But even a slick of butter or oil, salt and pepper will do the trick. Best of all, it’s exactly as much work (and oven time) to roast two, so you can get a head start on dinner another night.
This recipe starts with a high temperature to brown the skin, and then drops to a lower temperature to cook the meat through. If you want to roast your chicken without even having to peek at it, slide it in at 375 and roast it for an hour and a half, and it should be just fine.
You can do it!
Classic Roast Chicken
1 chicken (about 4 lbs.)
soft butter or olive or canola oil
Salt and pepper
fresh lemon wedges (optional)
a few cloves of garlic, peeled or unpeeled (optional)
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary or thyme (optional)
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Let the chicken stand at room temperature for about half an hour so it isn’t cold when you put it in the oven. Washing it isn’t necessary, but rinse it with cold water if you like, inside and out, removing any giblets from inside its cavity. Dry it well with paper towels – this ensures a crispy crust.
Throw the lemon, garlic and herbs (or whatever you like) inside the cavity of the chicken. Trussing the chicken (tying up its legs) is an unnecessary step, and in fact the insides of the wings and drumsticks don’t brown as well on a trussed chicken, but you can tie the legs together with some kitchen string if you want to. It’s just to make it look pretty.
Put the chicken in a roasting pan or baking dish. If you have a rack, use it, but it isn’t necessary. Rub the chicken all over with butter or oil – the fat helps produce a golden, crispy crust – and sprinkle it generously with salt and pepper. If you want to get fancy, mash some fresh herbs or garlic into the butter to make a paste before you rub it over the skin.
Roast the chicken for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 375ºF. If you want to baste it you can, whenever you think of it, but it’s not necessary. Roast the chicken for another 50-60 minutes, until it’s deep golden, the drumsticks wiggle in their sockets, and the juices run clear when pierced. Tip the pan to let the juices from the cavity run out – if they are red, it needs to be cooked longer. If you have an oven thermometer, it should read 170º F when poked into the thickest part of the thigh. Make sure your thermometer isn’t touching bone, which conducts heat better than the meat and will give you an inaccurate reading. If the chicken needs to be cooked longer, leave it in and check it every 10 minutes or so, until it’s done.
Tent the chicken with foil and let it stand for 10 minutes before carving it. While it’s resting, pour the pan juices out and spoon off as much of the fat as you can. Use the juices to make gravy or just serve them as is, drizzled over the chicken.
Serve immediately. Serves 4-6.