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How do I Roast a Chicken?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Roast chicken is a very easy dish to make, and it is also quite satisfying. It can run the gamut from simple to complex, and may serve as food for a dinner party or as the basis for a week's meals. In all cases, it starts with a basic roast chicken, which is a recipe that can be endlessly tweaked and changed to meet various tastes. Once you learn how to roast a chicken, you can make an assortment of foods from chicken soup to chicken salad.

To prepare this dish, you first needs a whole chicken. Most butchers and markets carry them in a range of sizes. Many also include the giblets, the internal organs of the chicken, usually in a small bag inside the body cavity. To select a good chicken, look for one that is as fresh as possible, and preferably has not been frozen. If ethical livestock raising practices are important to you, consider buying chicken directly from a farm, or purchasing humanely raised chickens.

Ideally, you should purchase a chicken to roast on the day that you intend to cook it. The fresher the chicken is, the more flavorful it will be. When you get your bird home, put it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it, and try not to wait more than two days. If you intend to marinate the chicken before roasting it, mix an appropriate marinade, remove the chicken from its packaging, and take the giblets out. Make sure to marinate the chicken in a closed container, and always marinate in the refrigerator, not on the counter.

When you are ready to roast the chicken, preheat the oven to 375°F (191°C) and pull the chicken out of refrigeration. If it has been marinated, place it in a large roasting pan and roast it for around 45 minutes to an hour, until the internal temperature measures 165°F (78°C) on a meat thermometer. If you have not marinated the chicken, you will want to season it for flavor.

A very basic seasoning for roast chicken involves olive oil, herbs, salt, and pepper. Herbes de Provence go quite well with roast chicken, but you can also use spice rubs and other spice mixes. Take the chicken out of its packaging, remove the giblets, and wash your hands thoroughly. Drizzle olive oil on the chicken, rub it in, and follow with the spice rub. Insert cloves of garlic for an extra shot of flavor. Make sure to cover both sides of the chicken, and then place it in an oiled roasting pan to cook.

When you roast a chicken, it will dry out without basting. Basting involves brushing or squeezing liquids onto the chicken to keep it moist as it cooks. Often, the liquids that accumulate in the bottom of the roasting pan are enough for this task, but if these are not sufficient, you can baste the chicken with oil, pats of butter, marinade, or juices while it roasts. When finished, the chicken will have a golden, crackly skin and moist, tender flesh. Deglaze the pan to collect the juices and make a simple gravy.

After the chicken is roasted, it should sit for a few moments before being brought to table and carved. Unused portions should be promptly refrigerated, and remember to save the bones to make chicken stock. The giblets are also useful in chicken stock, and they can be browned in the pan along with vegetables and spices. Giblets such as the liver can also be minced, cooked, and combined with the deglazed contents of the pan for a more rich gravy.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By amypollick — On Oct 15, 2011

One tip for roast chicken that I love is to brush the surface with olive oil using a sprig of rosemary. It works wonderfully well and when you're through with it, you can tuck it under the skin for more flavor. If you roast it without the skin, you can do the same thing, and just cut a slit in the skin and put the sprig in the slits in the meat. It really does give a great flavor.

You can also tuck cut lemons into the body cavity before roasting to also increase the flavor.

Mostly don't cook the chicken too long, or it will be dry. That's a good time to have a meat thermometer so you can check the inside temperature of the meat.

By aplenty — On Oct 16, 2010

@ FrameMaker- That does sound a little weird at first, but I could see how it would be very delicious. I use apple cider and sliced apples when I cook pork medallions. Granted pork medallions are not the same as a roast chicken cooked in a slow cooker, but the texture and light flavor of the meat can be similar.

When I make my medallions, I sear the pork medallions in hot oil until they are crisp on the edges. I then add a little chicken stock, apple cider, coarse ground mustard, and sliced granny smith apples. I coat the medallions well, turn down the heat, and simmer until the sauce thickens. The enzymes in the cider help to break down the meat, making it very tender and adding a sweetness to it. The apple juice and cider vinegar probably had the same effect on your girlfriend's chicken.

By FrameMaker — On Oct 16, 2010

My girlfriend is definitely not known for her cooking, but I was pleasantly surprised to come home one day to a nice dinner she made for us. I had just gotten home from a day of midterms and she had prepared an oven roasted chicken, asparagus tips, and wild rice. The meal was simple, but the chicken was out of this world.

I asked how she made the chicken and she said she added a little apple juice, butter, a cap full of apple cider vinegar and some spices that you would normally find on a roasted chicken. I pride myself in my cooking ability, but I had never thought to use apple juice or apple cider vinegar to season a roasted chicken. She said she got her inspiration from chicken apple sausage that we had had a few nights earlier, and just kind of went crazy in the kitchen. I was totally sold.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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