I have a few favorite comfort foods, but none can compare with a juicy roast chicken, skin seasoned and baked to crispy goodness. Served with mashed potatoes and gravy … yum! How can you compete with that?
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It’s been over a decade since I first discovered how easy it is to make roast chicken. For whatever reason, and I know I’m not alone, cooking a whole entire animal feels daunting when you’ve never done it before. Even something as simple and “everyday” as a chicken.
Turns out with a little practice and some helpful tools, roasting a chicken (or any meat) is actually quite simple!
Tips for Roast Chicken
1. Use a digital thermometer.
So much of cooking (not baking!) can be left to improvisation. A little of this, a sprinkle of that, and plenty of “season to taste” can go a long way with many dishes.
When it comes to roasting, however, I find a more scientific and exact approach is needed — less so for taste, and more so for doneness.
For a long time I used a instant read probe thermometer. It was handy to test temperatures along the way, whether I was trying to bring a liquid to a certain degree stove-top, or baking something in the oven and needed a spot check.
With roasting chicken or beef, however, using a thermometer that can be inserted at the start and left in to alert when a certain temp has been reached is a game-changer. This one from ThermoPro is a favorite.
I find this helps ensure not only that my roast chicken is done enough (no one wants underdone chicken!), but also that I don’t overcook my chicken into an arid mess.
You can still eyeball things for doneness, too, like a leg that moves easily (or falls off) and juices running clear; but, trust me that the mental load of “Is it really done?” will be lifted if you shift the heavy burden of that work to a trusty thermometer.
2. Let the chicken rest before carving.
Chicken needs register at least 165°F internally in order to be safe to eat, according to foodsafety.gov. In order for your roasted meat to remain juicy, however, you don’t want to cook it to the “safe temp” in the oven, because it needs to rest for a bit once it comes out.
Let the chicken rest, tented, either in the rack or on a cutting board with a groove, to allow the meat to settle bit. More of the liquid absorbs back in, rather than run out all over the place, which helps make for a juicy roast chicken.
You’ll still have juices when you carve the chicken, just not an abundance. Enough to give your homemade gravy some pizazz!
3. Coat it with butter or oil … or both.
I love a good, crispy skin on chicken and the good news is, it’s not difficult to achieve! My favorite way is using both butter and olive oil, particularly on a whole roast chicken. Softened butter under the skin and slathered on top, followed by a nice brushing of olive oil, along with salt and pepper.
But you could make do with just olive oil — that’s all it takes for my oven-fried chicken thighs with perfectly crispy skin!
4. Buy an inexpensive universal roasting rack.
There are so many kinds of roasting pans: ceramic, glass, metal, disposable, etc. Some roasting pans come with a rack and are designed to be used for precisely that and only that (or mostly that).
I tend to prefer kitchen tools that take up the least amount of space possible and can be adapted for a variety of things.
This inexpensive metal adjustable roast rack is my favorite! I use it for roast chicken, but also for beef roasts and even a Thanksgiving roast turkey! The base fits into my standard 9×11″ baking dishes which basically works for everything, unless I have a giant turkey that needs a wider pan. It’s also a breeze to store since it collapses to nearly flat and easy to clean since it’s dishwasher-friendly.
Most roast chickens are on the small side, so even a regular flat roasting rack can work just fine.
- 5-lb whole chicken
- 2 cups water
- 1/8 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup salted butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 medium onion, quartered
- 1 garlic blub, halved
- Preheat the oven to 400°F and arrange the rack in the lower-middle position. Pour the water into the bottom of a roasting pan (this helps keep the drippings from burning as the chicken roasts). Remove the giblets and other packets from the inside of the chicken cavity and set them aside for gravy or to make chicken stock (or toss them in the trash). Pat the outside of the chicken dry.
- Create a pocket under the breast skin and slather half the butter underneath, taking care not to rip the skin too much. Slather the rest of the butter on the outside of the chicken, coating as much of the skin as possible. Brush the olive oil on top.
- Tuck the wings under the chicken and place it into a rack that fits your roasting pan. Stuff the inside of the chicken's cavity with the onions and garlic. They don't need to be peeled.
- Insert a digital thermometer into the thigh and set the alarm to register at 160°F.
- Roast the chicken, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue roasting for another 30 minutes, or until your thermometer shows the temperature has reached 160°F. Remove the pan from the oven.
- Tent the chicken loosely in the rack or on a cutting board and let it rest for 15-20 minutes before carving. The temperature will continue to rise while it rests — you want it to reach at least 165°F before serving — and the juices will be more likely to stay in the meat instead of running out.
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- ThermoPro TP-17 Dual Probe Digital Cooking Meat Thermometer Large LCD Backlight Food Grill Thermometer with Timer Mode for Smoker Kitchen Oven BBQ, Silver
- M KITCHEN WORLD Silicone Basting - BBQ, Pastry, and Oil Brush (Orange), Turkey Baster, Barbecue Utensil - use for Grilling & Marinating - Desserts Baking, Set of 2 with 2 Recipe Electronic Books
- Norpro 275 Adjustable Roast Rack Nickel-plated, 11 inches, Silver
- Calphalon Classic Hard-Anodized 16-Inch Roasting Pan with Nonstick Rack