Delicious, easy, fuss-free roast whole chicken recipe that you can make on a weeknight. And no, you don’t need a cast-iron pan. Any oven-safe pan or baking pan will do.
The goal of every roast chicken recipe is to produce a bird that is crispy outside, perfectly cooked inside, and has succulent breast meat. Every cookbook author claims they know the secret to roasting a chicken that protects the breast meat from drying out into something resembling the texture of an old shoe. Some claim that the only way to accomplish this is by brining the chicken in salt water. A radical-minded cook insisted that the only correct way to roast a chicken was to roast it breast-side down. Still others claim that the only way to get juicy breast meat is to truss the bird and roast it in one of those triangular roasting racks, turning it every 20 minutes so the juices don’t flow out. Laurie Colwin, one of my favourite food writers, said in her book, More Home Cooking, that her secret to a perfect roast chicken — which is a bird that is moist and juicy, crisp and tender, all at the same time, is to slow-roast the chicken at between 200° F and 300° F for two and a half to three hours, basting the bird with its own juices every ten minutes or so. Still other cooks claim that the bird must be roasted fast in a super-hot oven.
I have tried every one of these methods out – brined, basted, upside down, trussed and turned, high heat, low heat, free-range, cooped up – and every one of them turns out a good roast bird. There is really only one secret to making good roast chicken, and that is to not overcook the chicken. There really is no need to go into extremes. So, my focus has been to find a recipe that is quick and simple enough for me to make after a full day of work and an hour-long commute home. The recipe I finally settled on was one I simplified from Cook’s Illustrated’s already simplified recipe.
And I have a simple – and completely optional – trick to make the skin extra-crispy. It does not take any extra work, but it does require you to know 8-10 hours before dinner time that you intend to roast a chicken for dinner. It’s as easy as taking the chicken out of its wrapping, patting it dry and setting it on a cooling rack (or just plopping the chicken right onto a plate) and leaving the chicken uncovered in the fridge as you go about your day. The skin will dry up quite a bit over the course of the day so when you roast the bird in the evening, the skin will crisp up fantastically.
The seasoning can be as simple as salt and pepper. You can add more seasonings if you choose. I often add some smoked paprika, thyme leaves, and garlic powder.
- whole chicken, 3- 4.5 lbs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 1 teaspoon paprika (optional)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
- 4-5 sprigs thyme leaves
- half a lemon
- Pre-heat the oven to 450F.
- While the oven is heating up, remove the chicken from its wrappings. Remove giblets from the cavity if there are any. Pat the chicken dry. Rub olive oil all over the chicken and sprinkle salt and pepper (and paprika, garlic powder and thyme leaves, if using) all over the surface of the bird. Place into an oven-safe pan and slide into the pre-heated oven. Roast for 25 minutes. Very carefully, baste the chicken with the juices and oil that poo in the pan (optional, but recommended). Roast for another 10 minutes.
- Remove the bird from the oven. Insert an instant-read thermometer into the thick part of a thigh being careful to avoid touching the bone. If the temperature is under 165 F, roast for a 5 more minutes and check again. If the chicken is 165 F and rest it uncovered for 10 minutes before carving. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the chicken before serving.
If you don't have an instant-read thermometer, slice into the skin between the breast and the thigh and pull the thigh out a little. If the juices run clear and there is only very almost no pink at the joint, the chicken is ready.