Learn to roast a whole chicken, and you’ll eat well for life. And, hey, if you’re anything like Prince Harry, it might help you get engaged, too!
There are plenty of reasons you should add a roast chicken to your cooking repertoire. It can be an impressive centerpiece for dinner, and you can use the meat to make so many other dishes, whether it’s enchiladas, chicken salad or pot pies. Plus, the bones are ideal for broth, and if your chicken comes with a giblet packet of the liver, gizzard and such, make stock or gravy.
Just as important: Roasting a chicken is not that hard.
You can scour the Internet or cookbooks and find way too many complicated or intimidating strategies. Brining. Flipping. Stove top and then oven. Spatchcocking. I didn’t want any of it. I wanted to roast a chicken, simply.
That is why this recipe from America’s Test Kitchen appeals to me. No special steps, no special equipment. (You’ll want an instant-read thermometer, but that’s a workhorse that’s worth the investment if you don’t already have one. Also: kitchen twine, cheap and easy to acquire, although some chickens you can buy already have the legs tied back; if you don’t have twine, plain, unwaxed dental floss works, as does cutting two slats in the skin and inserting a leg in each one.)
The only other requirements are an ovenproof skillet and some oil, salt and pepper. The genius of the recipe is heating the chicken in a very hot oven for half the time inside the preheated skillet and then letting it finish with the oven turned off. Very little effort — or, really, skill — is needed, and even if it doesn’t result in the crispiest chicken skin you’ll ever have, the oven-off time keeps the meat from drying out.
Instead of a skillet, I decided to use a durable baking sheet (or sheet pan), which better contained the splattering fat that smoked up our Food Lab oven on my first attempt in a cast-iron skillet (the biggest oven-safe skillet a lot of people own). Plus, the sheet pan gave me enough room to throw on some sliced potatoes, which further cut down on the fat firecrackers and, of course, resulted in a built-in side dish.
Once you master this recipe — probably the very first time you make it — you can start tweaking it to suit your tastes. Throw lemon or onion in the chicken cavity. Put flavored butter over and under the skin. Season with your favorite spices. You’ve only just begun.
One whole 3 1/2-to-4-pound chicken, giblet packet removed if included
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1⁄2poundsYukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/4-inch slices
Extra-virgin olive oil
Place a durable baking sheet on the middle oven rack; preheat to 450 degrees.
Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then rub the entire surface with the vegetable oil. Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper, including a pinch of each tossed in the cavity. Tie the legs together and tuck the wingtips (the segment from the last joint to the tip) behind the back. (This keeps those parts from cooking too fast and drying out.)
Toss the potatoes with just enough olive oil to lightly coat them; this will help keep them from sticking to the pan.
Transfer the chicken, breast side up, to the center of the preheated baking sheet in the oven. Scatter the potatoes around, but not under, the chicken. Alternatively, if you don’t feel comfortable reaching into the oven with the rack pulled out, remove the heated baking sheet from the oven to add the chicken and potatoes before proceeding with roasting.
Roast the chicken and potatoes for 25 to 35 minutes, until the breast registers 120 degrees on an instant-read thermometer (temperature taken away from the bone) and the thighs 135 degrees. Turn off the oven; let the chicken and potatoes rest there for 25 to 35 minutes, until the breast registers 160 degrees and thighs 175 degrees. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board to rest for 20 minutes; this is a key step that allows the juices to be reabsorbed into the meat.
Carve the chicken and serve with the potatoes, drizzling pan juices over the pieces, if desired.
Adapted from “How to Roast Everything,” by America’s Test Kitchen (Penguin Random House, 2018).
Tested by Becky Krystal; email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Calories: 510; Total Fat: 26 g; Saturated Fat: 7 g; Cholesterol: 140 mg; Sodium: 320 mg; Carbohydrates: 20 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugars: 0 g; Protein: 46 g.