How to Roast a Chicken

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You don’t need a fancy roasting pan, just any kind of oven-proof pan, skillet or sauté pan with sides one inch or higher in which the chicken fits comfortably will work. A rack is nice, but you can just roughly chop up carrots, onion and potatoes to spread them across the bottom and balance the chicken on top to allow the juices to drain. Include some kind of fat such as oil or butter, plus salt and pepper, and baste it at least once. I prefer to start the bird breast-side up and then, using tongs, turn over for the last 20 minutes of cooking to brown the other side, but that’s optional.

I chose this video from The French Culinary Institute because he does the way that I was taught at Le Cordon Bleu, and also demonstrates how to put herbs and butter under the skin. That’s the key to a tasty chicken. 

Basic Technique for a Whole Chicken

1) Pre-heat oven to 425°F. Mix up some flavorings. Remove giblets if needed.

2) Remove the wish bone. Using a knife, gently cut out the wishbone; it feels like a hard little “v” at the top of the breastbone. You just need to clip the edges. This will make it easier to carve. You can also clip the tips of the wings off, but this is optional.

3) Season the bird’s cavity with salt.  

4) Gently ease your fingers under the chicken’s skin to separate the skin from the bird, creating a cavity across the top of the breast and around the legs. Gently slather your flavoring under the skin. Smear a bit over the top and generously season the skin with coarse salt and ground pepper.

5) If you’ve got kitchen string, tie the legs together with some string and then use the string to tie the wings neatly under the breast; this will help the bird keep its shape and cook evenly. No string? You can tie the legs together with unwaxed dental floss or those wire things used on trash bags in a pinch. 

6) The larger the bird, the longer it will take to roast. Depending on your oven and your bird, a standard 2 1/2 pound to 3-pound chicken will take about an hour; allow about 10 minutes for each additional half pound. After half an hour, baste it by using a spoon, pastry brush or bulb-style baster to collect the juices from the pan to moisten the skin.

7) If desired, turn the chicken over for the last 20 minutes of cooking. Baste again.

8) See if it’s done. The best method is to insert an instant-read thermometer into the thigh meat and again into the breast, avoiding bones. It should read close to 170 °F degrees but double check by pulling the thigh away. If the juices that ooze out are clear, it’s done. If it’s pink, baste it again and put it back in for another 10 minutes. Repeat as needed.

9) Let your chicken rest for about 10 minutes before serving.


10 Ways to Flavor It 

Add coarse salt and pepper to each combination, and be generous with the oil, butter or other type of fat; the excess will run off and it will help to keep the meat moist. Mix each into a paste before applying to the bird. You can’t go wrong shoving some fresh herbs, some lemon, a wedge of onion or a couple cloves of garlic inside the bird’s cavity along with some salt and pepper. 

·       Lemon-herb butter:¼ cup fresh lemon juice, 3 tablespoons softened butter, a handful of chopped fresh tarragon, thyme or rosemary; add the leftover lemon inside the cavity
·       Italian herb oil: 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons grated parmesan cheese, 2 cloves chopped garlic, a couple tablespoons of finely chopped fresh herbs such as thyme, oregano, parsley or basil (or about 2 teaspoons dried herbs)
·       French Dijon: 3 tablespoon softened butter or olive oil, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard, ½ teaspoon red chili flakes, 1 teaspoon dried thyme
·       Soy ginger oil: 3 tablespoons sesame oil, 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar, ½ teaspoon freshly grated ginger
·       Presto Pesto: 1/3 cup of any kind of pesto, basil, sun-dried tomato, etc.
·       Goat cheese with proscuitto and herbs:1 ounce of finely minced prosciutto, pancetta or crumbled cooked bacon, 2 tablespoons goat cheese, 3 tablespoons olive oil, handful chopped basil or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
·       Thai-style: 3 tablespoons sesame oil, 1 tablespoon finely crushed peanuts, 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 2 teaspoons Thai curry paste, tablespoon chopped fresh basil
·       Greek-esque  ¼ cup plain yogurt, 2 cloves minced garlic, a tablespoon of chopped dill, two teaspoon fresh lemon juice
·       China Spice: 3 tablespoons sesame oil, 1 tablespoon orange juice, 1 tablespoon Chinese 5-Spice, four minced green onions, two cloves minced garlic,  1 teaspoon soy sauce
·       Tex-Mexy: 3 tablespoons vegetable oil or butter , ¼ cup lime juice, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 teaspoon oregano, ½ teaspoon cumin, pinch or two cayenne or few drops hot sauce


How to Roast Pieces

You can add any of these flavorings to individual pieces to roast separately. Again, press the flavorings under the skin. Put on a baking sheet atop aluminum foil or parchment or in an oven-proof baking dish in an oven at 375 °F degrees. Thighs and legs will take about 45 minutes, bone-in breasts about 30 minutes and boneless breasts about 15 minutes, depending on thickness and your oven. Aim for a final internal temperature of around 165 °F degrees. If roasting mixed pieces, remove as they’re done and keep warm by covering with foil. 




About katflinn

Kathleen Flinn is the author of "The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry," "The Kitchen Counter Cooking School" and "Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good." All are published by Viking/Penguin.


  1. […] Note: I often make small doses of butter and just stir it by hand. Compound butters are also a great way to flavor a roasted chicken, to offer up something special to slather on warm bread and to perk up a piece of fish cooked in […]

  2. […] and it turned out beautifully. Your Basic Roasted Chicken Preheat the oven to 425 F. Mix up some flavorings. Remove the giblets from inside the chicken cavity. Gently ease your fingers under the […]

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