EATS: Roast Chicken


October 5, 2012 by annmquintero

Roast chicken is one of those iconic American meals that we all love.  And if you look on the internet, there are a million ways to make it happen.  I have my own favorite method, but for this post, I’m going to keep it to the simplest, easiest way I know.  You can use just about any kind of herbs and spices with chicken and I encourage you to experiment, but I’m going to go with lemon, rosemary, and garlic today.  You are going to need:

1 whole chicken 3-5 lbs. (I usually go for air-chilled organic or kosher birds.)
1 lemon
Several cloves of garlic
3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
Potatoes (white, red, sweet, baby, it don’t matter)
Onions (red, white, yellow, vidalia, couldn’t care less)
Salt and pepper

Roasting pan
Oven mitts
Paper towels
Cutting boards

Ideally, you should let your chicken rest at room temperature (in a container, in case of drips) for about an hour before cooking. This will help the bird cook more evenly and quickly.  While you’re letting the bird hang out, set your oven to preheat at 425F and start prepping the bed of veggies for the roasting pan.

If you’re using baby or new potatoes, I’d leave them whole.  If you’re using standard size potatoes, chunk them into approx. 2 inch pieces. This isn’t rocket science, so don’t drive yourself crazy with exactness.  Onions should be peeled, trimmed, and quartered lengthwise.  Peel and chunk your carrots into pieces that are in the same ballpark as your potatoes.  This is all about getting things to be finished cooking about the same time.  At this point you can put all your veg in the roasting pan, toss with a little olive oil and hit it with a generous amount of salt and pepper.  If you feel like adding some chopped rosemary to the party, this is A-OK!

Next we’ll arrange the items we’re going to shove into the chicken to give it yummy flavors.  You’ll want to check your lemon for any stickers and rinse it before rolling it on the cutting board with some force (it’ll help break some of those inner walls to release the juices) and cutting it in half.  Peel 4-6 cloves of garlic (depending on your love of the stinky stuff) and gently press them with the flat of your knife on the board.  Take your fragrant, lovely rosemary and rough it up a bit.  Crunch it up in your fist, spank the board with it, just get some of its cells to loosen up a little.  Your hands should be smelling like my personal heaven about now.

Time to face some raw chicken.  If you haven’t handled a whole chicken before, take a deep breath, think back to high school biology, and be thankful you don’t have to suffer the smell of formaldehyde.  First, you’ll want to check the cavity for any goodies your provider may have left you.  Some birds come with gizzards or neck inside for your use.  If you want to make stock, throw these bits (and any other bones and remnants you’ll have later) into a freezer bag and store for boiling later.

Now that you’ve stuck your hand up the tuchus of the chicken, the worst is over.  To further orient yourself, find the backbone and the tail; the breast will be on the other side.  This seems obvious to some people, but man, when you’re staring at a post-reptilian clucker trying to guess where its butt is, it can feel a little awkward.  When mentioned to my mother (can you tell I just visited my family?), she gave me stinkeye and the universal *honkhonkboobies* gesture.  I will include photos once I figure out this WordPress thing a little better.  …Of the chicken.  Not my mom doing the *honkhonkboobies* gesture.  Unless you’re into that.  I’m not above pandering to my audience.

Breast side

Breast side *honkhonk*

Butt side

Use a paper towel to dry off the skin of the chicken as best you can.  Sprinkle the bird liberally with salt and fresh ground pepper inside and out.  Stuff the rosemary, garlic, and lemon halves into the cavity.

You are so close to being done with the hard part!

Lay the bird breast side down on top of your veggies in the pan.  Yep, I said breast side down.  You’re going to be cooking your bird this way for the first half of the time.  This allows juices to pool in the breast instead of running straight down to the butt the whole time.  And we all love a juicy breast.  Ok, stick it in the oven!  (A lot of places talk about trussing and tucking the wing tips and stuff, and while those things are nice, they’re not absolutely necessary, so I’m omitting them for now.)

This first half of cooking is going to be about 30 minutes.  You can use this time to tidy the kitchen, mix a salad dressing, look at lolcats, all sorts of stuff.  After the 30 minutes is up, carefully remove the roasting pan and close the oven door.  Increase the heat to 450F.  This will help crisp the breast side skin.  Remove the chicken to a plate or board with the help of tongs and stir the veggies.  Replace the chicken to the pan breast side up and hit with salt again if there isn’t any visible on the skin.  Return to the oven to finish cooking.

The second round of cooking is variable; anywhere from 35-50 minutes depending on the size of your bird.  This is going to take practice and experience to get it right.  It also doesn’t hurt to have a meat thermometer around.  When the bird is cooked enough, the skin should be browned and crisp and you should be able to pierce the thigh meat and have the juices run clear.

When you think it’s done, remove the bird to a carving board to rest.  It’ll be tempting, but don’t cut into it until you’ve given it a good 10 minutes to de-pressurize and to finish cooking.  After you remove food from a heat source, it will actually continue to cook, so it’s best to remove it from heat when it’s a few degrees below its optimum temperature and allow “carryover” to get it the rest of the way.  Giving the meat time to rest also allows the juices which are boiling inside an opportunity to cool a bit and redistribute gently into the tissue, resulting in a moister bird.

At this time, check your veggies for doneness.  A little char is good; in fact, I expect it on the carrots and on the sweet potatoes should you choose to use them.  It’s caramelization of the natural sugars in them.   The potatoes and carrots should all be fork tender when they’re done.  If they need a little more time, just pop them back in the oven while the meat’s resting.

So, that’s pretty much it.  Traditional roast chicken with root veggies.  I usually like to serve it with a simple salad or heated green veggie.  How much more comforting can dinner get?

(If this is your first time reading EATS, I encourage you to check out the Introductions post for my philosophy and list of must-have kitchen items.)


One thought on “EATS: Roast Chicken

  1. […] sometimes I can get stuck in a rut.  I couldn’t tell you how many times my friends have had my roast chicken over root veggies. It’s delicious, and I could make it with my eyes closed, but sometimes it’s good to branch out […]

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