Lovely Roast Chicken on a silver paltter

Roast chicken is one of the most useful dishes to have in your cooking repertoire. But you didn’t come here for tons of text, you came here to learn how to cook a roast chicken. Below, I’ll talk you straight through how to take a raw chicken and turn it into a crispy, juicy dinner in 90 minutes or so. If you’re interested in taking it further learn how to make a pan sauce to serve with your roasted chicken AND how to make chicken stock from the leftover roast chicken.

Basic Roast Chicken Recipe

This is a straight-forward, easy way to roast a whole chicken.

What you’ll need:

  • One whole chicken, raw and defrosted
  • A tablespoon of butter, at room temperature
  • Salt and pepper – I like kosher salt for this
  • A roasting pan* large enough to hold the bird

Here’s five simple steps to put a tasty roast chicken on the table. For the more elaborate (but still really easy!) version, keep scrolling.

FIRST– Pre-heat the oven to 450. Unpack the chicken, rinse it inside and out under tap and then pat dry. You want the bird dry so the skin will get crispy and so it will hold onto the salt.

SECOND – Rub the outside with the softened butter. This lets the skin get crispy and helps hold the salt on, which means better flavor.

THIRD – Sprinkle salt and pepper inside the chicken, put the chicken in your roasting vessel, and salt the outside of your bird. You can season your bird further by using an herb salt, like this rosemary salt

FOURTH– Roast for 30 minutes at 450. Then, reduce the oven temperature to 360. Roast until the internal temperature of the chicken is 165 or until juices run clear and legs move easily in sockets. This will likely be 75-90 minutes, but every chicken is different.

An instant-read thermometer is your friend when cooking meat, especially chicken. I use this Bluetooth Thermometer and it has truly changed how I cook. I can check the temperature of up to six items from my phone and it will alert me when the desired temperature is reached. The unit has an easy to read display, too, so I can tell at a glance what’s going on in the oven.

FINAL — Allow to rest (covered loosely) for 10 minutes. Carve and enjoy.

*I roast my chicken in a cast iron dutch oven and it’s a game changer. The cast iron retains heat and keeps the temperature consistent around the chicken. We use our dutch oven almost every day, for stews, meats and baking bread. Ours isn’t available any longer but this Lodge Cast Iron Dutch oven is similar and very high quality. If you only invest in one piece of cast iron, this is my recommendation. You won’t regret it!

Fancy Basted Roast Chicken

This version takes just a few minutes longer but does involve more tending in the early stages. My roast chicken method is inspired by the great Julia Child, in her iconic book Master the Art of French Cooking.

What you’ll need:

  • One whole chicken, raw and defrosted
  • A tablespoon of butter, at room temperature
  • Half a stick of butter, melted in a saucepan
  • Salt and pepper – I like kosher salt for this
  • A roasting pan large enough to hold the bird

OPTIONAL:

  • Fresh or dried herbs – I like rosemary, thyme, and sage, the classic poultry companions. Tarragon is excellent, too.
  • Butcher’s twine

FIRST – Preheat oven to 450. Unwrap the chicken and rinse it inside and out under the tap. Pat dry

MEANWHILE – make sure the butter in your saucepan is melted but not separated. This is the butter you’ll use to baste the chicken during the first 30 minutes of cooking. It needs to stay liquid but not fall apart completely.

If you’ve got those optional herbs, put some of them into the melted butter. This will infuse the flavor into the chicken when you baste. You can melt and infuse your butter in advance for extra flavor.

SECOND – Rub the softened butter over the exterior of the chicken. This will help the skin crisp, add flavor, and keep the salt on the skin.

THIRD – Sprinkle salt and pepper inside the bird. If you’re using herbs, stuff some inside the cavity after you salt.

FOURTH – Put the chicken in your roasting vessel, breast side up. Salt and pepper exterior. For a tidier appearance, use butcher’s twine to tie the legs together, as pictured.

FIFTH– Put the chicken in the oven. Set a timer for 10 minutes. After ten minutes, baste the top of the chicken using the melted butter. Rotate pan in the oven. Repeat the basting and rotating two more times. Your chicken should spend 30 minutes roasting at 450 and be basted three times during this time. I like to use a silicone basting brush with a long handle for this. It’s easiest for me to slide the whole rack out, quickly baste the chicken, then slide the rack back in. The goal is to baste as quickly as possible to minimize heat loss.

SIXTH– After roasting for 30 minutes at the higher temp, turn the oven down to 350 and let the chicken roast undisturbed until internal temperature reaches 165. An instant-read thermometer is the best way to gauge this, but you can also look for the juices to run clear and the legs to move easily in the sockets.

Once the internal temperature is reached, remove the chicken and allow it to rest, lightly covered, for at least 10 minutes. Carve and enjoy.

Dive Deeper into Roasting a Chicken

Here’s a few more important points to consider.

  • Quality of the chicken matters. With a roast chicken, the meat is the star of the show. Starting with a fresh, high quality bird yields a better flavor.
  • If you’re thawing a chicken, allow three or even more days in the refrigerator. I buy chickens when they’re on sale and keep them in my deep freeze, and I can tell you that trying to roast a chicken that’s still a little bit frozen is a big pain.
  • I started roasting my chicken in a cast iron Dutch oven last year and it was a game changer. If you don’t have a dutch oven, a cast iron skillet is good, too. No cast iron? No fear, a glass or metal roasting pan is fine. Just make sure it’s at least a couple of inches deep. I highly recommend this Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven if you’re looking for a top notch option.
  • A “>Bluetooth thermometer is an amazing tool, especially for roasting chickens. I love mine. I insert it after I’ve finished basting the bird and I always know exactly when my chicken is done.
  • We eat roast chicken at least once a week. It’s easy (even if you do follow the more elaborate basting method) and it’s delicious. Once you perfect roasted chicken, it’s the perfect choice for serving a group, too, since t’s as easy to roast two chickens as one!
  • Your roasted chicken often yields leftovers, so you can get more bang for your buck. You can also turn the chicken carcass into chicken stock. I’m all about less waste and getting more food for my money, so every single chicken in our house gets processed into stock.
  • Want to take things to the next level and serve your chicken with a simple pan sauce? Check out How to Make Pan Sauce for Roast Chicken

If you only learn to cook one thing, a roast chicken is a good choice. It’s economical, it’s simple, it’s popular and it’s hearty fare that can feed you for multiple meals. It’s great for a casual meal but it’s also perfectly at home as the centerpiece for a formal dinner party. And, you can pair it with almost any combination of starchy side and vegetables. At our house, it’s often paired with my Roast Potatoes, which cook at the same time as the bird.