Roasting a chicken doesn't have to be a special weekend affair. A small chicken really only takes about an hour to cook, so we can easily make it for weeknight meals, too! Put it in the oven when you get home from work and let it cook while you wind down from the day. It's that simple.
What You Need
One 3 to 4 pound whole chicken, defrosted if frozen
A mix of onions, celery, carrots, and/or potatoes
Olive oil or butter
Optional Extras: Lemons, garlic, fresh herbs (like thyme, rosemary, or sage)
Roasting pan, large cast iron skillet, or other chicken-sized oven-safe vessel
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
2. Peel and chop your vegetables into wedges and bite-sized pieces. Arrange them in an even layer on the bottom of the pan to make a bed for the chicken. Have a small bowl of salt and pepper ready, with about a tablespoon of salt mixed with about a teaspoon of pepper.
3. Over the sink, slit the plastic wrapping around your chicken (if it's still wrapped up) and drain out any juices or blood trapped in the plastic. Reach inside the chicken's body cavity and remove the bag of giblets. The giblets can be discarded, saved for stock, or used to make gravy later on.
4. Pat the chicken dry very thoroughly with paper towels or a kitchen rag. Make sure to absorb any liquid behind the wings or legs. Blot inside the body cavity too, getting the chicken as dry as you can, inside and out.
5. Rub the chicken with olive oil or butter. Rub the oil or butter all over the chicken, paying special attention to the breast and the drumsticks.
6. Sprinkle the outside of the chicken generously with salt and pepper, and rub a little salt and pepper inside the cavity as well.
7. If desired, stuff the inside of the chicken with halved lemons, whole cloves of garlic, or herbs.
8. Set the chicken breast-side-up on the bed of vegetables. The chicken should be lifted an inch or two above the pan by the vegetables.
9. Put the chicken in the oven and lower the oven temperature to 400°F.
10. Set a timer for 1 hour and go about your business.
11. After an hour, check if the chicken is done by inserting an instant-read thermometer in the meatiest part of its thigh. The internal temperature should be at least 165° for the chicken to be done. If you're under, put it back in to cook for another 5 to 10 minutes and check it again.
12. Let the chicken rest for about 15 minutes. During this time, you can prepare a salad or side dish or whisk some flour into the pan juices to make gravy. You can lift the roasted vegetables underneath the chicken out of the chicken fat left behind in the pan, and serve them as a side dish too.
13. Carve the chicken and serve. (Look for an in-depth tutorial on how to carve a roast chicken tomorrow!)
• You can change the flavor of the chicken by adding a spice rub along with the salt and pepper. We like Chinese 5-spice blend, za'atar spices, and ras el hanout.
• We based this roasting method on Jamie Oliver's recipe for "Perfect Roast Chicken" from his book Jamie's Food Revolution. This book is a great resource for basic cooking techniques and recipes. (Buy It! $23 on Amazon)
(Images: Faith Durand)