What Size Chicken Should I Buy for Roast Chicken?

updated May 1, 2019
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Roast chicken is always a good idea. I don’t think I’ve ever regretted making it — especially never on a Sunday when I’ll have some that night for dinner and then plan for a week of meals that make the most of it. And if you’re not cooking your roast chicken over a bed of veggies … well, you’ve got something delicious to look forward to trying!

But one of the most important lessons I’ve learned about roast chicken comes from Ina Garten (if you haven’t heard — she’s got a way with chicken). This lesson is on what size chicken to buy.

A 5-Pound Bird Makes the Best Roast Chicken

Ina only cooks birds that are five to six pounds, with five pounds being best. This is a helpful piece of advice when you find yourself looking at the case of poultry trying to decide which is going to make the juiciest and most flavorful roast chicken dinner. A five-pound chicken is usually categorized as a “roaster.” These birds are usually less than 8 months old, extremely flavorful, and are less likely to cook up tough like a larger, likely older (in age) bird.

I’ve noticed that even smaller birds (think around four-and-a-half pounds) make for an even better roast chicken — but they can be particularly tricky to find at grocery stores. They’re always the first to go at my Whole Foods and Hannaford. (The odds of tracking them down from my local coop is better.) Chickens that weigh around five pounds are easier to get your hands on and still make for a better roast chicken than those closer to six pounds.

From there you can spatchcock, truss (or not!), brine, butter, and baste your way to whatever your idea of the perfect roast chicken is — but start with a five-pound bird and see the difference it makes!

What size chicken do you buy for roast chicken? Do you notice a difference? Can you find smaller birds at the grocery store?