What I Taught My Teenager About Roasting a Chicken

updated Sep 30, 2020
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(Image credit: Forrest Clonts)

How does that saying go? “Give a man a chicken and feed him for a day. Show him how to get to the grocery store, and teach him to roast a chicken, and he can make, like, four good meals with it.” Or something like that.

Anyhow, when I was in college, my wise roommate Beth taught me how to roast a chicken and make it last. On Monday, we ate roast chicken. On Tuesday, we ate chicken, spinach, and rice casserole. On Wednesday, we had a light supper of chicken salad sandwiches. And the remains of the well-picked chicken made an excellent soup on Thursday. A good roasted chicken goes a long way.

(Image credit: Forrest Clonts)

I try to raise my sons as feminists — allies, at the very least — so I have mixed feelings about my favorite roast chicken recipe. But Glamour Magazine‘s “Engagement Chicken” can’t be beat for ease and deliciousness. It’s foolproof.

→ Make It: Engagement Chicken from Glamour

The recipe doesn’t actually say it should be made by a woman for a man, so my sons can make it for anyone they want to impress. If that chicken dinner inspires a proposal, may it be the beginning of a long and loving partnership based on more than one delicious roasted chicken. But it is really good chicken.

(Image credit: Forrest Clonts)

When I make it, I cover the bottom of the roasting pan with chopped vegetables instead of a roasting rack. This turns it into a meal, and wow — are those vegetables ever delicious! Hearty vegetables, like potatoes, onions, turnips, fennel, or carrots work well, but I added cauliflower recently, and it was delightful. And if you don’t eat all the vegetables? Save them, add chicken stock, and puree for a rich cream-of-chicken soup on another day.

7 Things My Teenager Learned About Roast Chicken

Since there are a million good ways to roast a chicken, I’ll let my kids choose their favorite and stick with it. But here are my tips for getting started:

  1. Just say no to rinsing. It really isn’t necessary, and it’s a decent way to splash germs all over your kitchen.
  2. You don’t really need a roasting pan. But if you want one, just ask. For some reason I have several.
  3. Cook the vegetables with the chicken. It’ll save time, make your cleanup easier, and the vegetables will be delicious.
  4. Use the whole chicken. When you think there’s no more chicken on the bones, make soup. If there’s really no more chicken, make stock.
  5. Food safety matters. You can play fast and loose with the temperature of red meat, but make sure your chicken’s internal temp reaches at least 165° Fahrenheit. Don’t reuse any utensils or dishes that have touched raw chicken, and clean your work area thoroughly. And scrub your hands, including your fingernails. (Okay, my dear sons, do that even when you aren’t making chicken.)
  6. Learn how to carve a chicken, and pick it clean after supper on the night you make it. Refrigerated chicken is much harder to pick clean than one that’s cool enough to touch, but not cold.
  7. You don’t need to propose marriage if someone roasts you a chicken, nor do you have to accept a proposal based on a chicken dinner. Nor do I recommend it. No one should have to depend on a partner for a roasted chicken.

A lot of people living on their own or with one other person wouldn’t think of roasting a chicken, because it seems like a lot of food for one or two people, but one chicken can make a few different meals. It’s a really economical way to feed yourself for a few days.

What’s your favorite thing to do with the leftovers from a roast chicken meal?

10 Kitchen Lessons for My Teenage Kid

I’ve decided to be a little more methodical about teaching my sons to cook. So this week and next I’m counting down the ten essentials I think my 14-year-old absolutely has to master before he flies the nest.