A Beginners' Guide to Perfect Roast Chicken
Roasting a Whole Chicken Is Surprisingly Easy
I feel there are a lot of culinary skills that are being lost. So many people my age have no idea how to cook for themselves, and just the thought of preparing a full meal is intimidating to them. I've made it a mission for myself to learn as many new culinary skills as I can, as well as to try to perfect those that I already know.
Cooking a whole chicken was something I'd always wanted to do but felt was beyond my skill level. My parents had never made anything besides chicken breast growing up, and we always had a turkey breast at Thanksgiving. I watched several videos online and decided I should give it a try. For such a delicious meal, it turns out that it's surprisingly easy!
For this recipe to work, you will need to understand that you'll be getting messy. And that you'll become very well aquatinted with the anatomy of your chicken. If that is something you are uncomfortable with this may not be the best recipe for you, but I promise that if you can get over touching raw chicken you can master this dish.
- 1 whole chicken
- 1/2 stick butter
- 1 tablespoon rosemary, dried or crushed
- 1 tablespoon thyme, dried or crushed
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 sprigs fresh sage
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
Step 1: Make the Garlic Herb Butter
- Soften 1/2 stick of butter on counter top for about 2 hours.
- Add the softened butter, minced garlic, rosemary (crushed or dried), and thyme (crushed or dried). Mix the herbs in the butter until well combined.
- Get a foot long piece of cling wrap and lay the butter mixture on the skinny side of one end. Roll the butter mixture into the cling wrap so that the butter becomes a log shape.
- Chill the garlic herb butter log in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or until the butter becomes firm again.
Note About Butter
I will typically use an entire stick of butter when I make this recipe. I'll save about half the long for use in other meals. This butter is fantastic on steak, particularly a ribeye!
Step 2: Prepare and Cook the Chicken
- Get the chicken out of the fridge and make sure it is free of feathers. I also like to trim off any excess fat or skin at this time too. Essentially if it hangs down or is flabby I don't want it on my chicken.
- Slice the butter log into small pieces and leave out on a cutting board.
- Starting wherever you please separate a small part of the skin from the meat of the chicken. If you need to use a knife be very careful not to cut yourself or go through the skin of the chicken. Use you finger to make a little pocket as far as you can.
- Stuff some of the butter slices into the pocket you have just made. Remember the butter will melt as the bird cooks so don't overfill the pocket or you'll just have a bunch of butter on the bottom of your pan.
- Continue to place the butter under the skin until you have covered as much of the bird as you can. I typically try to get at least one piece on each drumstick and wing.
- If you have the fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage you can pack it into the cavity of the bird, but if you don't have the fresh herbs or if this step bothers you for any reason just skip it.You'll still end up with a beautiful bird.
- Wash your hands.
- One a small plate mix together the salt and pepper. I like to use fresh ground black pepper.
- Liberally coat the skin of the chicken with the salt and pepper mixture.
- Put the bird into a roasting pan or a deep sided casserole dish. Honestly for this recipe it does not matter if you do breast side up or down since the butter bastes the bird while cooking so you don't have to worry about it drying out. The side that you have up in the oven will have crispier skin if that helps you to decide.
- Put the bird into an oven that has been pre-heated to 425.
- Cook the bird for about 65-70 minutes. Check the internal temperature in the dark meat before removing from the bird from the oven. Remember the dark meat tends to cook slower than the white meat.
- Allow the bird to cool for about 5-10 minutes prior to carving.
Don't Be Intimidated!
I know it sounds complex, but I promise this is an easy recipe. The hardest part is getting the butter under the skin without tearing the skin. If the skin is torn and the butter is allowed to melt out of the little pocket then it is not keeping the meat moist during cooking and it'll just pool at the bottom of the pan.
If the idea of carving the chicken is intimidating, don't sweat it! I just remove the wings, then the thighs, and then I slice off the breast in one piece. We'll usually have the wings and the thighs with the drumsticks for dinner and then have the breast meat for lunch the next day. It doesn't need to be pretty.
Serving Suggestions and Pairings
I typically like to have some root veggies in the bottom of the pan I cook the chicken in. The extra butter and chicken fat help to season the veggies and I can cook it all in one pan, which means less clean up for me after dinner. Sautéed Brussels sprouts go really well with this dish, too.
If you want a classier meal, pair the chicken with a bottle of your favorite wine.
This Recipe Works for Thanksgiving, Too
I've hosted Thanksgiving dinner the last three years. I've used this recipe to make my turkey each time. I typically prep the garlic herb butter the night before and I quadruple the recipe. That's right. I use two whole sticks of butter in my turkey.
This last year I found that my local grocery store (Wegmans!) sells a poultry blend of fresh herbs in a very large container. Perfect for a turkey. I packed the cavity with all of it. It kind of make the turkey look a little fancy. Remember to cook the turkey on a lower setting, 325 to be precise, and for about 15 minutes per pound. I typically get a 15 pound bird so its in the oven for a while. To have the odds be in my favor I usually cook my turkey breast side down.
Each year my bird has been a success. It is never dry. Everyone always comments on the flavor. It is a crowd pleaser for sure. I guess its also why I've hosted the last three Thanksgiving dinners, even though we live in a tiny apartment.