A Beginners' Guide to Perfect Roast Chicken

Updated on June 15, 2020
isharkbait profile image

Alex is a self-proclaimed Disney expert who enjoys expanding her culinary skills in her free time.

I like to cook carrots, sweet potatoes, or russet potatoes at the bottom of the pan. Anytime I can combine dishes for easier cleanup, I am all for it!
I like to cook carrots, sweet potatoes, or russet potatoes at the bottom of the pan. Anytime I can combine dishes for easier cleanup, I am all for it!

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

  1. Soften 1/2 stick of butter on counter top for about 2 hours.
  2. Add the softened butter, minced garlic, rosemary (crushed or dried), and thyme (crushed or dried). Mix the herbs in the butter until well combined.
  3. 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.
  4. Chill the garlic herb butter log in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or until the butter becomes firm again.
Click thumbnail to view full-size
All of the minced garlic and the herbs smell fantastic with the butter. This is honestly the hardest part: getting all the butter onto the cling wrap and making the log. This is what two sticks of garlic herb butter looks like as a log. I think its great to keep on hand for cooking as you can add a slice to almost anything.
All of the minced garlic and the herbs smell fantastic with the butter.
All of the minced garlic and the herbs smell fantastic with the butter.
This is honestly the hardest part: getting all the butter onto the cling wrap and making the log.
This is honestly the hardest part: getting all the butter onto the cling wrap and making the log.
This is what two sticks of garlic herb butter looks like as a log. I think its great to keep on hand for cooking as you can add a slice to almost anything.
This is what two sticks of garlic herb butter looks like as a log. I think its great to keep on hand for cooking as you can add a slice to almost anything.

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! I also love using this herb butter when I make mashed potatoes, I feel it really kicks them up a notch or two.

Step 2: Prepare and Cook the Chicken

  1. 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.
  2. Slice the butter log into small pieces and leave out on a cutting board.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Wash your hands.
  8. One a small plate mix together the salt and pepper. I like to use fresh ground black pepper.
  9. Liberally coat the skin of the chicken with the salt and pepper mixture.
  10. 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.
  11. Put the bird into an oven that has been pre-heated to 425.
  12. 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.
  13. Allow the bird to cool for about 5-10 minutes prior to carving.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
See how the butter is just under the skin? That is what you are aiming for. It is a messy process, but it is worth it in the end, I promise. I thought using pictures of the turkey from Thanksgiving would be better to help visualize the process, since the turkey is so much bigger than the chicken. This is what I'm talking about when I say to stuff the cavity with the fresh herbs. I know some people don't like reach their hands into the bird, and that's fine. You can skip this step.
See how the butter is just under the skin? That is what you are aiming for. It is a messy process, but it is worth it in the end, I promise.
See how the butter is just under the skin? That is what you are aiming for. It is a messy process, but it is worth it in the end, I promise.
I thought using pictures of the turkey from Thanksgiving would be better to help visualize the process, since the turkey is so much bigger than the chicken.
I thought using pictures of the turkey from Thanksgiving would be better to help visualize the process, since the turkey is so much bigger than the chicken.
This is what I'm talking about when I say to stuff the cavity with the fresh herbs. I know some people don't like reach their hands into the bird, and that's fine. You can skip this step.
This is what I'm talking about when I say to stuff the cavity with the fresh herbs. I know some people don't like reach their hands into the bird, and that's fine. You can skip this step.

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. Sweet potatoes, russet potatoes, carrots are all fantastic! 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.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
My first Thanksgiving turkey. I went a little overboard on the butter; I think I used three sticks. I have since learned that two is plenty sufficient. The drippings did make for some fantastic gravy, though.  This is a favorite dish in my house. It's a bit intensive on the prep side, but once the bird is in the oven I have an hour to do as I please while it cooks. As you can see, this recipe turns out fine even if the bird is breast side up. I kind of like the skin on the breast meat a bit more crispy so I'll often cook mine breast side up.
My first Thanksgiving turkey. I went a little overboard on the butter; I think I used three sticks. I have since learned that two is plenty sufficient. The drippings did make for some fantastic gravy, though.
My first Thanksgiving turkey. I went a little overboard on the butter; I think I used three sticks. I have since learned that two is plenty sufficient. The drippings did make for some fantastic gravy, though.
This is a favorite dish in my house. It's a bit intensive on the prep side, but once the bird is in the oven I have an hour to do as I please while it cooks.
This is a favorite dish in my house. It's a bit intensive on the prep side, but once the bird is in the oven I have an hour to do as I please while it cooks.
As you can see, this recipe turns out fine even if the bird is breast side up. I kind of like the skin on the breast meat a bit more crispy so I'll often cook mine breast side up.
As you can see, this recipe turns out fine even if the bird is breast side up. I kind of like the skin on the breast meat a bit more crispy so I'll often cook mine breast side up.

My Secret Weapon

Taylor Precision Products Digital Cooking Thermometer with Probe and Timer, One Size, Silver
Taylor Precision Products Digital Cooking Thermometer with Probe and Timer, One Size, Silver
This little device has made my life so much easier. Now instead of setting a timer and then trying to figure out if my chicken is cooked to the right temperature I will know before I even open the oven door. I had some issues with my oven, the joys of apartment living! My chickens were not turning out, despite leaving them in the oven for almost 2 hours they were not fully cooked. Several dinners ruined. I got this and I haven't had an issue since. I just pop the probe in the middle of the thigh, where the dark meat is. I set the temperature to 165 and then the entire thing goes in the oven. The digital reader the probe connects to has a magnet on it so it can sit on the outside of the oven. There is also a spot to set the timer, but I have found that my oven is inconsistent and sometimes my chicken is done in 90 minutes and sometimes its more or less. The point is all of my chickens, turkeys, and other oven roasted meats have turned out perfect since I started using this thermometer. For the price it just can't be beat! I love this thermometer and I use it a few nights each week.
 

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.

Comments

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    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      7 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      Sounds delicious! I'll have to try your recipe. I'd probably add a lot more garlic though as we're all garlic lovers in my house :) Merry Christmas.

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