The Simplest, Best Roast Chicken Recipe
There are all kinds of crazy ways to roast a chicken. But sometimes you just want the best, simplest roast chicken recipe out there. Here it is.
Why we love this roast chicken recipe
There are a zillion ways to roast a chicken. To be honest, we love quite a few of them. (Especially Chez Panisse Herb Roasted Chicken and Roast Chicken and Potatoes with All the Best Things.) But we love this simple roast chicken recipe because sometimes you’re just not in the market for bells and whistles, and you shouldn’t have to be.
Sometimes you just want classic food, perfectly prepared. You want:
- Great-quality roast chicken
- With tender meat
- And crispy skin
To be totally transparent: For decades my mom has been roasting an even simpler chicken than this. No olive oil. No salt. Not convinced she tucks the wings. And it turns out great. So I’ve always known that while sometimes you WANT a more elaborate roast chicken, you absolutely don’t need one to be delighted.
Simple roast chicken ingredients
All you need for this roast chicken recipe is:
- One good-quality whole chicken, 4 to 5 pounds. We always buy organic chicken for reasons you can learn about here if you like.
- A tablespoon of olive oil
- A half teaspoon of salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
How to prep a chicken for roasting
Here’s all you need to do to get a whole chicken ready to roast simply in the oven. You can watch it all go down in the video that accompanies this post.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F with a rack in the center.
- Find a roasting pan that will accommodate your chicken. For a 4 to 5 pound chicken, we use a good old 9x13x2-inch metal pan.
- Remove any giblets that may have come with your chicken. If there are any, you’ll find them tucked into the inside cavity of the chicken, probably in a little bag. You can use them to make gravy or discard them. For a simple roast chicken like this, we don’t use them.
- Rub a tablespoon of olive oil all over the outside of the bird.
- Sprinkle it generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Tuck wing tips under chicken. See below for more about this.
To truss or not to truss
First things first: Trussing a bird before roasting means using kitchen twine to tuck the wings against the bird and tie the drumsticks together and snug against the body. For a large bird that needs a long time to roast, trussing can result in more even cooking. We always truss our turkeys for this reason.
But we find that for a bird this size — a 4 to 5 pound chicken — a full trussing isn’t necessary and ends up seeming kinda finicky.
And in fact, in our experience, the bird cooks up faster, crispier, and MORE evenly without trussing because more air is circulating around the legs and into the body cavity.
Here’s what we do instead of trussing:
Simply tuck the tips of the wings beneath the bird so they don’t burn. You can see that step in action in the video and in the step-by-step photos above. We leave the legs as-is.
That said, if you plan to present the whole chicken on a platter before carving and would like it to look more elegant (rather than a little excited and spastic, like an untrussed bird does), you can tie the tips of the legs together with a bit of twine. It may take a little longer to roast.
How to roast a whole chicken
We also find that for a 4 to 5 pound chicken, it’s not necessary to fuss with cooking temperature. You can leave the oven at 425°F the whole time and expect a quickly, evenly cooked bird.
You will simply:
- Place the prepped bird into a 425°F oven. Place the pan on a rack in the center.
- Roast for about an hour, until the juices run clear when you prick a knife between a leg and thigh, and the breast meat reads 145° to 150°F on an instant read thermometer. Start checking the temperature around the 45 minute mark. Don’t stress if the temperature goes a little bit over.
- Let the chicken sit for 20 minutes.
- Carve and serve!
How to carve a chicken
Here’s what you’ll do to carve a whole chicken. You can see these steps in action in the video. You’ll see that I’m a little clumsy at carving (always have been, maybe always will be), but also that it’s reasonably easy to carve a small, properly cooked chicken. It’s almost like it WANTS to be carved.
Wait until the chicken has cooled enough to handle, and then:
- Remove the legs and thighs from the body by pulling the leg away from the body and cutting through the skin and the hip joint (which connects the thigh to the body). For a small chicken, we usually don’t bother to separate the drumsticks from the thighs, but you can do so if you like by cutting through the joint that connects them.
- Remove the wings next in a similar fashion.
- Remove the breasts by running your knife down and then out to the side of the bird, following the line of the breastbone.
- Slice the breasts.
- Place everything on a plate, and serve.
What to do with the chicken carcass
You can use the carcass, and ALL the bones and connective tissue if you like, to make a really great stock (a.k.a.) bone broth.
What to serve with the best roast chicken
If you’re going for a classic roast chicken dinner, there’s nothing better than a salad and some potatoes, plus maybe a cooked green veggie. We love:
- A simple kale salad or
- Shaved fennel salad, and
- Small-batch Yukon Gold mashed potatoes
- Or creamy mashed cauliflower or
- Orzo, and
- Broccolini or
- Green beans
- As a much-beloved bonus, consider homemade applesauce.
Other great uses for roast chicken
One of the things we love most about this roast chicken is how versatile it is. The meat is juicy and tender and simply flavored, and no one says you have to sit down to eat it like a proper meal from 1950. (Though NO shade if you want to — we love that too.)
You can also use roast chicken in:
- 1 good-quality whole chicken (4 to 5 pounds)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C) with a rack in the center.
- Remove any giblets from the cavity of the chicken and pat it dry all over.
- Place the chicken into a roasting pan. For a 4 to 5 pound chicken, we like to use the good old 9x13x2-inch metal roasting pan we've had for years. Nothing fancy.
- Rub the chicken all over with the olive oil, and sprinkle all over with the salt.
- Tuck the tips of the wings under the chicken.
- Roast for about 60 minutes, until the juices run clear when you stick the tip of a knife between one of the legs and thighs, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the breast reads 145°F (63°C) to 150°F (65°C). Start checking around the 45 minute mark, and don't worry if it goes a little bit over.
- Let the chicken rest on a cutting board for 20 minutes. Then carve and serve.
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