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There are all kinds of crazy ways to roast a chicken. But sometimes you just want the best, simplest old fashioned roast chicken recipe out there. Here it is.

old fashioned roast chicken on a platter with thyme and sage
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Why we love this 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 old fashioned 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.

What you’ll need

Here’s a glance at the ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe.

ingredients in bowls
  • One good-quality whole chicken, 4 to 5 pounds
  • A tablespoon of olive oil
  • A half teaspoon of fine sea salt
  • Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
sliced old fashioned roast chicken with gravy over mashed potatoes with broccolini in a bowl

My favorite sources for meat & pantry staples

For years, I’ve been sourcing our meat from ButcherBox. We love this curated meat delivery service, which provides grass-finished beef, heritage breed pork, organic chicken, and more from small farms direct to the customer. You can learn more in my extensive Butcher Box review and unboxing.

I love Thrive Market for a wide variety of products. Often described as one part Whole Foods, one part Costco, they’re a membership-based online market for healthier products at discounted prices. Plus, they’re mission-driven, engaged in the community, and not currently owned by a giant corporation. You can learn more in my Thrive Market review and unboxing.

How to make it

Here’s a top-level overview of what you’ll do to make our simple, and simply perfect, old fashioned roast chicken recipe. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the additional sections and recipe card below.

step by step
  1. Remove any giblets and pat chicken dry. Place in a roasting pan and rub with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Tuck the wing tips under the bird, and decide whether you’re going to tie the tips of the drumsticks together. (See the section on trussing below.) Roast at 425°F 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. Let the chicken rest for 20 minutes.
  3. To carve, follow the instructions in the section below. First you’ll remove the thighs and drumsticks, separating them in you like. Then remove the wings.
  4. Remove the breasts, following the bone as a guide. Slice them, arrange on a platter, and serve.

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, I 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, I 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. I always truss turkeys for this reason.

But I 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 I 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. I usually 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. And if your chicken comes pre-trussed, definitely just leave it as-is.

It may take a little longer to roast.

How to roast a whole chicken

I 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!
roast chicken carved on a plate

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, I 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 serve with old fashioned 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:

Salad

Starch

Cooked veggies

And as a much-beloved bonus, consider homemade applesauce.

Expert tips and FAQs

Got any other ideas for using 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:

Chicken and white bean chili
Taco bowls
Cobb salad
Enchiladas
Chicken salad

What should I 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.

Can I make this recipe in advance? What about leftovers?

For a traditional meal, there’s nothing like a chicken that’s just come out of the oven. Since it’s hands-off and doesn’t take long to make, I usually don’t make it in advance for this type of meal.

That said, pre-roasted and leftover chicken is great for all sorts of things served hot, room temperature, or chilled. See above for some ideas to get you started. Leftovers keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week.

Prefer to bake chicken parts?

You’ll love our baked BBQ chicken thighs and drumsticks.

our old fashioned roast chicken recipe on a platter with thyme and sage

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simple roast chicken on a platter with thyme and sage
4.70 from 10 votes

Old Fashioned Roast Chicken Recipe

By Carolyn Gratzer Cope
There are all kinds of crazy ways to roast a chicken. But sometimes you just want the best, simplest old fashioned roast chicken recipe in the world. Here it is.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Additional Time: 20 minutes
Total: 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings: 4
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Ingredients 

  • 1 good-quality whole chicken, 4 to 5 pounds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions 

  • 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, I 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.

Notes

  1. For a quick and super-easy upgrade, try using a fancy salt, like truffle or herb salt.
  2. For a traditional meal, there's nothing like a chicken that's just come out of the oven. Since it's hands-off and doesn't take long to make, I usually don't make it in advance for this type of meal.
  3. That said, pre-roasted and leftover chicken is great for all sorts of things served hot, room temperature, or chilled. See above for some ideas to get you started.
  4. Leftovers keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week.

Nutrition

Serving: 1, Calories: 389kcal, Protein: 41g, Fat: 24g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 15g, Cholesterol: 132mg, Sodium: 387mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Chicken
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @umamigirl or tag #umamigirl!

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Carolyn Gratzer Cope Bio Photo

About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

4.70 from 10 votes (10 ratings without comment)

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Carolyn,

    I found this recipe via the link underneath your “Chicken with Rosemary and Thyme (from Alice Waters)” post. The Alice Waters recipe calls for 375 degrees while turning every 20 minutes for 60-80 minutes, while this “Old Fashioned” recipe states 425 degrees for about an hour.

    Which temperature and time do you tend to default to when roasting a whole chicken, whether these recipes or others?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi, Steve! I default to 425°F. The Alice Waters recipe is wonderful, too, but with smallish chickens like the ones I call for in my recipes, I don’t find it necessary to fuss with turning, and I like the speed and crisp skin that results from a higher oven. Either method will work well.