Perfect Roast ChickenFebruary 17, 2016 By Cathy — 8 Comments
The perfect roast chicken…juicy bird, crispy skin and tons of flavor!
There’s just something about a roast chicken. The crackly skin, the juicy meat and oh, those pan drippings! It’s one of my favorite meals and one that makes everyone in my house happy. And yet that bird had me running scared for years. I’m not sure which was more intimidating to me…fear of undercooking it, overcooking it, or the whole carving thing. Maybe all three?
It could have been all the various theories on cooking temperatures, time, rubs and brines. To baste or not to baste, high heat or low? Aaaargh! So, here we are years later and may I present to you the perfect roast chicken. It’s well seasoned, rubbed in and out with lemon herb butter, and stuffed full of aromatics. I use my trusty cast iron skillet and cook it fast and furious in a very hot oven. The result is a super moist bird with crispy skin and the most delectable pan drippings.
What I’ve learned after roasting too many birds to count over the years is, wait for it…stop. overthinking. it. That’s right. Sometimes you have to put away your thinking cap and bust out your roasting pan. While I love the flavor that the herb butter and aromatics impart, the truth is, you can have a very delicious bird with just a little olive oil, salt and pepper. For me it comes down to the oven temperature and cooking time. For a smaller bird (3 – 5 lbs, not a Thanksgiving turkey), I’ve found that high heat for a shorter period yields optimal results. And then that bird has got to rest. Again, with a chicken this size, 15 minutes will do the trick to allow all those juices to redistribute. If you skip the oh-so-important resting, all those gorgeous juices will pour out when you slice into it and leave you with a dry bird. Worth the wait, trust me.
So how do you know when the chicken is done? Well, you can use an instant read thermometer and remove it when it reaches just shy of 160 degrees as it will continue to cook as it rests. Be sure to test it in several places including between the thigh and leg, but careful not to touch the bone. It’s equally important to trust your instincts and determine doneness by looking and feeling. My tried and true method to determine doneness is to pierce the bird between the thigh and leg and if the juices run clear, it should be good to go. You can also tell by pressing on the breast; it should feel firm, but not dried out.
Okay, now we’ve got our perfectly cooked, well rested bird. Time for carving. Grab yourself a sharp knife and have at it. I remove the legs first (thigh and drumstick), then the wings, then finally the breasts. Instead of slicing the meat off the bird, I remove each breast whole, then slice it to serve. Lastly, cut away all those bits of goodness from the carcass that you might have missed on the first pass. Then drizzle with the pan drippings and it’s time to eat.
If you’ve been intimidated to roast a whole bird, I hope I’ve convinced you to give it a try. It’s so easy that you’ll be kicking yourself for not doing it sooner. And I didn’t even tell you about all the great ways to use up the leftovers. Check back with me at the end of the week and I’ll show you one way, that is, if there’s anything left!
- Lemon Herb Butter
- 2 oz 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 Tbsp minced rosemary
- 1 Tbsp minced parsley
- 1 Tbsp minced thyme
- 1 lemon zested
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 4-5 lb whole chicken
- 1 1/2 Tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 3-4 sprigs thyme
- 1/2 lemon
- 4-5 cloves garlic smashed
- *kitchen twine for trussing
Herb butter: Mix all ingredients together until combined.
Roast chicken: Preheat oven to 450 degrees and remove chicken from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes.
Remove giblets from the chicken (if inside) and pat dry, both in and out.
Season chicken inside and out with salt and pepper.
Spread the herb butter all over chicken, including under the skin.
Stuff the cavity with the herbs, lemon and garlic.
Fold the wings behind the bird and tie the legs together. Place the bird in a cast iron skillet (my preference) or a roasting pan or oven-safe skillet and roast for about 50 minutes or until the juices run clear. (or when an instant read thermometer reads 160 degrees. It will continue to cook while it rests).
Baste the bird, tent it with foil and let it rest 15 minutes before carving.