Have you ever noticed what all the mouthwatering photos of roasted chickens and turkeys have in common? Crispy, lightly browned skin. Herbs. And a glistening sheen that hints at the presence of tender, juicy meat underneath. And lucky for you, that’s exactly what you’ll end up with after making this recipe. It’s fancy enough to impress, and so easy a cavewoman (or man!) can do it! ;)
And if you’ve never roasted a whole chicken before, now’s the time to learn; every cook should know how to do this! I even provide some links to super-easy, really short videos (made by a couple of great chefs on YouTube) to show you how to properly truss a chicken for roasting, which is a lot easier than it sounds… as well as one that shows you how to properly slice a whole chicken into its constituent parts: thighs, drumsticks, wings, and breast meat. After making this recipe, you’ll pretty much look (and feel) like a pro!
On the flip side, if you have roasted a chicken once or twice before, but you’re looking for something with a bit more pizzazz, then this recipe is still right up your alley! The ingredients list is purposefully kept simple, so you can focus on good technique while still achieving a delightful flavor profile. It requires just a few staple pantry items: grass-fed butter, a whole lemon, and some fresh thyme… a classic combination that works together beautifully!
To achieve noticeable flavor, the chicken must be generously seasoned with salt and pepper on the inside, as well as the outside. A lot of people overlook the seasoning of the cavity, but you want the meat to have flavor all the way through, not just on the outside! The cavity is also stuffed with herbs and lemon rinds, to help infuse it with more flavor. I also like to put a pat of butter and a smashed clove of garlic underneath the skin on each side of the breast bone, before trussing it up so that it cooks evenly. After being trussed, the chicken is seasoned again on the outside with lemon juice, more salt and pepper, and fresh thyme leaves.
It’s a good idea to roast your chicken on a roasting rack, so that the bottom doesn’t become soggy, and so that the heat can distribute all around the bird as it cooks. If you don’t have a roasting rack, don’t fret – you can also use a large, rimmed baking sheet! Just place some carrots and celery under the bird to help elevate it away from all the juices that will collect underneath.
The general rule of thumb for roasting a whole chicken is 20 minutes for every pound that it weighs. I used a 6 lb chicken, so that meant mine cooked for 2 solid hours! My house smelled delicious the whole time… someone should really invent roasted chicken scented candles. I’d buy ‘em! ;)
You may also notice that I suggest cooking the chicken at a higher temperature for 15 minutes, before lowering the temperature for the required amount of roasting time. This is to get that nice, crispy exterior that we all know and love! DON’T SKIP THIS STEP! :)
Once your chicken is done roasting, take it out of the oven. Double check the temperature with a meat thermometer; if you poke it in wherever the thigh is fattest (but not touching bone), it should be at least 165 degrees F. If it’s anything less, then it needs to cook for a few more minutes. If it’s done, though, let the bird sit out for 15 to 20 minutes. This will provide time for the juices in the meat to redistribute, which helps to ensure that the meat is tender and juicy, not tough and dried out. This also gives the chicken some time to cool off, so you don’t end up burning the heck out of your fingers while slicing it!
If you’re not experienced with taking apart a whole chicken, quickly watch this video, and you’ll be on your way to pro status in no time.
What’s great about roasting a whole chicken, as opposed to just the breasts or drumsticks alone, is that there’s usually leftovers! This depends on how many people were eating it, of course, and how big the bird was… but if you find that you have leftovers, then it’s time to celebrate because roasted chicken makes for an excellent day-after lunch! And it also cuts down on your list of weekly lunches to think up and prepare. See?! You’ve killed two birds with one stone! (Pun completely intended.)
The flavor of the chicken lends itself to a wide variety of side dish accompaniments, so you’ve got a lot of options here. I served mine with steamed broccoli and cauliflower mashed “fauxtatoes”. Mmm mmm good!
Share your thoughts… do you have any other tried-and-true chicken roasting tips to offer?
- (1) 5 to 6 lb whole chicken, thawed and giblets removed
- 2 tbsp grass-fed butter
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with flat side of knife
- 1 tbsp kosher salt, to taste
- Ground black pepper, to taste
- 6 small sprigs fresh thyme, divided
- 1 fresh lemon, quartered
- **Cooking twine
- Take pre-thawed chicken out of the refrigerator about 45 minutes prior to roasting it, to allow it to come closer to room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Make sure you know how much your chicken weighs, as this will determine your cooking time!
- Get out a roasting rack/pan (preferable for more even cooking), or a large rimmed baking sheet.
- Use paper towels to pat chicken dry both on the outside AND inside.
- Season inside the cavity with ½ tbsp kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste. Place 4 whole sprigs of thyme inside the chicken cavity. Squeeze two lemon quarters into the chicken cavity, and then place the squeezed rinds inside.
- Use your fingers to rub and spread out 1 tbsp of grass-fed butter underneath the skin of the chicken breast (about ½ tbsp on each side of the breastbone). Also place one clove of smashed garlic under the skin, on each side of the breastbone.
- Truss the chicken with a piece of twine that’s just over double the length of the chicken (here’s a good how-to video).
- Squeeze the other two lemon quarters over the top of the chicken breast, and discard the rinds. Sprinkle all sides of chicken with the other ½ tbsp kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Strip leaves from the remaining 2 sprigs of thyme (simply use fingers to lightly grasp and pull, from bottom toward top of stem), and sprinkle over top of the chicken.
- Place chicken on roasting rack/pan, and roast for 15 minutes. Then reduce heat to 350 degrees F and roast for 20 minutes per pound (i.e. a 6 lb chicken should roast for 2 hours). Internal temperature of the thigh should reach between 165 -175 degrees F.
- Remove from oven and allow to rest for 20 minutes before slicing and serving (here’s a great how-to video).
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