Perfect Roast Chicken

Am I the only person who was under the false impression that making a roast chicken was extremely difficult and wildly time consuming?  For years, I was convinced that roasting a chicken (like my more familiar Thanksgiving turkey) was an all day affair.  If you jump over the logical gaps involved in that analogy (i.e. the difference between a 20 pound turkey to feed twelve and a 3 pound chicken to feed, um, two) you will quickly discover what I recently did.  Roast chicken is a simple, delicious and totally doable weeknight dinner.

roast chicken on plate

When I tell you this is the best roast chicken I have ever had, I am not exaggerating.  Succulent, juicy meat that falls off the bone with a perfectly crispy, papery, thin skin you will find it hard to believe that bird came out of your own oven.  If I could FedEx you a sample in the mail I would, but you’ll have to take my word for it.  This recipe will impress your friends, loved ones will begin requesting it be added to the regular recipe rotation and neighbors will pound on your door begging for an invite to dinner.

trussed chicken

It’s hard to believe that such a simple recipe yields such an impressive meal.  The key to a great roast chicken is starting with the best possible chicken you can get your hands on.  Recently I’ve switched over to using only humanely-raised, pastured chickens.  It sounds a little hippy at first, but you can taste the difference!  A happy chicken is a tasty chicken!

The second secret to a perfect roast chicken is to dry the bird as much as possible before putting it in the hot, hot, hot oven.  You don’t want any extra moisture steaming everything up inside the oven.  I use paper towels to pat down the bird and I even stick a bunch inside the cavity to soak up the water inside.

roast chicken in pan

The third secret is to properly truss your chicken.  Say what now?  Trussing is simply tying the chicken up with cooking twine in a way that keeps the cavity closed and the legs and wings tucked in tight which allows for the most even cooking.  I taught myself how to truss a chicken using this video.  In fact, I still watching this video every time I’m going to truss a bird as a refresher.  Something about it makes me giggle each time.

chopped thyme

Finally, you want to thoroughly rain salt all over your bird.  This will draw out the moisture initially and give that chicken skin the most perfectly delectable crispy crunch you are looking for.  Don’t hold back with the salt.  Trust me.  Finally, be sure to use fresh thyme.  I recently saw an episode with a Food Network chef who told her viewers that she didn’t believe in dried herbs.  At the time, I thought that was so snobby and elitist.  After trying the dish with and without the fresh thyme, I can honestly tell you that it’s not the same dish with dried herbs.  Splurge on the fresh thyme.  Use the extra to throw in the mashed white beans you are going to serve along side your perfect roast chicken.  The Kitchen Warrior strikes again!

gorgeous roast chicken

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Perfect Roast Chicken

Yield: 1 roast chicken

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 50-60 minutes

Ingredients-

1 (3 pound) whole chicken (humanely raised if possible!)
Salt and pepper
Fresh thyme, approximately 2 teaspoons
Kitchen string (for trussing the bird)

Directions-

- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Rinse the bird with cold water, inside and out. Remove any gibblets packets. Dry the bird with paper towels, inside and out. You want as little extra moisture as possible.
- Salt and pepper the inside the cavity. Truss the bird with kitchen string.
- Place the trussed bird in a roasting pan (on a rack or just sitting in the pan). Rain salt over the entire bird making sure it is entirely covered. Add pepper to taste.
- Place pan in oven and cook for 50-60 minutes (longer for larger birds) until the skin is brown and crispy and the juices run clear. You can check for doneness with an instant read temperature, it should read 160 degrees in the thickest part of the chicken. (Don't worry, the temperature will go up another 5 degrees while it is resting outside the oven.)
- Remove bird from oven. Throw chopped fresh thyme into the pan juices. Using a large spoon or baster, bathe the chicken in the pan juices with the thyme. Once fully bathed, let the chicken sit for 10 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute.
- Remove the wings first, then the legs. Remove the breasts from the breast bone, slice into pieces and enjoy!

Adapted from Thomas Keller's Favorite Simple Roast Chicken

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15 Responses to “Perfect Roast Chicken”

  1. 1
    Royall — January 18, 2011 2:07 pm

    You forgot the rosemary!

    • kate replied: — January 18th, 2011 2:19 pm

      Royall — I’ve only ever made it with straight thyme but I’m sure rosemary would be fabulous as well!

  2. 2
    Joanne — January 18, 2011 7:28 pm

    I have definitely always always always been scared of roasting a chicken but yours looks so…delicious. I think I just need to suck it up!

    • kate replied: — January 18th, 2011 7:34 pm

      Joanne — You can do it! I was terrified but it’s super simple and insanely delicious! Take my word for it, the results are totally worth it.

  3. 3
    Paulette — January 19, 2011 5:25 am

    I love chicken I can eat it every day of the week, but I get a little chicken (no pun intended) on making it. But I will try this one. Thanks Paulette

  4. 4
    Lisa — January 19, 2011 9:36 am

    This looks delicious! We roast chicken a few times a month so we can make chicken broth. Everday Food featured spatchcocked chicken several issues ago. You just cut the neck portion down through the end, flip the bird and press down on the breast. (I just throw the neck into a pot of water and wait til I have the rest of the carcass to boil.) It cooks 15-20 minutes faster that way.

  5. 5
    Justcakegirl — January 19, 2011 10:48 am

    This looka so yummy and amazing :) ))

  6. 6
    Vicki — January 19, 2011 2:54 pm

    Yum! I use the same method, but do it in a cast iron skillet that’s preheated along with the oven. All the drippings in the bottom of the skillet make a great gravy!

  7. 7
    CaSaundra — January 19, 2011 7:39 pm

    I love a good roast chicken–I use it throughout the week is a variety of recipes like wraps, soups, and just plain! Yours looks straight out of a cooking mag–great job!

  8. 8
    pannybear — January 19, 2011 11:39 pm

    Wow Kate, awesome “trussing!” Who knew it was so easy? Just for the record, you took the paper towels out of the cavity before roasting, right? I’m off to buy a bird! :0)

  9. 9

    Roast chicken is always a nice easy choice for supper. Yours looks great!

  10. 10
    Lauren Miller — February 20, 2011 8:16 pm

    this really was perfect!!

  11. 11
    Vera Jensen — July 24, 2011 3:39 pm

    This recipe looks to die for. I am going to follow it for our dinner this evening, but I don’t have fresh thyme and will have to substitute. I know it won’t be as good as with the fresh, but promise to have fresh on hand for an encore. Your enthusiasm is contageous. A great website.

  12. 12
    Aimee — September 18, 2011 6:08 am

    Mmmm yummy! That looks more than perfect to me :)

  13. 13
    Barbara — January 17, 2012 11:17 am

    I just made this and it is beautiful! HOWEVER MY OVEN IS A MESS!!!!! Grease spattered everywhere and toward the end of cooking my house became full of smoke. I started with a clean oven so that was not the problem…. CAUTION folks, 450 degrees is a VERY hot oven.
    I hope after I air the house out, (fortunately I live in Florida and can open the windows without freezing to death) and spend half the day cleaning the oven, I am going to feel like it was all worth it. Do not think I would do this again however, no matter how good it is.
    Maybe I did something wrong????

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