Cooking poultry in the oven can often result in dried out, or undercooked meat. Learn how to make delicious roasted chicken with moist pieces by simply following these easy techniques. Whenever I make this dinner for my family, it’s always a battle of who will get the first slice!
Cooking a whole bird is a balance of art, science, and a little patience. It’s hard to find consensus in cookbooks or online recipes on just the right way to roast a chicken because there’s a variety of methods and opinions that yield different results. After testing various techniques in my home test kitchen, this is my preferred method for juicy meat and beautiful crispy skin.
The two biggest challenges when roasting chicken is getting an even cook and a browned surface. It’s a concerted effort to ensure the lean breast meat stays moist while the thighs cook properly. My method starts with the legs and thighs facing up, then flipping over to finish cooking the breasts. It takes time for the heat that surrounds the chicken to develop it’s sought out after brown color. High oven temperatures and brushing butter on the skin helps to make the surface sizzle and crisp up quicker.
How to roast a chicken
Two things make this method different from others. Roasting the chicken on a bed of vegetables elevates the chicken off the pan so it doesn’t sit in its juices. This process makes for more flavorful gravy or au jus. Flipping the chicken ensures the thighs, legs, and breasts get cooked evenly with a consistent browned surface. Here’s a step-by-step guide for easy roasted chicken:
1) Prepare the oven and vegetables
- Preheat the oven to 475°F (246°C) to kickstart browning of the chicken skin right away by immediately drying the surface for crust formation.
- Make a bed of vegetables using hearty ingredients like onions, celery, and carrots. I have also used red potatoes, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash. Cut them in consistent-sized pieces for even cooking.
- Season vegetables with olive oil, fresh herbs, salt & pepper.
- A large cast iron pan or roasting pan works well. You can also skip the bed of vegetables altogether and use a roasting rack.
2) Prepare the chicken
- Dry the surface and cavity of the bird with paper towels. Removing excess moisture helps the skin crisp quicker, instead of steaming.
- Season the inside of the chicken, massaging the garlic cloves, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper for more flavor.
3) Truss the chicken
- Tuck the wings behind the chicken’s back.
- Place the chicken on it’s back and legs facing towards you.
- Use a few feet of kitchen twine for trussing.
- Evenly place the string under the neck area, then gather the two ends so that it runs along the sides and then cross the string at the crown of the chicken (tip of the breast).
- Tie the string in a knot, this should plump up the breasts.
- Gather the legs and tie them together.
Trussing reduces the chances of the breasts from drying out due to an exposed cavity.
4) Roast the chicken, breast side down
- Brush the breast side with melted butter and season with salt and pepper, flip over and repeat with the back side. Olive oil or ghee can also be used for extra crispy skin.
- Roast chicken, breast side down for 30 minutes, until skin is golden and crispy.
Oven roasting breast side down allows thighs and legs to cook first, preventing undercooked sections.
5) Flip the chicken, breast side up
- Carefully use paper towels to turn the chicken over.
- Brush with more butter and then roast until the juice runs clear, about 25 to 30 minutes.
Make sure to rest the chicken before carving to keep the juices from escaping the hot meat. Whole chickens are not as affected by carryover cooking, so make sure to hit the right serving temperature once you remove it from the oven. This is because the hollow cavity allows the steam to escape, so heat does not stay retained.
How to check the chicken for doneness
Place the temperature probe in the thickest part of the breast, and then the thigh. Be careful not to hit the bone!
- Breast: 160-165°F (71-74°C)
- Thigh: 170°F (77°C)
I first learned about the flip method from America’s Test Kitchen and the vegetable nest from Thomas Keller. Combining these two techniques has always given me tasty results. Other ways to up the juiciness and flavor factor is to brine the chicken first, wet or dry, it’s up to you!
I can’t decide what I look forward to more, the succulent slices of chicken, or the carmelized fork-tender vegetables. I always make a gravy from the defatted pan juices. With the drippings, herbs, and aromatic vegetables, it’s a luscious sauce that shouldn’t be skipped!
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If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo #jessicagavin on Instagram. I’d love to see what you come up with. Cheers, friends!
How long does it take to roast a chicken?
Size is a factor. It takes about 15 minutes of cook time per pound. I typically grab a 5-pound chicken to serve four people which cooks for about 60 to 70 minutes. This method uses a high roasting temperature, so the time tends to be shorter.
- 1 small yellow onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
- 3 stalks celery, cut into 3-inch pieces
- 3 carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, (15ml)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, (5g) divided
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 10 sprigs thyme, divided
- 5 sprigs rosemary, divided
- 5 pound whole chicken, (2.3kg)
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 3 tablespoons butter, (42g) divided
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, (18g)
- Place oven rack in the lower third position. Preheat the oven to 475°F (246°C).
- In a large 12-inch cast iron skillet or roasting pan add the onions, celery, carrots, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, stir to combine.
- Evenly spread out the vegetables. Add 5 sprigs of thyme and 3 sprigs rosemary on top.
- Prepare the chicken by removing the neck and innards if they are in the cavity.
- Thoroughly dry the surface and cavity of the chicken with paper towels.
- Season the cavity with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, add 4 garlic cloves and 5 sprigs of thyme, 2 sprigs of rosemary. Massage the inside of the bird to infuse it with the flavors.
- Truss the chicken using kitchen twine. Tie the crown of the breast to plump, then tie the legs together.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Place chicken breast side up and brush with melted butter. Generously season with salt & pepper.
- Flip the chicken over and brush with butter and season with salt & pepper.
- Place chicken breast side down on top of the vegetables. Transfer to the oven and roast for 30 minutes.
- Remove the chicken from the oven. Using paper towels to hold both sides of the chicken with the cavity facing away from you, carefully flip the chicken breast side up. Brush breasts with more butter.
- Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the temperature registers 160-165°F (71-74°C) in the breast of the chicken and 170°F (77°C) in the meatiest portion of the thigh. The juices should run clear.
- If needed, return the bird to the oven for more roasting, and check every 5 minutes.
- Transfer the chicken to the cutting board and let rest for 20 minutes.
- Separate the pan juices from the vegetables in a fat separator. There should be about 3/4 cup drippings. If not, add water or chicken stock to reach 3/4 cup liquid.
- To make a gravy heat a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoons of flour. Whisk to create a roux until pale yellow, 1 minute.
- Add the defatted pan juices and continue to whisk until the sauce is thickened about 2 minutes. Season with salt & pepper.
- Slice chicken and serve with vegetables and gravy.
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