This whole roasted chicken recipe delivers a complete dinner all in one pan. Learn how to create beautiful golden skin and juicy pieces by following these simple techniques.
In culinary school, I learned the basic techniques for oven-roasted chicken. But over the years I’ve experimented with ways to make it even better. My preferred method roasts the bird on a bed of vegetables which results in super tender slices and a delicious built-in side dish. I’ll also show you how to make gravy from the defatted pan juices. With the drippings, herbs, and aromatic vegetables, it’s a luscious sauce that shouldn’t be skipped!
The two biggest challenges are getting evenly cooked sections while achieving a golden surface. It’s a concerted effort to ensure the lean breast stays moist while the dark meat continues to bake. This method starts with the legs and thighs facing up, then flipping the chicken over to finish cooking the white meat. Trust me, it’s worth it!
The thick and heavy walls of a cast iron skillet retain and distribute heat well for even cooking. The sides are just above 2 inches, so it allows for the circulation of hot air in the enclosed environment for better browning. The pan can also be used to make a gravy, which I highly recommend! A small roasting pan can also be used, but I prefer the skillet.
A hot oven makes a difference
This method uses a high oven temperature of 475ºF (246°C). Preheating kickstarts browning of the skin right away by immediately drying the surface for crust formation. After roasting the chicken for 30 minutes, let the oven temperature come back up.
I’ve noticed that the steam from the ingredients lowers the heat, so let it sit empty to increase the temperature for a few minutes. You can even turn up the dial 25 to 50 degrees, then lower it back down right before adding the chicken back in. If the temperature is not hot enough the skin on the breast won’t brown as much.
Create a vegetable nest
Roasting the chicken on a bed of fresh vegetables and herbs elevates it off the pan. This prevents the meat from sitting and steaming in its juices. This also makes for more flavorful gravy or au jus. To switch things up, you can add other ingredients like red potatoes, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash.
Remove excess moisture
Use paper towels to remove moisture from the surface and the cavity. This helps the skin crisp quicker, instead of steaming. You can also refrigerate the chicken, uncovered, for a few hours ahead of time as the dry circulating air does a great job of wicking up extra water.
Season the cavity
Don’t forget to season the inside of the chicken cavity. Massaging crushed garlic cloves, thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper infuses more flavor into the meat and drippings for the gravy.
Truss the chicken
Trussing reduces the chances of the chicken breasts from drying out due to an exposed cavity. For this technique, all you need is about 3 feet of kitchen twine. Start with the legs facing towards you, then tuck the wings behind the chicken’s back.
Place the string under the neck area then gather the two ends so that it runs along the sides of the body. Tightly tie the string at the tip of the breast, this should make them look plumper in appearance. Lastly, tie the legs together to block off the cavity opening.
Brush with butter
Brushing the skin with melted butter adds extra flavor, color, and crisp factor. You can also use olive oil or ghee for extra crispy skin, but because they don’t contain any water the skin won’t be as brown. The milk solids of the butter turn a golden hue when exposed to high heat and provide a rich nutty aroma, similar to browned butter. Seasoning with salt and pepper helps to enhance the savory taste of the dish.
Roast breast-side down first
Roasting breast-side down allows the thighs and legs to cook first which prevents undercooked sections. This is due to the dark meat containing more connective tissue and fat. It takes longer to cook than the breast pieces which are very lean. A bonus is the skin on the underside of the bird will be super golden and crispy.
Then flip to breast-side up
To finish cooking, flip the chicken over using paper towels. You’ll notice that the skin will be very pale in color. Don’t worry, brushing with more butter and roasting for about 30 minutes will help with the color change. If you like, you can also broil the surface for a few minutes at the very end until the desired hue is reached.
Rest the meat
Rest the chicken on a cutting board for 20 minutes before carving. This allows most of the juices to redistribute into the muscle fibers, to prevent dry and chalky slices. A whole chicken is not as greatly affected by carryover cooking. This is because the hollow cavity allows the steam to escape, so not as much heat stays retained inside. It’s best to hit close to the serving temperature once you remove it from the oven.
How to check for doneness
Use an instant-read thermometer to get the most accurate gauge for doneness. Place the temperature probe in the thickest part of the breast and thigh. Be careful not to hit the bone.
The breast should register between 160 and 165°F (71 to 74°C), while the thigh should be between 165 to 170°F (74 to 77°C). From a visual standpoint, the juices in the white meat will run clear, whereas the dark meat may remain more pinkish in color. You’ll also be able to easily pull the wings and thigh away from the carcass when it’s fully cooked.
Make a gravy
The skillet is going to have a ton of fond (flavorful pan drippings, juices, and bits of food) on the bottom of the pan. Don’t let this go to waste! Remove the vegetables, then add the liquid to a fat separator. Use only the juices plus extra chicken stock or broth to make the pan sauce. Using flour and butter to make the roux helps to slightly thicken the gravy more.
How long does it take to roast a chicken?
Size is a factor for cooking time. 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.
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- 1 yellow onion, large, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
- 3 stalks celery, cut into 3-inch pieces
- 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, divided
- 10 sprigs thyme, divided
- 5 sprigs rosemary, divided
- 5 pound whole chicken
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 cup chicken stock, or chicken broth
- Place the oven rack in the lower third position. Preheat to 475°F (246°C).
- In a large 12-inch cast iron skillet, add the onions, celery, carrots, 1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Stir the ingredients to combine. Spread them out in an even layer, and add 5 sprigs of thyme and 3 sprigs of rosemary on top.
- Remove the neck and giblets from the cavity of the chicken, discard. Thoroughly dry the surface and cavity of the chicken with paper towels. Removing excess moisture helps the skin crisp quicker instead of steaming.
- Season the cavity with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper, add 4 cloves of crushed garlic, 5 sprigs of thyme, and 2 sprigs of rosemary. Massage the inside of the bird to infuse it with the flavors.
- Truss the chicken using about 3 feet of cooking twine. Tuck the wings behind the chicken’s back. Place the chicken on it’s back and legs facing towards you. Place the string under the neck area then gather the two ends so that it runs along the sides of the wings and body, and then cross the string at the crown (tip of the breast). Tie the string in a knot, this should plump up the breasts. Gather the legs and tie them together with the string.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Place the chicken breast-side up and brush with a third of the butter, then generously season with salt and pepper. Flip the chicken over and brush with butter, then season with salt and pepper. Save the remaining butter to baste the chicken later.
- 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. With the cavity facing away from you, carefully flip the chicken breast-side up using paper towels. Brush the surface with the remaining melted butter. Make sure that the oven gets back to about 475ºF (246°C) to ensure that the skin properly browns.
- Roast the chicken for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the temperature registers between 160 to 165°F (71 to 74°C) in the breast, and 165 to 170°F (74 to 77°C) in the meatiest portion of the thigh. 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 it rest for 20 minutes before slicing.
- Discard the thyme and rosemary. Transfer the roasted vegetables to a bowl or serving platter. Pour the pan juices into a fat separator and let it sit until the layers separate. Pour only the liquid juices into a measuring cup. Add enough chicken stock or broth to reach 1 cup of total liquid.
- In the same skillet used to roast the chicken, make the gravy. Alternatively, use a clean large skillet. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of flour over medium heat. Once the butter melts, whisk until the flour mixture turns pale yellow, about 1 minute.
- Gradually whisk in 1 cup of the defatted pan juices and stock mixture, until the sauce lightly thickens, about 2 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place a fine meshed strainer on top of a medium bowl and strain the sauce.
- Slice the chicken and serve with roasted vegetables and gravy.
- Pan Selection: A roasting pan can be used instead of a cast iron skillet. The gravy can be made in the pan on the stovetop, or use a clean skillet.
- For Thicker Gravy: Use 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons flour with 1 cup of juices/stock.
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