There are lots of ways to roast a chicken, but this one guarantees results.

By Margaret Eby
January 11, 2015
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If you asked a room of cooks about the way to roast the best chicken, I’m willing to bet you’d have a list of conflicting answers. There are many opinions on how to obtain that perfect crispy, golden skin and juicy, succulent interior. You could start roast chicken with a cold oven, or dry the bird with a hair dryer, or butterfly the chicken so it cooks flat. You can roast it over vegetables so they sop up that delicious chicken fat on the way, stuff it with garlic and herbs or marinate it in buttermilk beforehands, or prop it over a beer can. You can roast chicken in a skillet or on a sheet pan, or in a roasting rack. There’s not one correct way to roast the best chicken, really. But there are definitely a few tricks that will help you achieve the roast chicken of your dreams.

Buy the Right Bird

A 3-pound bird is especially easy to roast at high heat, since it’s small enough for the dark meat to cook through right around the time that the skin gets beautifully bronzed and crispy. If your bird is a lot bigger than that, it’ll take longer to cook through, meaning that the less fatty breast meat might dry out. Avoid that by finding a smaller bird to begin with. If you need to serve a bigger crowd, buying two smaller birds often yields tastier results. 

Turn Up the Heat

Get your oven good and hot (450 degrees is what the recipe calls for) so that the skin gets a chance to crisp up immediately. An oven thermometer is helpful insurance so that a wonky dial doesn’t frustrate your efforts.

Prep the Chicken

Let’s address the skin. For your roast chicken to get beautifully crisp skin, you want to make sure that it’s dry. More moisture means that the skin will steam in the oven, meaning the skin will be floppy and greasy. Getting it as dry as you can should hasten the crisping process along. In addition, you can also use another useful trick from this roast chicken recipe: loosen the skin from the rest of the bird by sliding your hand underneath it, being careful to separate it from the flesh without tearing it. 

Add Simple Aromatics

That’s useful for crisping and for seasoning. It means you can put aromatics like garlic and bay leaves directly under the skin of the chicken as well as in the cavity of the bird. More surface area touching those aromatics means more opportunity to build flavor. If those aren’t available, or not your thing, you can use fresh thyme, marjoram, or rosemary instead. 

Rub the Bird With Oil and Season

Once you’ve got your aromatics under the skin, rub the outside of it with olive oil and season it with salt and pepper. Transfer the chicken to a shallow roasting pan (or a skillet, whatever you’ve got) and tuck more bay leaves, or herbs of your choice underneath the thighs and legs of the chicken. Tying the legs together with kitchen twine is optional, but it will give you that beautiful front-of-a-cookbook looking roast chicken

Roast Until Juices Run Clear

Pop your chicken in the oven in a shallow roasting pan for about an hour, rotating the pan halfway through to counter any hot spots you have in the oven. The chicken will be done when the juices run clear when you piece the leg join and the meat near the inner thigh registers 160F to 165F on an instant-read thermometer. Let it rest for 10 minutes, remove the bay leaves under the skin, and carve it, and enjoy the best roast chicken. Until the next time you make roast chicken, that is. 

Get the recipe: Roast Chicken