It’s hard to think of two other words that fit so perfectly together, isn’t it?
To my mind, a well cooked roast chicken is about as fine a meal as you can eat. There is just something about it….the tender juicy meat, the crispy, well seasoned skin, and please don’t get me started about the aroma that fills the house while it cooks……it is absolutely intoxicating.
Why is it then that so few people I know actually make roast chicken on a regular basis? I know plenty of people who cook chicken regularly, either by cooking “parts” on the grill, or by sautéing cutlets indoors. I know people that frequently make Buffalo Wings, Coq au Vin, or Chicken Fricasee, but never seem to get around to roasting a whole bird. Why is that?
Is it because it has become increasingly convenient to buy pre-roasted birds at the local grocery? Maybe. Sadly these chickens are a poor excuse for the home cooked version. They are poorly seasoned, have greasy-limp skin, and are so over cooked that their flesh is dry and chewy. I suspect the real answer to that question lies in the fact that anyone looking for a recipe for a roast chicken can become quickly overwhelmed by the myriad methods found, each claiming to hold the one true key to the perfect roast chicken, and each one being more complex than the last. In the blink of an eye, the seemingly simple act of roasting a chicken becomes a complicated endeavor with more shifting variables than a NASA shuttle launch.
Don’t believe me?
Let’s see, shall you….cook it at a high temperature, a low temperature, or start it high and finish low? Should you baste it, or not? Do you start it on the stove-top to brown on all sides and then transfer it to the oven to finish? Do you cook it breast down, breast up, or on one of its sides, and do you leave it in one position, or roll it around from time to time? Shall you tent it with foil part way through cooking, or not? Do you cook it until your trusty digital thermometer tells you it has reached 165 ℉, 170 ℉, or 180 ℉? Would that be the temperature of the breast or the thigh? And where is it exactly, that you are supposed to place the freakin’ thermometer? Do you cook it until the breast meat is done, then remove the bird from the oven, cut-off its legs and thighs and put them back in the oven to finish? Should you only cook one when the moon is full, and the tide high, while performing some funky Wiccan ritual in front of your stove?
See what I mean? I’m getting a headache just recounting it all.
What if I told you that I have discovered (originally from Nigella Lawson, I think) a simple method of roasting a chicken that results in a perfectly cooked bird, one that is well seasoned, plump and juicy, with a crispy brown skin…..EVERYTIME. Let me guess, “you’d want to hug me, you’d want to kiss me, you’d want to smooch me, you’d want to love me”.
Oh well….here’s the recipe anyway. Just promise me that you’ll try this method soon, and when you enjoy the success that I speak of, you’ll swear off those nasty store roasted chickens forever. Deal?
Do take the time to teach your kids how to properly season and truss the bird, they are great skills to have, and the faces you’ll see when they stick their hands into the cavity to remove the giblets….more priceless than a Mastercard moment!
- 1 (4-7 pound) roasting chicken (organically raised, free-range, and air chilled if you can)
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 lemon, quartered
- 2 tablespoons softened butter
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- Z'atar (1-2 tablespoons, optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400 ℉.
- Remove the chicken giblets and rinse the chicken inside and out.
- Remove any excess fat and pat the outside dry with paper towels.
- Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken and stuff the cavity with the thyme and lemon.
- Truss the chicken by tying the legs together with kitchen string, and wrapping the wing tips tight to the body of the chicken. (This video shows you how to quickly truss a bird, although I would recommend making sure the wings are tucked in behind the string as well, and not left hanging about as they are in this particular demo.
- Rub the outside of the chicken with the softened butter and sprinkle again with salt, pepper and z'atar (if using).
- Place the chicken on a rimmed, heavy sheet tray, or in a roasting pan, and place it in the oven. Calculate the cooking time by figuring 15 minutes per pound, plus an additional 15 minutes regardless of the size of the bird. For example, a 5.25 pound chicken would take (5.25 x 15) = 79 minutes + 15 minutes = 94 minutes total cooking time.
- You may want to rotate the bird once during cooking to compensate for uneven temperature in your oven, but beside that, there is no flipping, rolling, basting etc. Just leave the little darling alone.
- When the time is up, remove it from the oven , place it on a cutting board, tent it with foil, and let it rest 10-15 minutes before carving.