I don’t know if there is anything more delectable than the perfect roast chicken. It’s not only comfort food at its very best, but there is something of a bit of mystery about the proper preparation of this simple, elegant dish. Many people find it difficult to transform a piece of poultry into something moist, succulent and flavorful. They either overcook or undercook the bird. The former resulting in something more akin to shoe leather than luscous, the latter resulting in a safety hazard and the need for take-out.
Roasting the perfect bird really only requires a bit of know how and the proper tools. I don’t recommend that a novice cook try to tell when the bird is done by wiggling the leg joint. It takes years of practice to perfect this skill, and even though I have known how to tell if a chicken is done by using that method for over a decade, I still prefer to use a probe thermometer, it takes the guesswork out of it.
A properly cooked chicken should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, or 74 degrees Centigrade. I pull my chickens out of the oven at approximately 155 degrees, then cover loosely with a double layer of aluminum foil. The heat already present in the chicken will carry the temperature to the required levels, if not a bit higher. This ensures that the bird is not only properly cooked, but that it will still be moist and delicious. Serve when the temperature begins to drop.
As for basting… I never open the oven door unless there is another dish in the oven with the chicken. Basting will not make for a moister bird. As a matter of fact, constantly opening the oven door will lower the oven’s temperature, thereby resulting in a longer cooking time and a drier chicken, so even if all of your previous experiences say to baste, resist the urge! If you must have the satisfaction of knowing that the chicken has had some liquid moving over the skin, drape some salt pork or bacon over the breast and wings, you’ll not only have your basting done for you but the bacon is a nice accompaniment to the chicken when done.
I find that a great side for roasted chicken is roasted sweet potatoes. These cooked in the same baking dish as the chicken, with the whole lot of the food suspended above the pan on a wire cooling rack. using this method assures that the chicken gets crisp all the way around and that the vegetables aren’t being cooked Con Fit, or in the fat of the chicken. They will however pick up a bit of the flavor since they are suspended over the pan drippings. All the flavor without the fat!
- 1 3 to 4 pound frying chicken. (It’s easier to roast a fryer, and they have less fat on them overall.)
- 1 apple, cut in four pieces
- The juice of one lemon
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, cut in 1-inch pieces
- 1 large red onion, cut in 1-inch pieces
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled
- extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Remove chicken from package. discard neck and giblets. Rinse thoroughly under cold running water, both inside and out. Pat chicken dry with paper towels.
Liberally season both the inside and outside of the chicken with salt and pepper. Place the apple slices inside the body cavity of the chicken and pour the lemon juice inside as well. Place chicken in the center of a baking sheet that has a cooling rack placed right-side up in the pan.
Toss the potatoes, onions and garlic in a bowl with a few tablespoons of olive oil, some salt, pepper and a bit of nutmeg if desired. Arrange around chicken on baking sheet. Pour any remaining olive oil over the chicken.
Insert a probe thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken thigh, making sure the probe is not touching any bones. (I generally slide the probe all the way through the bottom of the breast and into the thigh, just to be sure I’ve got the tip in the right spot.)
Place chicken and vegetables in a 350° F oven and cook until the internal temperature of the chicken has reached 155 degrees. (You may have to peek inn on the veggies. If they look like they’re over-roasting, turn once.) Remove chicken from oven and cover loosely with two layers of aluminum foil. Allow to rest until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (Approximately 15 minutes)
Remove thermometer probe, arrange chicken and veggies on a serving platter and enjoy!
What I would have done differently had I thought of it at the time:
This recipe is just about as basic as it gets, but it is the perfect starting point for a myriad of other flavors and combinations. Try stuffing the chicken with rosemary sprigs, lemon, thyme and garlic. Not into that combination? Use onions and garlic. Don’t like garlic? Stuff the bird with citrus fruits and apples, then brush the skin with apple jelly 10 minutes before you pull it out of the oven to rest. Be creative!
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