Basic recipe for juicy and tender chicken with crispy skin and lemon flavor, perfectly roasted in the oven.
Roast chicken: one of the most beloved dishes in the world, probably. Definitely one of my favorite meals. And I can hardly find another dish that makes my kids happier than roast chicken, either a whole roasted chicken or just some chicken thighs or drumsticks.
We eat chicken every week in one form or another. A quick meal like these Basic Skillet Chicken Breast or something like these Baked Chicken Legs in Honey Mustard Sauce. Or chicken cooked in some kind of sauce like the Easy Hungarian Chicken Paprikash with Dumplings or the Skillet Chicken in Garlic and Roast Pepper Sauce.
And not to forget the many chicken soups I make, from the most common Chicken Stock and Romanian Semolina Dumpling Soup to Asian Chicken Ginger Broth. You should try all these recipes, if you like chicken, you will be happy.
Do you wash chicken before cooking?
The answer is a clear NO! Do not wash the chicken before you cook it, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever as only cooking the bird until it reaches an internal temperature of at least 73 degrees Celsius/165 degrees Fahrenheit will guarantee that all the bacteria will be killed.
Washing the chicken in your sink will only cause this bacteria to contaminate your sink and other surfaces.
There has been a long debate on this issues for many years now. Many well-known chefs, like Julia Child for instance, always talk about washing the chicken in their recipes and many people nowadays still cannot imagine not washing the chicken. However, it is definitely not worth the risk of having those dangerous germs all over your kitchen afterward.
The United States Department of Agriculture – Food Safety and Inspection Service says: “Washing raw poultry before cooking it is not recommended. Bacteria in raw meat and poultry juices can be spread to other food, utensils and surfaces. This is called cross-contamination. Rinsing or soaking chicken does not destroy bacteria. Only cooking will destroy any bacteria that might be present on fresh chicken.”
NHS in the UK says that about 50% of the chicken sold in the UK carries the Campylobacter bacteria, which can cause belly pains, diarrhoea and vomiting. “Washing raw chicken before cooking it can increase your risk of food poisoning from campylobacter bacteria. Splashing water from washing chicken under a tap can spread the bacteria on to hands, work surfaces, clothing and cooking equipment.”
Also make sure you have an extra chopping board, preferably a large one, just for poultry. I have a large plastic one that I can wash in the dish washer after using, this way making sure that all the germs on it are killed by the hot water.
How to roast a chicken in the oven?
Making a whole roast chicken in the oven is not difficult at all. However, to make sure that the results are just what you were hoping for, there are a few steps you should follow.
Step 1: Make sure that the chicken is completely dry before you rub it with the butter. Pat the chicken dry, inside and outside, with paper towels.
Step 2: Season the chicken well. You can use any kind of spices you like, but the most important thing in this area is to make sure you salt the chicken well, again inside and outside. And do give half a lemon (or orange) and some nice herbs inside the chicken, I feel they really make a difference, I love that lemon flavor that infuses the breast meat.
Step 3: Truss the chicken. Because trussing the chicken can be quite elaborate (here is a You Tube tutorial) it is your choice if you want to do it, however, I do think it is a good idea to take the time, this way the chicken will look nicer and cook more evenly. At least make sure you tie the legs together and tuck the wings a bit out of the way so that their tips don’t get too much color.
Step 4: Let the roasted chicken rest for about 10-15 minutes before carving it. Why? Lots of juice builds up during roasting and if you cut the chicken immediately after taking it out of the oven, the juices will just come out of it. Letting the bird rest for a while will give those juices time to be reabsorbed into the meat.
How long to roast a whole chicken?
Roasting the chicken in the oven for the right amount of time is very important. To make sure that the chicken is safe to eat, it should have an inner temperature of at least 73 degrees Celsius/165 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have a kitchen thermometer, check the temperature by inserting the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh.
If you do not have a kitchen thermometer insert a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh as well. The juices should run completely clear. If they are still bloody or pink, continue roasting the chicken and check again from time to time.
Regarding the cooking times for a whole roast chicken, I have been following this rule found in some cook book for years: roast the chicken by 200 degrees Celsius/ 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes per 500 g/ 1.1 lbs plus 30 minutes.
This rule makes it easier for me, especially when cooking the larger than the norm farmer’s chickens I am able to buy directly from the farms around here.
So, if your chicken weighs 1500 g/ 3.3 lbs, you should roast it for about 60 minutes for its weight plus the extra 30 minutes, so a total time of 90 minutes.
Of course, always check if the internal temperature is reached either with the thermometer or with the skewer like indicated above.
What goes well with roast chicken?
Easy answer: plenty of things.
My favorite thing to eat with roast chicken in the oven are vegetables and potatoes wedges cooked together with the chicken. Depending on the size of the chicken and the time it needs in the oven, you can give the veggies and the potatoes to the chicken from the beginning, if you are cooking a small chicken. If you are cooking a larger chicken, give the potatoes and the vegetables to the chicken during the last hour of the cooking time.
Here are some more ideas of delicious side dishes for roast chicken:
What to do with roast chicken leftovers?
A regular chicken of about 1,2-1,5 kg/ 2.6-3.3 lbs should be enough for about 4 people, maybe even 5. However, if your chicken is larger, you will probably have some leftovers.
First of all: the bones. Do not throw away the leftover roast chicken bones, they make the most wonderful chicken stock. Just throw them in a large pot with some halved onions, halved carrots, a piece of celeriac or a few celery sticks, some leeks (if you happen to have them), bay leaves, black peppercorns, juniper berries, all spice berries and salt. Cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for several hours, at least 3-4. I usually cook my stock for about 10-12 hours, I start it in the morning and turn the heat off when I go to bed.
For more details on making chicken stock, see this post on How to Make Chicken Stock and Romanian Semolina Dumpling Soup. Or for an Asian kind of chicken stock, see this Asian Stuffed Nappa Cabbage Leaves in Chicken Ginger Broth.
If you don’t make the chicken stock with the roasted bones on the day or the next day after having the chicken, you can freeze the bones until you have more time or more bones to make the stock.
Then, you can use the leftover meat from a roast chicken for making salads, sandwiches, fricassee, you can give the chopped meat to a soup, you can make fried rice or fried noodles with chicken bits in it and so on.
Here are a few ideas for using leftover chicken:
- 1 chicken, about 1,2 kg/ 2.6 lbs
- ½ + 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 organic lemon
- 1 garlic head
- 5 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1-2 tablespoons butter
- ground sweet paprika
- freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius/ 390 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, inside and outside. Season the insides of the chicken with ½ teaspoon salt. Halve the lemon and halve the garlic head horizontally. Stuff them together with 3 sprigs of rosemary in the chicken. Truss the chicken if desired. Place the chicken breast-side up in a cast iron pan or a roasting pan.
Melt the butter in a small pan. Add 1 teaspoon salt and mix well. Brush the chicken all over with the butter mixture. Remove the leaves from the remaining rosemary sprigs and chop them finely. Sprinkle the chicken with the rosemary, sweet paprika powder and black pepper.
Roast the chicken for 1 hour and 20 mins, in case it weighs 1,2 kg/ 2.6 lbs. Check from time to time. If the chicken threatens to get too dark, cover it loosely with aluminum foil, that really depends on your oven, my oven tends to do that if I don't watch out.
If your chicken weighs more than that do the math: the chicken will need 20 mins per 500 g/1.1 lbs plus 30 minutes. Another example: a 1500 g/ 3.3 lbs chicken needs about 60 minutes for its weight plus the extra 30 minutes, so a total time of 90 minutes.
Check if the chicken is done by piercing it with a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh, the juices should run clear. The best way to prove if the chicken is cooked through is to pierce it into the thickest part of the thigh with a meat thermometer. The internal temperature should be of 73 degrees Celsius/ 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
If the juices are not clear or the necessary internal temperature is not reached continue roasting the chicken for another 5 minutes, then check again. Continue checking every 5 minutes or so until the appropriate internal temperature is reached, the roasting time depends on the oven as well.
Let the chicken rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.