Basic recipe for juicy and tender oven-roasted whole chicken with crispy skin and lemon flavor. Learn about the right temperatures and cooking times.
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, either a whole roasted one or just some 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 Legs in Honey Mustard Sauce. Or cooked in some sauce like the Paprikash with Dumplings or the Garlic and Roast Pepper Sauce.
Do you wash chicken before cooking?
The answer is a clear NO! Do not wash it before you cook it; it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. 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 it in your sink will only cause this bacteria to contaminate your sink and other surfaces.
There has been a long debate on this issue for many years now. Like Julia Child, many well-known chefs always talk about washing poultry in their recipes, and many people nowadays still cannot imagine not washing it. However, it is definitely not worth the risk of having those dangerous germs all over your kitchen afterward.
The USDA – 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 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, diarrhea, and vomiting. “Washing raw chicken before cooking it can increase your risk of food poisoning from campylobacter bacteria. Splashing water from washing it under a tap can spread the bacteria onto 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 dishwasher after using it, making sure that the hot water kills all the germs on it.
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, you should follow a few steps.
- Make sure that the bird is completely dry before you rub it with the butter. Dry, inside and outside, with paper towels.
- Season well. You can use any spices you like, but the most important thing in this area is to make sure you salt it well, again inside and outside. And do place half a lemon (or orange) and some nice herbs inside the bird; I feel they really make a difference; I love that lemon flavor that infuses the breast meat.
- Truss. Because trussing can be quite elaborate, it is your choice if you want to do it. However, I think it is a good idea to take the time; this way, the bird 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.
- Let rest for about 10-15 minutes before carving. Why? Lots of juice builds up during roasting, and if you cut it 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 in the oven for the right amount of time is very important. To make sure that it 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. (Amazon affiliate link)
- Suppose 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 and check again from time to time.
General rule for chicken roasting times
Regarding the cooking times for a whole roast chicken, I have been following this rule found in a cookbook for years: roast the chicken at 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 birds I can 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 meat thermometer or with the skewer like indicated above.
What to serve it with?
- Easy answer: plenty of things.
- My favorites are vegetables and potatoes wedges cooked together with the chicken.
- Depending on the size of the bird and the time it needs in the oven, you can add the veggies and the potatoes to the roasting tin from the beginning if you are cooking a small chicken. If you are cooking a larger one, add the potatoes and the vegetables to the tin during the last hour of the cooking time.
What to do with leftovers?
A regular bird of about 1,2-1,5 kg/ 2.6-3.3 lbs should be enough for about 4 people, maybe even 5. However, if it is larger, you will probably have some leftovers.
- Please do not throw away the leftover roasted bones; they make the most wonderful stock.
- For more details on making stock, see this post on How to Make Chicken Stock.
- Or, for an Asian kind of stock, see this Chicken Ginger Broth.
- If you don’t make the 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 bones to make the stock.
- You can use the leftover meat to make salads, sandwiches, and fricassee; you can add the chopped meat to a soup and make fried rice or fried noodles.
More roasted chicken:
How to Roast a Whole Chicken in the Oven
- 1 chicken about 1,2 kg/ 2.6 lbs
- ½ + 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 organic lemon
- 1 whole garlic head
- 5 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1-2 tablespoons butter
- ground sweet paprika
- freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius/ 400 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 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 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.