Our Perfect Roast Chicken is moist, juicy and flavourful with hints of citrus and herb from the cavity filled bird basking in the steam of lemon and rosemary.
Roasting a whole chicken sounds a lot more complicated than it really is. To start, there's the question of whether to wash your chicken or not, to brine or not brine, or to use a wood or plastic cutting board. While these questions are based on personal preference, the perfect roast chicken should always be simple, and delicious, of course.
In our home, the key to an always moist, juicy and flavourful chicken (in our opinion) lies is layering a few springs of rosemary, cloves of garlic and slices of lemon in the chickens cavity that cooks while releasing steam from the inside of the bird out. Whether it's a Tuesday weeknight meal or a Sunday Supper, there's nothing more comforting than a perfect roast chicken.
But before you get cooking, you'll need a few tools.
Tools for the Perfect Roast Chicken
Roasting Pan/Skillet: The most opportune way to cook a chicken is in a roasting pan with a rack. The rack holds the chicken straight, allows air to flow underneath making for a perfect cook while preventing soggy skin, plus with a removable rack, you can make gravy directly in the pan. If you don't have a rack, you can use a few carrots cut in half, or small potatoes to lift the chicken off the bottom of the pan for accessible circulation.
Meat Thermometer: A great instant meat thermometer doesn't need to cost a lot, and it will save you from undercooked or overcooked chickens, steaks, and roasts. While you can rely on a set temperature for a specific time, each oven is different and chicken is not one of those meats you can take a risk with. Using a thermometer ensures your chicken reaches its cooking point at the deepest part of the bird.
Twine: While most butchers pre-truss your chicken if you ask, if yours isn't tied up feel free to get your butter's twine (or dental floss) and Julia Child wrangling skills. Or, if you don't have twine, Food and Wine shares their magical way of trussing with no twine here. But why truss your chicken? If the wings and legs are tied together, they overcook and allow a lot of air into the cavity, making for a dry chicken.
How to Make the Perfect Roast Chicken
1. Dry: If you love crispy chicken skin, this is the most important step to ensure an outer shell that crackles with every bite. The easiest and best way to dry the chicken is to place it on a pan or plate and leave it in the fridge for at least two hours or up to 24 hours. If you need to roast the chicken right away, dry the outside of the chicken with paper towel.
2. Bring to Room Temperature: This is an important step that often gets overlooked. When cooking chicken while cold, the outside meat gets dry before the inside cooks. Allowing the chicken to sit out of the fridge for 30-45 minutes will bring the bird to room temperature resulting in a juicy chicken.
3. Season: For maximum flavour inside and out we mix together a tablespoon each of salt and finely chopped rosemary, and a teaspoon of fresh black pepper. Season the bird liberally first in the cavity, and rub the skin with the remaining salt. Add a few small lemon wedges, a sprig of rosemary and a couple garlic cloves to the cavity resulting in the ultimate flavour steam for your chicken.
4. Roast: A hot oven and patience makes for a perfect roast chicken with a super crispy skin. Set your oven for 450° and allow it to preheat for at least 15 minutes before roasting. Place your chicken on the rack of a roasting pan. For a complete meal, place vegetables, such as baby potatoes, carrots, and quartered onions around the chicken and season with olive oil, salt and pepper. The vegetables will soak up the juices from the cooking chicken for maximum flavour. For an average chicken (3 ½ pounds) roast for 45 minutes before checking the temperature. We use an instant meat thermometer to test the chicken for an internal temperature of at least 165°.
5. Rest: Once the chicken is done, tent it loosely with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for at least 15 minutes. During this resting time, the chicken distributes the juices back into the meat resulting in a moist bird.
How to eat your Perfect Roast Chicken
The best part of roasting a chicken is the variety of dishes you can make using every piece. With endless possibilities from comforting chicken dishes, to healthy dishes, the perfect roast chicken can start as a single Sunday recipe and catapult into a full week's worth of dishes. Below are a few of our favourite ways to use up our leftover chicken.
Chicken Fajita Soup
Aside from the familiar flavours of a traditional fajita, what we love most about this Chicken Fajita Soup are the topping combinations made to order. Made with last night's leftover roast chicken, whether you prefer the works or a thoughtful ratio of cheese to salsa to sour cream, this soup is perfect for serving large groups or game day celebrations. Click here for our Chicken Fajita Soup recipe.
Mini Apricot Rosemary Chicken Pies c/o Feast in Thyme
These little rustic pies are a lovely main course or welcome addition to any picnic or potluck spread. Using roast chicken mixed with earthy vegetables and rosemary, and coated in a rich apricot sauce, Feast & Thyme's recipe puts a sweet twist on the classic roast chicken. Click here for Feast & Thyme's Mini Apricot Rosemary Chicken Pies recipe.
20 Minute Thai Chicken Curry Soup
Rotisserie chicken is one of Salt and Lavender's favourite foods to make a feast with. Her Thai coconut curry soup has the perfect balance between spices and freshness. The lime juice, cilantro, and basil counter the heat of the ginger and spices and make that coconut broth even more delicious. Click here for Salt and Lavender's 20 Minute Thai Chicken Curry Soup recipe.
Chicken BLT Stuffed Avocado
Up your lunch game with these Chicken BLT Stuffed Avocado bowls perfect for an easy and filling lunch or afternoon snack. A simple chicken salad mixed with bacon, tomato and jalapeño atop shredded romain lettuce is out of your mind delicious, and less than 10 minutes to make. Get the recipe below.
Chicken BLT Stuffed Avocado
2 avocados, halved lengthwise
1 cup cooked chicken, shredded
1 jalapeño, finely diced
2 slices cooked bacon, diced
1 tomato, diced
½ cup shredded lettuce
3 tbsp mayo
1 tsp mustard
¼ tsp each salt and pepper
In a small bowl, mix together chicken, jalapeño, ½ bacon, tomato, lettuce, mayo, mustard, salt and pepper. Place a heaping ¼ cup of chicken salad in each avocado. Garnish with remaining bacon.
Rotisserie Chicken Broccoli Alfredo Pasta:
Berry Maple's obsession with roast chicken encourages her to experiment in the kitchen with all the parts of the bird, from the thighs to legs to wings. Mix your leftover chicken into a family classic like alfredo pasta, with broccoli for veggies and your roast chicken. Click here for Berry Maple's Rotisserie Chicken Broccoli Alfredo Pasta recipe.
Perfect Roast Chicken: How to Prepare, Season & Cook Your Bird
- 1 whole chicken about 3.5 lbs
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tsp black pepper
- ½ lemon cut in small wedges
- 2-3 cloves garlic peeled
- 1 sprig rosemary
- No. 1 | Dry the chicken by placing in the fridge, uncovered for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours. If you are in a crunch for time, you can dry the skin with paper towel.
- No. 2 | Bring the chicken to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 450°.
- No. 3 | Mix together the salt, chopped rosemary, and pepper in a small bowl. Season the inside of the chicken liberally with the seasoning, then stuff with the lemon wedges, garlic, and rosemary sprig. Rub the outside of the chicken with remaining salt.
- No. 4 | If cooking vegetables with the chicken, add them to roasting pan and season with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Place the chicken on your roasting rack or directly on top of the vegetables.
- No. 5 | Roast the chicken for 45 minutes. Check the temperature - the internal temperature of the thickest part of the meat should be 165° for safe eating. Return to oven if necessary to reach temperature.
- No. 6 | Once chicken is cooked, loosely tent it with aluminum foil and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.