Cooking Basics

How to roast a chicken

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roasted chicken
Roasting a chicken just looks difficult, but it's not
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Figuring out how to roast a chicken is easier than you think!

Many new cooks think roasting a chicken is a difficult task best left to their mom for a special occasion. Not true! In fact, Roasted chicken is one of the easiest of recipes and is even one of the top alternatives to turkey dinner.

To roast a chicken, you basically prepare the bird, stuff it into a hot oven, and wait.

Here is how to roast a chicken easily and with great results.

1. Preheat 

Preheat your oven to 350 so it is ready for the bird. 

2. Remove the innards

Take all of the innards from the chicken's cavity. Check both ends - the neck and under the tail! You will find little bags containing the gizzards, the liver and the heart. You can chop them up to use in stuffing, boil them and use the water for chicken gravy, or just feed them to your cat, depending on your preference.

Some people think the innards are a bit gamey to use. Make sure to pull out any bits of fat or bone in the cavity while you are at it, and trim off any excess fat with a sharp knife. 

3. Wash well

Next, wash the chicken in clean, cold water. It is best to wash the chicken in the sink after cleaning it very well. Do not use soap, just clean water or else you will get to enjoy the taste of dishwashing liquid which is definitely not an enjoyable experience. You can also clean your bird in a large pot, but be sure to change out the water until it is clear. Check for any remaining feathers while cleaning.

4. Dry inside and out

Use paper towel to pat dry the inside and the outside of the chicken being careful not to splash outside the sink. It does not have to be completely dry, but take off most of the moisture. You will learn why in the next step.

5. Season the bird

By drying the chicken, you avoid what happens when hot oil mixes with water. It spits and will send hot oil and seasonings all over your oven, something that is not very fun to clean. Rub oil, preferably olive oil, all over the chicken skin, but not in the cavity. Rub a little salt and freshly ground pepper on the skin and inside the cavity. You can also use other seasonings such as Old Bay or lemon pepper if you prefer, and be sure to add a cut half of a lemon inside the cavity or a couple of cloves of garlic. These ingredients infuse the meat as it cooks.

6. Into the pan

Place the seasoned chicken into a baking pan breast side up. The pan should have at least a 1" lip and space for the juices to drip as your chicken cooks. Cook for about an hour or until done. The chicken is fully cooked when a meat thermometer placed between the wing and the body reads 180 or the juices run clear when pierced with a knife. Take the chicken out of the oven and cover it loosely with foil for about ten minutes to let the juices sink in before carving.

If you want to "stretch your wings" with your cooking skills, no pun intended, you will find all types of cookbooks - beginner, gourmet, best selling - with a variety of ways on how to roast a chicken. If your guests ask how you cooked such a beautiful bird, don't tell them how easy it was. I won't tell if you don't! Just wipe your brow and tell them the effort was worth it because you love them.

If you are an adventurous soul, try out Ina Garten's perfect roast chicken recipe.

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