This roast chicken recipe is about as classic as they come and it is to die for. There is nothing better than popping a chicken in the oven on a Sunday afternoon. Well maybe there is something better…pulling the chicken out of the oven and enjoying it for Sunday dinner!
This chicken recipe is delicious, stunning, and is guaranteed to impress your family and friends. Best of all, it is incredibly easy and inexpensive. Let me tell you how I make it.
I always start any recipe by pulling everything I need out of the pantry and fridge. Maybe it hearkens back to my days watching Rachel Ray and wanting to be just like her with a precarious tower of ingredients that I carry around the kitchen with me, but I really do think it saves me time once I get going with the cooking. So here’s everything you need for the chicken (lemon not pictured):
For this particular Sunday meal, I chose carrots, parsnips, and a sweet potato to be the veggies to roast with the chicken, but feel free to choose any other hard veggie if you prefer something else. We are currently living in Scotland and these ingredients grow really well in the Scottish soil. Seriously, never in my life have I seen such beautiful and large carrots, parsnips, and potatoes. It’s great motivation to use these ingredients in a lot of my cooking. Some other things I like to use in this recipe are fennel, onion, brussel sprouts, and bell peppers.
Now for the cooking. The first thing you’ll want to do is peel your sweet potato and cut up all your veggies. You can leave fairly large chunks of everything because it will be roasting for quite a while. The large chunks will help keep all of the different ingredients recognizable after its cooked for so long. I like to cut everything into about 1 inch squares. Be sure all of your veggies are cut fairly uniformly so that they will roast evenly.
The lemon and garlic will just need to be sliced evenly in half (you can leave the peel on) and the onion sliced in half and then into 1 inch chunks. Reserve one half of the onion to stuff into the chicken and the other half can be added to the roasting veggies.
Toss all of the roasting veggies into a foil lined roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper and stir it all together. Your pan may look really full at this point, but don’t worry, the veggies will shrink during the cooking process.
Next, on to the chicken. I like to work with the chicken on top of the veggies in the pan both to avoid making more dishes dirty and to ensure that any butter or seasoning that gets away from me ends up on the veggies and doesn’t get wasted on the counter.
You’ll first need to liberally season the inside of the bird with salt and pepper. I like to hold the chicken by one leg with one hand and season with the other (be sure not to stick a chicken-y hand into your seasonings!). Next, squeeze the lemon into the body cavity and stuff the bird with the squeezed lemon half, garlic, half the onion, and a small bunch of thyme. This stuffing really gives the chicken a ton of flavor. With chicken, you generally only get the opportunity to season the skin, which is a small fraction of what you eat. This is where the flavorless chicken stereotype comes from. By stuffing the chicken, all of the meat gets perfumed by the lovely flavors of roasted garlic, thyme, and lemon. I promise you, this chicken is anything but flavorless.
After you have finished stuffing, you’ll want to tie the legs together either with the kitchen twine they give you with a whole chicken or with your own kitchen twine. Kitchen twine can be bought at most grocery stores.
Now, onto the fun part. The butter massage! Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a measuring cup or cup that’s easy to pour out of. Normally I would use a glass measuring cup, but when we moved to Scotland we brought very few kitchen supplies with us knowing we would have a tiny kitchen (I have a foot and a half of counter space and one cabinet). Here, I generally just use a coffee mug and it works just fine. Pour the butter on the chicken a little at a time rubbing it all over as you go. You want to cover every bit of the chicken in butter because it’s the butter that will help create that beautiful, golden, crispy skin. Do this step well and I guarantee that when you pull your chicken out of the oven you will be serenaded by a chorus of “ooh’s” and “ahh’s”. This is the wow factor, folks.
Last thing is the seasoning. Nothing too complicated, just a nice coating of salt and pepper and a good amount of fresh thyme. Every now and then, if I really want to drive home the lemon flavor, I’ll zest the lemon before stuffing it into the chicken and season the skin with some lemon zest at this point.
The goal of cooking should always be to make your ingredients taste more like themselves. Salt and pepper are essential and then you can embellish with flavors that accent what you’re cooking. Lemon, garlic, and thyme all get along really well with chicken so they work great with this recipe.
Now you can pop it in the oven! The chicken goes into an oven that’s been preheated to 425. It needs to roast undisturbed for 1 1/2 hours. No basting, no turning, no checking. You don’t need to touch it. Opening the oven to check on things drops the oven temperature substantially and could actually be harmful to cooking.
After and hour and half, pull the chicken out and check its temperature at the thickest part of the breast and thigh with a meat thermometer. You want the temperature to read 165 or just above. Meat thermometers are an absolutely essential part of any kitchen. Not only are they important from a food safety perspective, but they are also very important in cooking meat that is moist and delicious. Dry meat is a result of over cooking. I’m going to say that again for emphasis. Dry meat is a result of overcooking. USDA has cooking recommendations on their website for each type of protein. Whole muscle chicken needs to be cooked to 165 for safety, but each degree above 165 increases the level of dryness experienced while eating. So spend $5-$15 on a reliable meat thermometer, stop the guessing, and never worry about a dry (or undercooked) piece of meat again.
The smell of the chicken (and your house) will be absolutely amazing. Just look at that crispy skin! Mouth watering. And those roasted vegetables with slightly caramelized edges… It think this is what heaven looks like.
Once the chicken comes out of the oven it will need to be taken out of the pan, set on a plate, and covered loosely with foil to rest for about 10 minutes. This allows the juices to redistribute in the chicken and keeps the skin perfectly crispy. The veggies also need to be moved to a separate plate or serving dish. The moving process can be a little tricky so I’ll tell you how I do it. I grab the leg bones with tongs and stick a wooden spoon under the breast, then I (very gracefully) lift the chicken out of the pan and move it to a plate I have sitting close by. For the veggies, I use a slotted spoon or spatula to move them to a serving dish. By using the slotted spoon, I am able to easily move the veggies without taking too much of the juice from the pan with them.
The juice left in the pan can either be used to make a gravy or can be discarded into a grease jar. Because I lined the pan with foil, my cleanup is very easy!
After the ten minute rest, it’s time to carve. The breast is my favorite part, so it’s generally what I eat first. I take a knife and carve down on either side of the breast bone or keel bone. I then carve from the side of the breast and the whole breast piece should come easily out. You can either keep carving up the chicken into pieces at this point if you are feeding a lot of people or, if you are like me, and you are cooking for just two you can allow the chicken to cool and pull of the rest of the meat and refrigerate it to use in different recipes throughout the week. Try:
Feel free to serve the roasted chicken and veggies as is, or add some green to plate with a salad or Easy Roasted Kale (pictured).
Classic Roast Chicken
- 1 5 or 6 pound chicken
- 1 yellow onion
- 1 head of garlic
- 1 lemon
- about 20 sprigs of thyme
- kosher or sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbs butter, melted
- 4 carrots
- 4 parsnips
- 1 large sweet potato
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
Cut lemon and head of garlic in half. Peel sweet potato and cut into 1 inch cubes. Cut all veggies into 1 inch cubes. Place sweet potato, carrots, parsnips, and half of onion into a foil lined roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper and toss together.
Be sure that the giblets are removed from the body cavity of the chicken. If not remove them now and remove any pin feathers. Liberally salt and pepper the body cavity. Squeeze the lemon into the body cavity then stuff with the lemon, garlic, about 10 sprigs of thyme, and onion. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine.
Set the chicken on top of the vegetable and slowly pour over the butter while massaging it all over the skin. Be sure to cover every bit of the bird well. Salt and pepper the skin well. Spread the remaining thyme over the chicken and veggies.
Bake for 1 1/2 hours undisturbed. After an hour and a half, check that the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit at the thickest part of the breast.
Remove the chicken to a platter and the veggies to a serving platter. Cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Carve and serve.
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