Anyone can roast a chicken, but it seems to take hours of internet research to figure out how to do it the right way. Am I right? Trust me, I’ve been there. So I’ve assembled a list of pro tips to help you roast your chicken like a boss. I got this basic formula from Julia Childs, so you know it has to be good. And it’ll save you hours of confusing internet research when you compare the 100,000,000,000,000 different methods. Let’s keep it simple.
Perfecting a roast chicken is easy, even for the starter chef, and it’s the perfect dinner party or date night meal. I like to roast a chicken with root veggies for Sunday dinner and enjoy the leftovers all week. I’ll slice leftover chicken over mixed greens, dice it and toss with honey mustard, celery, and shallots for a quick chicken salad, shred it into bone broth with veggies for soup, or just eat it cold with raw kraut for breakfast. One meal = infinite leftovers.
But back to roasting your chicken like a boss.
How to Roast a Chicken Like a Pro
This recipe is grain free and could be made casein-free if you used ghee, or completely dairy free if you wanted to use olive oil instead of butter or ghee (don’t).
First off, choose a good, organic/air chilled ~4lb bird. Any bigger than 5 lbs and they tend to be tough.
Here’s what you need:
- One 4 pound whole chicken
- A lot of Kerrygold butter, let’s say 3-4 tbsp. You could use ghee.
- 1 bunch fresh thyme and rosemary
- 1 lemon
- 1 Onion and shallot (optional) + tons of garlic
- Root vegetables that appeal to you. I typically use a combo of sweet potato, yukon golds, carrot, celery root, and parsnip.
- Sea salt and pepper
PRO TIP: if you’ve planned ahead, salt your chicken up to a day in advance to seal in flavor. Also, DON’T WASH THE CHICKEN.
At LEAST an hour before you want the chicken to go in the oven, take it out of the refrigerator. I typically let it sit out for 2 or more, but it’s really cold in my house. It will cook more evenly this way. If you haven’t salted your chicken a day in advance, no worries. Go ahead and salt it now, inside the cavity and all around. Don’t be shy about man-handling it. You want to salt it at least an hour before roasting too, while it’s coming to room temp.
PRO TIP: Mix sea salt together with pepper (and dried herbs like thyme, rosemary, oregano, or an Italian blend if you like, but it’s not required) in a little bowl for ease of sprinkling.
Here’s everything I have laid out to prep the chicken (pictured above). Anytime after you’ve salted it, stuff lemon slices and the bunch of rosemary and thyme in the cavity. I also put some shallots and garlic in the cavity if I have them lying around.
Here it is, all salted and waiting for butter.
Preheat the oven to 425F. Now, chop all your veggies and toss them together in a big roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and a little sea salt and toss again.
Butter your chicken thoroughly.
PRO TIP: I’m not sure if this is correct by chef’s standards, but I always soften my butter to the point of basically melted and drizzle it all over the chicken.
Because all the recipes I read that say “rub soft butter thoroughly all over the chicken….” Seriously, how are they doing that? Have you tried rubbing soft butter over a clammy chicken? It hardens back up into clumps AND it washes away all the salt. So, I get mine all melty and then drizzle it copiously all over the chicken, top and bottom. Win. Then, tie up the wings and place it breast side down ON A RACK atop the vegetables. You probably don’t have truss it, but hey, it looks cool.
Make sure not to overload with too many veggies (a mistake I make commonly), or the veggies won’t cook, and it slows your chicken down, too. Also, using the rack is essential for crispy skin all the way around, so it cooks evenly and isn’t soggy underneath.
Put everything in the oven and let it roast at 425 for 15 minutes. Then, turn the oven down to 350.
PRO TIP: Don’t just set it and forget it. The key to a perfect roast chicken is letting it cook at a high temp to crisp up the skin, then lower the oven temp for long, slow roasting.
Here is the roasting formula: 45 minutes + 7 minutes per pound. If you have a 4 pound chicken, that’s a little over 70 minutes (includes initial 15 minute browning time). After you’ve turned down the oven the 350, check it every 20 minutes or so. I sometimes baste it with a little chicken broth for flavor and to soften the root veggies, but you don’t have to.
PRO TIP: It almost always takes longer than it should, despite the formula.
When the internal temp reaches 155 or 160, take it out of the oven. Let it rest for 15 minutes. Patience. It will continue cooking a bit more, so better to err on the side of less done. Once you’ve dried it out, you can’t go back, but you can always put it back in.
Looks good, don’t it?
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.