Comfort Food: Perfect Roast Chicken

Crisp, golden, juicy roast chicken - it's really good

We’re just back from our rear end-numbing road trip to Maine, and as good as it was to get outta town, arriving home feels like work. There’s more laundry and unpacking to do, along with grocery shopping and cleaning the kitchen, since no matter how much I try to clean out the fridge before a vacation, I’m always greeted on my return by some forgotten container of leftovers and yogurt with green hair growing out of it.

A simple meal like roast chicken is so easy and comforting when the cupboard is bare. All you need – besides the chicken of course - are basic seasonings, a hot oven or, if the weather is nice, an outdoor grill.

I don’t know why, but the thought of cooking a whole chicken (yes, with the bones!) can seem daunting to some cooks. For instance, my mother hardly ever served roasted chicken when I was growing up – instead, it was saved for special occasions at a restaurant.

And I know how convenient it’d be to pick up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, but I have a problem with those; by the time you get it home, the chicken has been stewing under a heat lamp for hours; dried out and overcooked.

I’ve been making a version of this chicken recipe for years now. Sometimes we roast it on the grill, which produces an even better chicken with crisp, golden skin and a delicious smoky aroma. The method is from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, a cookbook I consider an absolute necessity in the kitchen.

This is also a great way to make use of any leftovers the next day. Make a chicken taco with some shredded chicken, or pile chunks on some crusty bread and make a panini with basil, goat cheese and slow roasted tomatoes.

Perfect Roast Chicken

1 3 1/2 – 4 pound chicken
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 small lemon
Optional seasonings, depending on what you have on hand:
A handful of fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley
One or two garlic cloves

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the chicken in a shallow roasting pan or casserole and pat the skin dry with paper towels.

Mix together the salt and pepper in a small dish; season the chicken on all sides, rubbing over the skin into the cavity.

Poke about a dozen holes in the lemon with a fork or a skewer and place in the cavity. Tuck the herbs and/or garlic in with the lemon, if using, and tie the legs together with a 12-inch-long piece of kitchen twine.

Arrange the chicken breast side down and roast for 30 minutes. Turn the chicken over and roast an additional 30 minutes.

Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees for 20 minutes, or until the skin is golden and juices run clear from the thigh when pierced with a fork.

Remove from the oven and let rest 10 minutes before slicing or carving. Save the juices that run out and serve with the chicken.

To roast in an outdoor grill, prepare grill for indirect cooking and heat to medium-high. Place chicken breast down directly on the grill rack and cook as described above.

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Deborah Dowd said...

That is a beautiful roast chicken- picture perfect! I'm sure it is as delicious as it looks!

Liza said...

this looks SO good. I wish I could convince S to eat it!

Andreea said...

this looks so very, very delicious!

Patricia Scarpin said...

It looks wonderful, Karen! So nicely browned, that would be a hit at home. :)

Karen said...

Deborah, I got lucky with this photo since it was still light out when the chicken was done. Natural light really makes a difference.

Liza, start with the prosciutto, and he'll come around to the flexitarian way.

Thanks, Andreea!

Patricia, the skin is such a treat. My kids even like it sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Hello, Karen:

The chicken looks wonderful, and I know it must taste super! It reminded me of the ones we had on Sundays with oven broiled potatoes when I was growing up.

Maria S.

Joe said...

Okay, I have to say - that does look like the *perfect!* roasted chicken. Well done!

valentinA said...

I love your photo, Karen! I agree with the others: the chicken's PERFECT!

h said...

not only is the chicken in the photo wonderful...the chicken you get when making this is superb. i never thought of the flipping thing...but now i am a convert. thanks bazillions.

Pilar said...

This is a really good looking roasted chiken!!!

It seems so perfect that I can smell it through my computer....

Best wishes from Spain

Lisa said...

Oh yes, yes, yes. Isn't roasted chicken such an easy comfort food? (I hope it took some of the sting out of being home from vacation.) Keith has taken charge of roasting chickens and he does them on the grill -- so good. We also put a lemon, cut in half, inside, along with herbs.

Kristen said...

That is one gorgeous looking chicken Karen!

Shayne said...

This is how I do my roast chicken and it is GREAT every time. Thank you for sharing


Karen said...

Maria. That is quite a compliment.

Thanks Joe, Valentina and Pilar. It's not like I can use the word "perfect" just any old time, but this seemed -- well, perfect!

Lisa, yes, yes! Nice to have Keith around -- Tom is really the expert on chicken on the grill at our house.

Thanks Kristen and Shayne! Happy chickens...

joey said...

Your chicken could not look any more perfect! :)

swirlingnotions said...

I'm right there with you Karen. In fact, I've got a sort of "ode to roast (or in this case, rotisserie, but still) chicken" on my blog here if you want to check it out. I'm enjoying your blog!

Anonymous said...

This is a great recipe! I have started making it about once a week...since it's a bit of a time commitment for a weeknight, I have taken to roasting 2 birds at a time, side by side in a large roaster; we eat one for dinner & pull the meat from the other for the next night's dinner (quesadillas, pot pies, casseroles...). This chicken easily tops any grocery store rotisserie bird. THANKS for such a great staple recipe!

Karen said...

Thanks, Joey!

I checked out your ode, Swirling Notions, and it's deliciously inspiring.

Anonymous, I can't tell you how glad I am to hear that. It's the reason I share my blog in the first place. Cheers!