Roast Chicken — The Perfect How-To
Nothing says comfort like the perfect roast chicken. Above all, start with the best pasture-raised chicken you can find. Hint: Local farmers can help with that. A 3 to 4-pound bird is ideal. If you have a larger family consider roasting two chickens. That will give you double the meat. More importantly, it also allows for two carcasses for bone broth or stock and twice the leftovers for chicken salad, chicken enchiladas, or chicken soup.
Brining the Bird
The perfect roast chicken starts with brining for at least two but up to four hours. You can skip this step and you will have tasty roast chicken, however, brining ensures the most flavor bang for your buck (effort).
I brine everything such as turkey, chicken, pork chops, and other pork products as well as any curing I do in a food-grade 5-gallon bucket that I save for that specific purpose.
Make it your own
Except for the sugar and the salt ratios, this brine “recipe” is very flexible. You can start with 1 cup of salt. Always try to use Kosher or Sea salt. I use ½ cup of sugar and use whatever I happen to feel like that day such as organic brown sugar, organic cane sugar, raw honey, or agave. Then I add whatever seasoning and spices I want. Some suggestions are bay leaves, rosemary, basil, marjoram, tarragon, black peppercorns, citrus or stone fruit slices, soy sauce, and candied ginger. You get the idea. Use about 1 tablespoon of each dried herb or spice in any combination that compliments the rest of your meal.
Then I heat up all the ingredients with 2 cups of apple cider vinegar until the sugar dissolves. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
Mix the brine with 1 gallon of ice water in the clean bucket. Submerge the thawed, whole chicken (innards removed) in the brine making sure it is covered completely.
After the chicken is done brining rinse the chicken thoroughly, inside and out. Lastly, pat the chicken dry, inside and out. These last steps are crucial. Rinsing removes excess salt from the chicken and drying the chicken allows it to get crispy skin instead of steaming.
Now on to the perfect roast chicken part.
You only need these simple ingredients:
- A stalk of celery
- One carrot
- 1 large onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, torn in half
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 2 cups Organic chicken stock
- Fresh Ground Pepper
And this essential equipment:
- Roasting Pan
- Roasting Rack
- Meat Thermometer
These items are essential to a perfect roast chicken and really a perfect roast from any cut of meat or poultry. The rack is to ensure the chicken doesn’t stick, cooks evenly, gets crispy skin, and has a place to tuck secret goodies as described below. The thermometer is to make sure your meat or poultry is done to perfection every single time.
The most important thing is that you follow these specific instructions exactly.
Here they are:
Firstly, let your chicken come to room temperature before you roast it. Take your chicken out of the fridge at least 45 minutes before you start roasting it. If it’s still refrigerator-cold when you put it in the oven, your cooking time will be longer, and your chicken won’t be as tender.
Secondly, don’t wash your chicken. Rinsing your chicken just spreads gross raw chicken germs all over your sink. If you cook the meat to the proper temperature (165 degrees), any dangerous germs or bacteria will be killed anyway.
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Dry your chicken REALLY WELL on the outside…AND on the inside. Any excess moisture will create steam and actually make your chicken drier. So use paper towels to pat your chicken dry on the outside. Then, grab a few more paper towels and stick them inside the cavity; it’ll feel weird, and you’re going to pull out some gross gunk, but this step is absolutely essential to the awesomeness of your resulting chicken.
Next pepper inside the chicken cavity. You do not need salt because of the brine. Even though you rinsed it off the salt has flavored the inside of the bird.
Season the outside of your chicken with some pepper.
Slice the celery and the carrot in half lengthwise. Rough chop the onion and the garlic. Place half of the veggies under the rack and half in the cavity of the chicken. Place 1 sprig of the herbs under the rack and 1 sprig of herbs in the cavity. Pour the chicken broth into the bottom of the pan.
Place the chicken breast side up on a rack over a roasting pan.
On to the cooking part:
Put it in the 450°F oven for 50–60 minutes. Four hundred and fifty degrees is hot! Roasting your chicken at super high heat crisps the skin and cooks the meat as quickly as possible so that it doesn’t get dry.
No flipping, no basting, no checking on the chicken unless smoke starts pouring out. First of all, opening your oven while the chicken is cooking will decrease the oven heat and increase cooking time. Flipping your bird is unnecessary when you’re roasting on a rack since the heat is hitting all sides of the bird evenly. And basting? It can actually make the skin of your chicken soggy since you’re likely basting with not only fat but also liquid.
Your chicken is done when its internal temperature is 165 degrees. Insert your thermometer right between the breast and the thigh; this is the thickest part of the whole, roasted chicken. If you cook the chicken past 165 degrees, it will start to dry out and won’t be as flavorful as it could be.
Lastly, remember to rest your roast chicken by letting it sit on a cutting board for 15 minutes before removing the herbs and carving.
If you want to add extra flavor you can make an herb butter for under the skin.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
Mash the butter with the chopped thyme and chopped rosemary in a small bowl. Gently slide your fingers under the chicken skin on the breasts and legs to loosen it. Scoop some of the herbed butter with a spoon; slide the spoon under the skin and hold the skin in place while you remove the spoon. Smooth the skin to distribute the butter. Repeat with the remaining butter.
Roast chicken gravy
This is a basic pan gravy and it doesn’t matter what the meat is. You can do this for a whole turkey, a roast beef, a roast pork loin, or a pan-roasted chicken.
Remove the herbs and veggies from the bottom of the roaster and discard.
1/4 cup drippings from a roast chicken
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock, or more if needed
salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Pour fat from chicken stock drippings from the roasting pan into a bowl and reserve. Whisk flour into remaining drippings left in the pan; mixture will seem dry. Add 2 tablespoons reserved fat, or as needed, to the drippings mixture to combine with flour.
- Place the pan of drippings mixture over low heat and toast flour until light brown and mixture gives off a nutty fragrance, about 5 minutes. Do not skimp on the time for this. Taking the time will cook off the raw flour taste.
- Drizzle about 1/3 cup of the chicken stock drippings at a time into pan drippings, whisking each addition of stock into the mixture until thoroughly combined. Continue whisking, scraping any browned pan drippings from the bottom of the pan into gravy; bring to a simmer. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, until gravy is thick and flour has combined with the liquid, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Adjust the thickness of the gravy; if too thick, whisk in a little more stock. If gravy is too thin, continue to simmer, whisking constantly, until reduced and thickened, about 10 more minutes. For the smoothest texture, strain gravy before serving.
Here are some useful tips:
Finally, once you have mastered the brine it can be used on other cuts of meat or poultry such as turkey, chicken pieces, duck, Cornish game hens, pork shoulder, pork chops, and pork tenderloin. You can also use this on Grass-fed beef brisket or skirt steak.
The roasting trick of putting aromatics under the rack can be used for any roast of meat or poultry. Adjust your flavor profile accordingly. Chicken stock can be used with any poultry, rabbit, or pork product and beef broth can be used with any beef or wild game product such as venison, antelope, or elk.
The gravy recipe is appropriate with any cut of meat just by changing out the stock flavor.
You can add potatoes and other veggies to the pan and cook them at the same time.