A roasted chicken is a simple yet totally satisfying meal. Just a bout everyone likes chicken. And you can do so much with it – leftovers can make another whole meal or just a sandwich, or use the carcass for soup or stock. Freeze left over meat for potpie, hot sandwiches, or taco’s.
I decided to make roast chicken this past week. There are a myriad of ways to roast a chicken. Although I usually make stuffing for the cavity, but this time I decided to just use some citrus and garlic inside the cavity.
Most of the time, I lay some vegetables in the pan to make a rack so the chicken doesn’t stick to the bottom. It’s a good way to use up some vegetables that may be past their prime, but still useful. Celery, carrots, parsnips and onions all work. This also helps flavor the drippings, which can be turned into a tasty gravy.
First step: seasoning – lots of slat and pepper rubbed into the cavity
Next: For this chicken I cut up an orange and a lemon into wedges, and put them in the cavity along with several cloves of garlic and sliced fresh ginger.
On the outside- smear on some butter, salt and cumin….I love the warm flavor cumin adds to food.
Roast 425 degrees for about 1.5 hours. All poultry needs to be thoroughly cooked. A meat thermometer in the breast or meaty part of a thigh should reach 165F, much higher and the breast meat starts to dry out. Juices from the leg or breast should be clear, with no redness. And just like red meat, let it rest about 15 minutes once removed from the oven, so the juices can redistribute and stay in the meat, not leak out on your cutting board.
Poultry lends itself to all kinds of flavor profiles…. use your favorite spices and herbs, like:
- Fennel inside with thyme, rosemary and oregano for an Italian twist.
- Go Spanish with onions, paprika, cumin and garlic, and use olive oil rather than butter on the skin.
- Oriental with five spice powder, star anise and cinnamon, and stuff with chilies and ginger.
- For a western twist, barbecue sauce on the outside near the end of roasting
- Use fresh herbs inside- sprigs of thyme, rosemary and dill
Any matter of roast chicken will be flavorful if basted a couple times during the roasting time with the pan drippings that form. Butter or oil on the skin will help make the skin a beautiful golden color and help get it crispy. Ideally, unwrap the chicken and let side overnight in the fridge without any covering. The skin will dry a bit, and this will really make for a crispy skin.
I prefer not to get the skin too brown, but that’s just me. Some people like it to be a dark, mahogany color. The skin will brown even without the help of butter or oil, particularly if it has been dried.
And of course there are as many ways to make stuffing (or dressing, if that is the term your family uses) as there are to season a chicken. Bread stuffing, rice stuffing, whole grains … there are a myriad of possibilities. Just note a stuffed bird takes longer to cook. And there are other pros and cons.
On the pro side, the stuffing absorbs chicken juices and becomes quite flavorful. AS a con, the cooking time is longer and the stuffing needs to cook to 165 degrees as well, which may mean that the chicken reaches a higher temperature and some of the meat may turn out a bi dry. My family really prefers the stuffing in the bird.
One other good thing: buying a whole chicken is always cheaper than buying parts. You are paying for the butcher to cut up a whole bird. I tend to buy whole birds most of the time just for this reason, and cut them up myself.
You can also spatchcock, or butterfly, a whole chicken by cutting out the backbone and laying it flat. This method will cook faster than a whole chicken, and the beautiful herbs or spices will develop a wonderful color all over the skin.
Every family seems to have a favorite way to roast a chicken. What’s yours?