If there is anything I can do well, it’s roast a bird. At least that’s what The Husband tells me.
Whole roast chicken is definitely something every new cook needs to master. It’s one of the few meals left where you can really stretch your dollar. Whole chickens are still relatively inexpensive (well, unless you prefer organic free-range chickens. I know they are better for my family and for the environment, but until they come down in price – by like half – it’s not in my grocery budget), I usually have leftover meat that I can incorporate into another meal, and I can use the carcass for homemade chicken broth. Not to mention, a good roast chicken served with mashed potatoes is the ultimate comfort food.
A good roast chicken is juicy and not overcooked, has a crispy golden skin, and is flavored with just the right amount of spices.
My secret to a juicy chicken is brining the meat for at least 8 hours. If you are not familiar with the term brining, it just means soaking your uncooked bird in a salt water solution before cooking. General rule of thumb is 1 cup of kosher salt to 1 gallon of water. Some people like to add juice or herbs to their brine for added flavor. I usually just stick to a basic saltwater brine.
There are several benefits to brining:
- The uncooked meat absorbs the salty solution, giving it more flavor.
- It prevents the meat from becoming dried out during cooking.
- Brined meat cooks faster, therefore cutting down on the cooking time.
One important thing to remember is that your uncooked bird has to be kept at or below 40 degrees to prevent the growth of bacteria that can cause food poisoning. When brining a whole chicken, I usually store it in a small cooler in the refrigerator. However, brining also works wonderfully for whole turkeys and unless you have access to a walk-in refrigerator, finding a place to store a whole turkey while its brining is a little more difficult. I typically fill a large cooler with ice water and store it in a cool place. Or, if it’s going to be cold night, I’ll even leave the cooler on the back porch.
An hour before I’m due to put the chicken in the oven, I’ll take it out of the brine, rinse it out with cold water, and let it air dry for 30 minutes. Giving the bird a chance to air dry allows for a crispy skin. I generally only stuff the cavity with onions, garlic cloves, and herbs for extra flavor only – not to eat. I don’t truss my bird, mainly because I think it’s a pain. But I do tuck the wings under since they have a tendency to burn.
The million dollar question – at what temperature and how long do I roast my bird? I keep a roasting reference guide taped to the inside of my spice cabinet. I’ve taken the liberty to retype it into a handy-dandy cheat sheet for you good people.
Make sure you have a a reliable meat thermometer. The recommended internal temperature for poultry is 180 degrees. Insert the thermometer in the inner thigh area near the breast of the bird, but not touching bone. Remove the bird from the oven when the internal temperature reaching between 165 – 170 degrees. Allow it to sit for about 15-20 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute. The chicken will continue to cook while it rests.
Finally, once the bird has been carved and your dinner guests are pushing their chairs back from the table and rubbing their full bellies in contentment, don’t throw away the carcass. Homemade chicken broth is easy to make and loaded with so much more flavor than store-bought. Check back on Thursday and I’ll share my tips.
Whole Roast Chicken
- 1 3-5 pound whole chicken
- Kosher salt
- Cold water
- 1 small onion peeled and quartered
- 2 garlic cloves halved
- Bundle of fresh herbs - thyme rosemary, sage - optional
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
For the brine:
Remove giblets from the uncooked chicken. Rinse chicken inside and out with cold water.
Place bird in a container large enough to allow you to completely cover it with water.
Prepare the brine by dissolving 1 cup of kosher salt per one gallon of cold water.
Immerse the chicken in the brine and allow it to soak for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours.
Roasting the bird:
One hour before roasting, remove the chicken from the brine and rinse with cold water. Allow bird to air dry for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Stuff the cavity of the bird with the onion, garlic cloves, and herbs if using.
Brush the outside of the bird with the olive oil.
Combine thyme, sage, garlic powder, paprika, pepper, and kosher salt. Sprinkle the outside of the bird with the seasoning mixture.
Roast chicken until skin is golden brown and the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
Allow chicken to rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.