How Long to Roast A Chicken, the Right Way

There’s a lot of debate over how long to roast a chicken. What’s the ideal temperature? How do you get the crispiest skin? Is basting a waste of time? I’ve roasted a lot of chickens lately, and after a good deal of trial and error, I’ve come up with some solid conclusions.

I should add that just as I was about to post this, I did a search on Google and found that Sunset wrote a great article about how to roast the perfect chicken that touches on a lot of the same points I discovered on my own, though our opinions vary a bit.

For tips on how to roast a turkey, I’ve written another [similar] post.

5.0 from 3 reviews

How Long to Roast A Chicken the Right Way
 
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: American
Serves: 8
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:

 
If you want to learn how long to roast a chicken, learn the right way to do it for the perfect tender bird.
Ingredients
  • 1 whole chicken
Instructions
  1. Larger birds meant for roasting have a heartier taste, while smaller fryers tend to be less flavorful. Organic chickens taste a little better to me, though most people won’t be able to tell the difference.
  2. The jury is in: 400°F is the perfect temperature for cooking a whole chicken. You’ll get crispy skin and a fairly quick dinner without compromising tenderness.
  3. Depending on the size of your chicken, it should take about 1 to 1-1/2 hours to roast at 400°F. I highly recommend a meat thermometer, one that stays in the chicken while it cooks and lets you set an alarm for when it reaches the proper temperature. This keeps you from continually opening the oven door, which will greatly increase your cooking time.
  4. Basting the bird won’t give you crispier skin. In fact, you’ll get limp, soggy skin and it only marginally affects the flavor.
  5. Some argue that rubbing the entire bird with fat, inside and out, doesn’t affect the flavor, but I disagree. It depends on the fat, though – olive oil won’t give you a flavor boost, but butter mixed with a heaping dose of salt and herbs will yield a tasty dish indeed. I didn’t notice that it makes the skin much crispier, but Sunset thinks it does.
  6. When learning how to roast a chicken, you should know that it doesn’t matter what orientation you roast the bird in. Breast up, breast down, or flipped over halfway through – no position will make the breast more moist.
  7. Stuffing some flavored fat (such as butter with salt and herbs) under the skin will help flavor meat, but don’t go overboard. Too much fat will just just make the meat greasy. A dab under the skin of each drumstick, thigh, and side of the breast is all you need.
  8. They (whoever “they” are) say that you’re supposed to cook a whole chicken to 180°F, but I find that 170° yields a perfectly moist bird that’s still cooked completely through. Make sure to measure in the thickest part of the breast.
  9. Let your bird rest for a few minutes after you take it out of the oven. A good ten minute nap will let everything settle and keep the moisture where it belongs: in the meat.
  10. The easiest way to guarantee that pieces of breast will be moist is to let them soak in the chicken’s juices for a few minutes after they’ve been cut. This includes the fatty runoff from what you’ve rubbed over the surface or stuffed under the skin.
  11. You want the entire bird to roast evenly and have crispy skin all over, so consider elevating it off the surface of the roasting pan. A small roasting rack will do the trick, which allows air to circulate under the bird – crisping it all the way around. Or get one of those pokey racks that holds the chicken upright, crisping all possible skin. (YES!!!)
  12. GET A DECENT OVEN THERMOMETER. ‘Nuff said.
  13. Don’t waste the juices in the bottom of the pan! Reduce in a saucepan with a little white wine, and you’ve got an amazing sauce.
  14. Truss your chicken! Preventing air circulation in the bird’s cavity will keep it from drying out. Here’s an awesome video on trussing a chicken. Otherwise, stuff it with a quartered onion or lemon to keep internal airflow to a minimum.

 

What are your secrets for how to roast a chicken? Have you created the perfect roast chicken experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Comments

  1. I completely agree with you on the flavored butter under the skin tip. I usually put ultra thin slices of onion and garlic under the skin of the breast & leg quarter along with butter seasoned with salt & pepper. In the fall when Hatch green chile is abundant I will use strips of roasted, skinless chile under the skin for succulent green chile flavor.

  2. Phil Lockwood says:

    Good post.

    I tend to put a few slices of lemon inside (we have a meyer lemon tree) and salt the top liberally, stuff some herbs inside, and put garlic in between the skin.

    Now how ’bout a follow-up article on making stock with the bones! :)

    • I think you’re right – a stock follow up would be perfect. :) Good call!

      I’ve also started putting half a sweet onion in the chicken while roasting it. That tastes amazing as well.

  3. Excellent info. If only I’d came across this the other day whilst cooking chicken maybe it would’ve turned out better lol

  4. I prefer just drying the (small, 3lb) chicken of all moisture, then salting liberally inside and out… pop in the oven at 450 degrees. The chicken provides the flavor.

  5. thank you for your valued information…i spent over an hour trying to find just the right recipe to my mind and VOILA…here you are…one thing i definitely agree with is taking chicken out of oven before the 180 degrees…after it sits for 20 min it is fine but left overs are so very dried out…i do sometimes turn oven up 25 degrees last 20 minutes to ensure a really crispy crust…

  6. You had me at “…metric fuck-ton…” Have not encountered a more precise term in all my years of roasting chicken…

Trackbacks

  1. Whole Roast Chicken with Fenugreek Recipe — Wasabimon! says:

    [...] I go again with the roast chicken recipes. Apparently, once I learned how to roast a chicken (and got my handy-dandy meat thermometer) it [...]

  2. PF Changs Lettuce Wraps Recipe — Wasabimon! says:

    [...] could even make this recipe with leftover chicken from another dish, if you’ve got some lying around. Recycle those leftovers in [...]

  3. Copycat Recipes: PF Chang’s Lettuce Wrap Recipe says:

    [...] here at home, so I’ve had a lot of time to refine it and make it the best it can be, using fresh chicken and natural ingredients. This easy copycat recipe quickly became a favorite at our house, and I think it will be on [...]

  4. Early Fall Slow Roast Chicken Recipe with Vegetables says:

    [...] that I’ve rambled on about how to roast a chicken, let’s talk about this lovely early fall roast chicken recipe with vegetables. Here in the [...]

  5. How to Roast a Turkey says:

    [...] can’t have a tender, delicious, drama-free turkey dinner. A few months ago I wrote a post on how to roast the perfect chicken. Misplaced modifiers aside, you don’t need to start with the perfect bird to end up with a [...]

  6. Sealed Roast Chicken says:

    [...] learning how to cook, and being at the top of my list of favorite dishes, I was excited to show him how to roast a chicken. And since I’m obsessed with this idea of sealing the pot with dough, what method do you [...]

  7. German Cucumber Salad or Gurken Salat says:

    [...] and there were several requests for the cucumber salad that he mentioned making as a side to his roast chicken. Well, dear readers, you’re in luck! Thad’s been generous enough to share his gurken [...]

  8. Early Fall Slow Roast Chicken Recipe with Vegetables says:

    […] that I’ve rambled on about how to roast a chicken, let’s talk about this lovely early fall roast chicken recipe with vegetables. Here in the […]

  9. […] could even make this recipe with leftover chicken from another dish, if you’ve got some lying around. Recycle those leftovers in […]

  10. […] you can’t have a tender, delicious, drama-free dinner. A few months ago I wrote a post on how to roast the perfect chicken. Misplaced modifiers aside, you don’t need to start with the perfect bird to end up with a […]

  11. […] here at home, so I’ve had a lot of time to refine it and make it the best it can be, using fresh chicken and natural ingredients. This easy copycat recipe quickly became a favorite at our house, and I think it will be on […]

  12. […] for vague ways to “improve my life.” This included bike riding, photography school, roasting a metric fuck-ton of chickens, quitting my job, moving out of state, getting my BA, a bouquet of bad boyfriends and fair-weather […]

Leave a Comment

*

Rate this recipe: