A perfectly roasted whole chicken makes a mouthwatering meal. Roasting a chicken with crispy, golden-brown skin and juicy, moist meat is a straightforward process that requires no expensive ingredients or complicated steps. Begin with a quality roasting hen, then use herbs for flavor and real butter for a golden-brown skin.
A quality roasting hen will yield plenty of moist, juicy meat. Roasting hens, which are larger and may weigh up to 5 lbs., are meaty and more flavorful than frying hens or broiling hens. If you can, buy a free-range chicken, which will cost more but has a superior flavor and texture.
Butter promotes flavorful, crispy, golden-brown skin. Melt unsalted butter, then generously coat the outside of the chicken with it. Save some of the butter to mix with herbs, then use your hands to massage the melted butter and herb mixture under the skin of the chicken. Use herbs such as sage, rosemary, parsley and basil. Mix salt and pepper with the melted butter, then sprinkle the outside of the chicken with salt and pepper.
Position the chicken in the roasting pan breast side down so the juices soak into the breast meat during cooking. Flip the chicken halfway through the cooking time, and plenty of the juices will absorb into the remainder of the bird. Place the chicken on a rack so the skin browns evenly on the top and bottom. A flat rack is appropriate, but a V-shaped rack is especially effective, as it allows more air circulation under the bird.
Roasting chicken for a short time at very high heat results in brown, crispy skin. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, then roast the chicken for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 F, then continue to roast the chicken for about 1 hour. Test the chicken with a meat thermometer to be sure the meat is safely cooked but not overdone. Don't rely on appearance, which can be misleading. A chicken is done when a thermometer registers between 160 and 170 F when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh.
Avoid cutting the chicken the moment you remove it from the oven. Instead, take the chicken out of the oven and allow it to rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Resting allows the juices to settle back into the meat, resulting in moist, juicy chicken.
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M.H. Dyer began her writing career as a staff writer at a community newspaper and is now a full-time commercial writer. She writes about a variety of topics, with a focus on sustainable, pesticide- and herbicide-free gardening. She is an Oregon State University Master Gardener and Master Naturalist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction writing.