Roasted whole chicken is such standard fare that many supermarkets sell them ready to eat. Whole frying chickens are an excellent choice for roasting. You can quickly and easily turn out roasted chicken with crispy skin and succulent flesh.
Whole Chicken Choices
Whole chickens are categorized by weight and age. Broilers are between 6 and 8 weeks old and typically weigh around 2 1/2 pounds. Fryers are the same age and just a little heavier, between 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 pounds. Chickens labeled as roasters are less than 8 months old and range in weight from 3 1/2 to 5 pounds. In general, the older the chicken, the tougher it is. Heavier and older chickens usually have more fat and require longer roasting times but they become tender and juicy during the cooking process. All these types of chicken are appropriate for roasting, so choose the best size based on how many people you're serving and how much time you have to cook.
Preparing the Bird
One of the most attractive aspects of roast chicken is its ease of preparation. For the crispiest skin possible, rub the outside of the bird with salt before roasting and let it air dry in the refrigerator for several hours, uncovered. You can increase the crispness of the skin by adding some baking powder to the salt rub, which won't adversely affect the taste. To dry the chicken quickly, set it in front of an electric fan for an hour or so. Sprinkle freshly ground black pepper or dried thyme or oregano leaves over the chicken before roasting to enhance the taste.
Placing the chicken on a rack in a shallow pan with good air circulation on all sides helps crisp the bottom of the chicken. You can also turn the chicken over halfway through roasting for more even crisping of the skin. Slow roasting the chicken at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for one to two hours, depending on its size, and basting it occasionally with oil, produces a chicken with moderately crunchy skin and a soft, juicy interior. For super crisp skin, roast the chicken in a preheated 450 F oven for 15 to 20 minutes and then reduce the heat to 375 F for another 60 to 90 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 180 F.
Tips and Guidelines
To infuse roast chicken with extra flavor, stuff the cavity with halved onions or lemons, whole garlic cloves or bunches of fresh herbs such as thyme, tarragon or flat Italian leaf parsley before roasting. To keep the chicken from smoking too much, spread a layer of salt on the bottom of the pan or add a little water to the pan before roasting.