Chicken Basics: Part I (How to Roast a Whole Chicken)

by amyloun

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For our second blog post, we wanted to get back to basics.  We are going to show how to roast a whole chicken in the most minimal and simple way.  The Chicken is the star here so make sure it’s premium in quality and flavor. Salt & Pepper are the supporting actors. If you can master roasting a chicken with just salt and pepper and a few other optional ingredients, you can then take it in any direction your palette desires…  The most important element is the meat you buy.  What to look for when buying a fresh chicken:  No hormones, no antibiotics, and coming from an environment where it was able to roam around and eat its natural diet of bugs and vegetation.  This enhances the flavor of the meat which allows you to cook a delicious meal with minimal ingredients and effort.

Whole Roasted Chicken.  This took 10 min. to prepare and 1.5 hours to cook.  Easy Peasy!

Whole Roasted Chicken. This took 10 min. to prepare and 1.5 hours to cook. Easy Peasy!

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We started with a fresh whole chicken from Main Street Meats.  This one is from Fountain Springs Farm. We love their chickens!!  A few simple steps later, we had a delicious and economical meal.  Starting with a whole chicken is cheaper in the long run and you can make stock from the carcass, taking the original cost even further. This Whole Chicken is $6.00/LB. The birds at Fountain Springs Farm average 4-6LBS each. Ours was about 4 LBS- so $26.00- which fed 5 people, with some leftovers.  That’s just $5.20 per person, plus a carcass for stock… white bean and spring vegetable soup tomorrow please! If you break it down this way, you are feeding your family the best quality food possible without spending an arm and a leg if you take the time to plan ahead and stretch your protein into two meals. I can make a rich stock of around 8 cups from one cooked chicken carcass which can feed 8 people if you add beans and vegetables, side salad and bread. You’ve got yourself another meal to feed 8 which means…you’ve just fed 13 people with one 4-6LB bird only costing 2-3 dollars per person for amazing quality protein!  The full recipe is at the bottom of this post, but we are also putting step by step instructions with the photos.

Start by drying the chicken completely with a paper towel or a clean rag (that you can later wash in hot water).

Do not rinse the bird.  Start by drying the chicken completely with a paper towel or a clean rag (that you can later wash in hot water).

Tucking the wings under the bird: This will keep the wings close to the body of the bird, which will help to keep a consistent temperature during the cooking. With the chicken breast side up, stretch one wing out from the bird and tuck the flapper underneath the joint that meets wing to the breastbone.

Do the same to the other side.

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After the wings are tucked under the bird, it should look like this.

Salt and Pepper.  We used coarse sea salt and freshly ground green and black peppercorns.

Generously Salt and Pepper both sides.  We used coarse sea salt and freshly ground green and black peppercorns. ( We love the way green peppercorn tastes with chicken, but black pepper works great too so don’t worry if you don’t have green on hand!)

Optional Ingredients in the cavity of the bird are ...MOBY FILL IN

Aromatics: You can use any combination of herbs and citrus and anything in the allium family (i.e. onions, garlic, leek, scallion…) to add moisture and an essence of flavor to the finished bird. We used rosemary, thyme, lemon, garlic, and whole green peppercorns. It’s also important to salt the cavity of the chicken. If you don’t have fresh herbs or citrus on hand, salting and peppering the cavity will still lend to a flavorful bird.

TIE THAT SUCKER UP! MOBY FILL IN PROPER WORDS

Now you bring the legs in and hold the bird together without having to use any kind of butcher’s twine.  Any healthy chicken should have a generous amount of skin/fat at the top of the cavity of the bird.  We use this skin to tuck in the legs to pull the whole bird together which will finish as a juicy roasted chicken.  Holding the flap of skin out, cut a 1/2 inch – to 1 inch slit.

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Now take the end of the drumstick and pull it through the hole you just cut in the flap.

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Crisscross the second drumstick and pull it through the hole/slit as well.

ALL TIED UP!

This is what it will look like when it is all bundled up and ready to roast!

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We did not use any oil or fat on the bird when we roasted ours. If you don’t use any oils, baste the bird with its own fat drippings half way through the roasting.

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RECIPE: 

Whole Roasted Chicken

Serves 4-6

1 Whole Chicken (4-6 LBS)
Salt and Pepper (Black and Green Peppercorns if you have them)

Optional Aromatics for the Cavity:

3 Sprigs Rosemary
5 Sprigs Thyme
1 scallion cut in half
1 head of garlic cut into halves or 5 garlic cloves
1 Whole Lemon, cut in half

Preheat the oven to 325 F.  Do not rinse the bird but dry off well with a paper towel or a clean rag or cloth that can later be washed with hot water.  Placing the bird down breast side up, tuck the wings under the bird (See photos above for more detailed instructions on this part).  Generously salt and pepper the bird all over and inside the cavity.  Add aromatics to the cavity, if available and to your taste.  Now tuck in the legs by cutting a slit through the skin at the bottom of the breast bone, near the cavity, and pulling the legs through, crisscrossing them (pictured in detail above).  Place the chicken in a cast iron skillet (or any glass or metal roasting pan with a little bit of a lip for runoff juices).  If you want to oil or butter your bird, now is the time.  We didn’t, but we knew our bird would have plenty of flavor because of where it came from.  Instead, we basted the bird with its own juices about one hour into cooking time.  Place in the oven on the middle rack.  Roast for about 1.5-2 hours or until internal temperature reaches 170 F.  When taking the temperature of the bird, put the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone.  Before taking the bird out of the oven, if the skin is not to your desired crispiness, turn oven up to 425 F, checking it every 3 minutes until skin is crispy and golden brown.

Stay tuned for Chicken Basics Part II:  How to Cut Up and Cook a Whole Chicken and use the carcass to make stock!