Classic Roast Chicken

Classic Roast Chicken Recipe

Nearly everyone likes classic roast chicken, whether it’s served hot and golden brown right from the oven or enjoyed the next day in a sandwich or salad. Roasting the bird at a high temperature produces crisp brown skin and moist meat without having to baste or turn the chicken during cooking. Using a roasting rack also helps crisp the skin on all sides.–Editors at Williams-Sonoma

LC Easiest Roast Chicken Ever Note

Succulent. Crisp-skinned. Simple. If that’s what you seek in a roast hen, your search stops here. This approach uses nothing but a slick of olive oil on the skin, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, some aromatics in the cavity, and a hot, hot, hot oven. Nothing else. No flopping the bird this way and that midway through roasting. No fussing with pan juice or gravy. It’s just not necessary with a hen that turns out this juicy. For purists only.

Classic Roast Chicken Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 10 M
  • 1 H, 55 M
  • Serves 4

Ingredients

  • One 4 1/2- to 5-pound chicken
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, cut into chunks (optional)
  • 4 or 5 fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley sprigs (optional)
  • 4 large fresh thyme sprigs (optional)

Directions

  • 1. Look to see if the giblets and neck are still in the cavity of the chicken. If they are, remove them and reserve them for another use or discard them. Remove and discard any pockets of excess fat from around the cavity. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Brush or rub the chicken all over with olive oil, and season it inside and out with salt and pepper. If using the onion, parsley, and thyme, cram them inside the cavity. Tuck the wing tips under the back. If you like, truss the chicken by tying the legs together with kitchen string. (Please note that trussing the hen will increase the roasting time by a few minutes since the bird is held in a more compact mass.)
  • 2. Oil a V-shaped roasting rack or a wire cooling rack and place it in a roasting pan or baking dish just large enough to hold the chicken. Place the chicken on the rack and allow it to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • 3. Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C) and position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven. [Editor’s Note: You do, of course, know that anytime you crank the oven past 400°F it’s an invitation for the remnants of last week’s apple pie and last summer’s barbecue ribs to smolder, yes? Best take an honest look at your oven before roasting this hen and, if need be, scrub any splotches or chances you’ll find yourself flinging open some windows and fanning towels at some smoke detectors.]
  • 4. Roast the chicken until the juices run clear and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh away from the bone registers 165°F (74°C), 50 to 60 minutes.
  • 5. Remove the pan from the oven. Slip the handle of a long wooden spoon or a pair of tongs in the chicken cavity and carefully tip the bird slightly, draining the liquid from the cavity into the pan. Transfer the chicken to a platter or carving board and tent it with aluminum foil. Let the hen rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • 6. If you trussed the hen, snip the string and discard it. Remove any contents from the cavity and toss them in the trash. Carve the chicken and serve it at once, trying not to surreptitiously snitch any of that crisp skin before sitting down at the table.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

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Natalie Reebel

Dec 20, 2011

This is the easiest roast chicken I have ever made. The preparation came together in a snap. I placed the chicken in the oven, set the timer and walked away. About 35 minutes into the roasting, I heard sizzling sounds coming from the oven. Since there were no flames, I did not worry about, it but continued to let the chicken roast. It only took 40 minutes for the chicken to register the required temperature. The skin of the chicken came out golden but not brown. It was crisp, not soggy. The chicken itself was moist, tender and surprisingly full of flavor. This is an easy go-to recipe on those crazy long days. Roast chicken in less than an hour – that is pretty cool.

Testers Choice
Cindi Kruth

Dec 20, 2011

Easy and perfect. What more could a cook want? Oh yeah, fast. This recipe hit the mark on all three. Usually I brine to ensure juiciness, but this high-heat recipe turned out a bird with moist meat and crispy skin. My husband even remarked that the leftovers he reheated were still juicy and delicious. I removed the chicken from the oven when the temperature on the thermometer read 168 degrees. After a 10-minute rest, it had risen a few degrees and was well within the safe zone. I will be tweaking the seasonings for variety, but this a great all-purpose basic recipe that I am happy to add to my roast chicken repertoire.

Testers Choice
Sofia Reino

Dec 20, 2011

If you are looking for a simple yet tasty roast chicken, this is it. There really is nothing to it, but the end result is a very nice, juicy, tender and far-from-dry roast chicken. I used a four-pound organic chicken, and even though I was afraid of the high heat and timing of 60 minutes, it was actually perfect. Now I must say… We DID have to have the fan on and even opened a few windows, as we had quite a bit of smoke in the house. This is a redo for a day we won’t have much time to create a more complex roast chicken, as it can all be prepared ahead of time.

Testers Choice
Anna Scott

Dec 20, 2011

I was looking for a Sunday night dinner dish, and this roast chicken really appealed to me. Mainly because I have never used such high heat to roast a chicken throughout the entire course of the suggested roasting time. Also, I usually rub butter on the chicken before I roast it; I liked the idea of olive oil instead. My chicken was perfectly crisp on the outside and juicy in the middle, right at 45 minutes. I would sprinkle some salt and pepper on the outside of the chicken for flavor, in addition to inside the cavity of the bird. The recipe says to drain the juices into the pan before serving, which works fine, but don’t get rid of those fabulous juices! I plan on making a gravy with mine this week. Also, I would save the onions from inside the bird as well…maybe chopped up in my gravy! I would recommend this recipe to anyone looking for a crisp, juicy chicken any night of the week.

Testers Choice
Cindy Zaiffdeen

Dec 20, 2011

This recipe is about as simple as it gets when it comes to roasting a chicken. The bird I roasted was 4 pounds. I followed the recipe exactly, doing the trussing of the legs as well. The chicken took almost twice as long as the recipe asked for, so perhaps you should start early if you have guests coming over. Maybe the problem was mine — the onion and parsley and thyme sprigs filled the cavity almost to capacity. I probably used branches of the herbs instead of sprigs. The end result was worth it, however. The skin was absolutely crispy and delicious and the meat was very moist. I hated to waste the tasty bits on the bottom of the roasting pan, so I added a touch of white wine and fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper, and made a quick pan sauce. Will make this again, perhaps not trussing the bird next time.

Testers Choice
Linda Pacchiano

Dec 20, 2011

I roasted a 3 1/2-pound chicken for an hour to get to the correct internal temperature. At 165 degrees, the chicken was perfectly cooked throughout. The high oven temperature made the skin quite crisp and gave it a beautiful golden color. The breast meat, which can sometimes be quite dry, was moist and juicy. I have learned that I no longer need to sear the chicken on the stove top before roasting to get that crisp, golden skin that is the mark of a well-roasted chicken. My only recommendation would be to make a quick pan sauce with the juices that are drained from the cavity. I deglazed with a little white wine (actually Prosecco, which I already had open in the refrigerator), then I added some chicken base, a little water, and flour for thickening, brought everything to a boil for a few minutes, strained it and added a pat of butter for richness and shine. With very little effort, I had a delicious sauce to pour over the chicken.

Testers Choice
Jennifer V.

Dec 20, 2011

My roast chicken technique is an amalgamation of a variety of techniques I’ve picked up over the years, including an overnight salt brine and starting out the oven really hot to crisp the skin, turning it down after a bit to not dry out the chicken. This recipe is much quicker, basically because it cuts out the brining process. All in all, this is a straightforward recipe — follow the instructions, keeping an eye on the bird to make sure that it doesn’t burn/dry out. I found that for my 4.5 pound chicken, it took about 45 minutes. I like to slice up potatoes and onions and place them under the chicken while it roasts to soak up the juices. If I have time, I’ll be following my usual roast chicken technique, but this is a good one to keep on hand if you have a hankering for roast chicken and need to have it that same night.

Testers Choice
Julie T.

Dec 20, 2011

This recipe is simply divine. Simplicity at its best! The only suggestion is to check the internal temperature of the chicken after 40 minutes of cooking…for me, it read 170°F after 43 minutes. So just know your oven and have that meat thermometer ready! This is the perfect roast chicken!

Testers Choice
Lisa O.

Dec 20, 2011

An excellent basic recipe for roast chicken. You can get fancier with herbs, lemon, garlic etc., but if you follow these instructions, it will be perfectly cooked and moist. I had a 4 1/4-pound chicken, and 55 minutes was perfect. I did truss the chicken, which adds a little time but makes it easier for beginners to get a moist chicken. Hints: if you are going to cook chicken right, get an instant-read thermometer or probe thermometer. It’s the only way to tell if the meat truly is done to the right temperature. Also, if you loosen the skin a little by carefully working your fingers under it, it puffs a bit when you cook it and gets a nice crisp to it. Also — the hottest part of the oven is the back, so put the chicken in feet first — this way the dark meat that is trussed is in the hottest part and the breast is at a lower temp for a moister chicken breast and perfectly done legs and thighs.

Testers Choice
Melinda Hamby

Dec 20, 2011

This is a great recipe for a basic roast chicken. I used a larger bird than called for, because I feed a family of six, and I only had to add about ten minutes to the roasting time. The bird did get crispy and dark brown before the time was up, but a sheet of tin foil over the bird kept the wonderful skin from burning.

Testers Choice
Kristen Kennedy

Dec 20, 2011

Not only is this the simplest roast chicken I’ve ever made, it is the best! I roasted a 7-pound chicken, so the cooking time was closer to 90 minutes. Cooking the chicken at such a high heat ensures a very crisp skin and moist meat—even the breast! And not a bit goes to waste—I’m using the carcass right now to make homemade chicken stock! I omitted parsley because the batch in my garden looked rather anemic. Otherwise I followed the recipe precisely. This is the new “go to” roast chicken recipe in our house!

Comments
Comments
  1. FramedCooks says:

    We just finished eating this chicken about an hour ago, and after I finish this post I’ll be tossing all my other roast chicken recipes out. This was, in a word, perfect. The prep was incredibly easy…I rubbed it with olive oil and put some onion and thyme and parsley in the cavity. But the proof is, of course, in the eating, and the eating was fabulous. The eating actually started during the carving, as the various folks in the kitchen started stealing bits and pieces of the crispy skin. The chicken itself was tender and juicy and wonderful. I don’t know where this chicken recipe has been all my life, but now that I have it, it’s my one and only. Simple and perfect.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Lovely, lovely, lovely! You’re so right, the proof is in the eating, and when the eating begins in the kitchen, that’s proof enough for me. Many, many thanks for letting us know you’re as over the moon for it as we are, FramedCooks.

    • David Leite says:

      FramedCooks, sometimes the best things in life are worth waiting for! So happy to hear that you and Don–As well as your guests–enjoyed the chicken. It’s a fave around here, too.

  2. This is basically the method I use. I hadn’t thought of the bay leaves, and added those last night – I loved the addition! If I have time I do like to rub my chicken lightly with salt and let it sit in the fridge open to the air for at least 24 hours.

    I have a question, once I put the chicken on the cutting board to rest, I worry that if I put foil over it the skin’s crispiness will decrease. Am I being paranoid?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      You’re not being paranoid, Robin. After you roast a hen to perfection, it would be sort of sacrilege to let the skin turn soggy! What I do is very, very, very loosely tent the foil, so it’s not touching the skin and so it’s not even completely covering the hen. Of course, if you’re still paranoid, don’t bother with the foil. A slightly cooler bird but still moist hen with crisp skin is far preferable to a warmer bird that’s still moist inside but, sadly, sodden outside.

  3. Rachel says:

    Hi,

    How long would you cook a 1.5 kg chicken for using this method? I have done something like – high temp. cooking – this years ago and placed the chicken on a bed of small new potatoes.
    Thanks.

    • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

      Hi Rachel, I would rely on your thermometer- 165 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh, and your bird should be ready.

  4. Sue Hess says:

    Although the bird was delicious, the mess was not worth the deliciousness! I did see other comments about needing to open windows, but seriously, no one else had to use the self-cleaning feature on their oven after preparing this meal. Even with a vented stove/oven exhaust the house was full of smoke and stunk! I won’t make this in my house again, it was 3 hours of cleaning.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Sue, I’m really sorry to hear that. In my years of experience as a home cook as well as the person overseeing recipe testing at The Washington Post, Real Simple, and Martha Stewart Living, I’ve noticed that the only occasion an oven smokes is when the oven has some burnt-on remnants from a previous meal. To prevent this from happening to anyone else, I added a cautionary note to the recipe instructions reminding everyone that cranking the oven past 425°F is begging for smoke if your oven is due for cleaning. Speaking of which, I think my oven floor has a splotch on it that I need to scrub…

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