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June 01, 2013

Perfect Roasted Chicken

By Worker Bee
65 Comments

Roasted ChickenEvery home cook should have a no-fail recipe for roasted chicken, one you can count on to always deliver golden skin and well cooked, moist, flavorful meat. So what’s the secret? Well, there are several:

Buy Smaller Chickens

Smaller chickens – those weighing 4 1/2 pounds (2 kg) or less – cook fast and evenly, resulting in moister meat. Unfortunately, many stores only sell whole chickens that weigh 5 pounds (2.5 kg) or more. However, if you get stuck with a big chicken, pre-seasoning can help.

Pre-Season the Bird

No matter what size of bird you have, salting a chicken in advance will make the meat (especially the white meat) more flavorful and tender. Ideally, salt the chicken 24 hours ahead of time, but even a few hours can make a difference.

Season Liberally

As a general guideline, use 1/2 (2.5 ml) to 3/4 teaspoon (4 ml) of kosher salt per pound. Don’t rub the salt directly onto the meat; only rub it on the skin and sprinkle some in the cavity. For extra flavor, add any of your favorite spices to the salt mix and/or tuck fresh herbs under the skin.

Dry Skin = Crispy Skin

If you love crispy, crackling skin then moisture is the enemy. According to the USDA, there is no need to rinse a chicken before cooking it. Take the bird out of its packaging and pat the chicken dry really well with paper towels. Consider keeping the chicken uncovered in a refrigerator overnight (after salting it) which helps dry the skin further, then pat the bird dry again before putting it in the oven. Rubbing butter or oil on the skin can create moisture that prevents crisping up. And don’t baste the chicken while it roasts.

Don’t Roast a Cold Bird

Let the chicken rest on the counter for 30 minutes before putting it in the oven. A cold chicken directly from the refrigerator won’t cook evenly.

Use High Heat

Roasting a bird in a 475 ºF (246 ºC) or 500 ºF (260 ºC) oven might seem crazy (and will create a little bit of smoke) but the results are reliably stunning; crisp skin and moist meat.  Roasting at lower temperatures just prolongs the cooking process, making dry or even undercooked meat more likely.

Use a Thermometer

You’ll always pull the bird out at the right time if you know exactly what the temperature is. Inserted into the thigh, the thermometer should read 165 ºF. (74 ºC)

Follow the tips above or the recipe below and you’ll roast a perfect chicken every time.

Serves: 3 to 4

Time in the Kitchen: 10 minutes of prep and approximately 1 hour of cooking time (plus 24 hours to pre-salt the bird)

Ingredients:

Ingredients

  • One 3 to 5 pound chicken (1.4 kg to 2.3 kg)
  • 8 fresh sage leaves or sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Kosher salt (1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon per pound) (2.5 ml to 4 ml)
  • Black pepper (1/2 teaspoon or more) (2.5 ml)
  • Add additional spices or herbs if desired

Instructions:

Remove everything from the chicken cavity and cut off the clump of tail fat right outside of the cavity. Thoroughly pat the chicken dry.

Use your fingers to loosen little pockets of skin over each breast and thigh so the skin separates from the meat. Tuck 2 sage leaves/thyme sprigs into each pocket of loose skin so the herbs are touching the meat.

Mix together the salt and pepper (and other spices) and rub all over the bird. Season the breasts more heavily than other parts of the bird. Sprinkle a little bit of salt and pepper in the cavity.

Seasoned Bird

Loosely cover the chicken with a large paper towel or leave it uncovered. Refrigerate the chicken for 24 hours.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and pat it dry again. Let it come to room temperature for 30 minutes. Tuck the wing tips in or cut them off.

Preheat the oven to 500 ºF (260 ºC). Place a rack on the second level from the bottom.

Put the chicken in a roasting pan or cast iron skillet breast side up. Slide the pan into the oven so the legs are in the back of the oven. This is so the legs/thighs, which take longer to cook, are in the hottest part of the oven (the back).

Roast the chicken for 10 minutes then give the bird a shove with a spoon or spatula to loosen it from the pan so it doesn’t stick.

For the remaining roasting time, don’t open the oven door or disturb the bird. Keep your oven fan on and plan to open a window, as roasting at 500 ºF does cause a little smoke.

Plan to roast the bird for 10 minutes per pound (50 minutes for a 5 pound chicken) and then check the temperature. When the temperature near a thigh is 165 ºF (74 ºC), the chicken should be done.

Carefully remove the pan from the oven, watching out for hot grease.

Remove the chicken from the roasting pan, pouring any juices that have accumulated in the cavity back into the pan.

Let the chicken rest on a cutting board or plate for at least ten minutes before cutting into it.

Add a little bit of water or chicken stock to the roasting pan or skillet and bring it to a simmer on the stove, scraping the bottom of the pan to release any bits stuck to the bottom. Simmer the liquid to reduce it by half before serving it as a sauce for the chicken.

Roasted Chicken

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65 Comments on "Perfect Roasted Chicken"

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Sanna
3 years 3 months ago
Actually, roasting at high temperatures will just make it more likely that you burn the chicken or get that dry chicken. I’ve made incredibly moist, incredibly tasty, chicken at 100C. It took ages and ages, but I’ve never had a chicken come out that yummy. I usually use 125C for roasts and the like, because it evaporates less water. Checking a chicken’s temperature should be done in the meat close to the thigh bone, on the inside of the thigh. That’s the part that gets done last, and it should always reach 75C. I think the guideline for store’s in… Read more »
Amy
Amy
3 years 3 months ago
I’ve tried both high and low heat. It’s possible to get good roasted meat from both. High heat has the advantage of cooking quickly and crisping up the skin nicely. The downside is the smoke and the fact it needs to be watched carefully at the end because it will burn quickly. I’ve covered skin in the beginning and then uncovered near the end to try to prevent the burning issue, with some success. Low heat has the advantage of no smoke and a “set it and forget it” approach. The downside is that it seems like you need to… Read more »
whistler
whistler
3 years 3 months ago

I cook at low temp for an hour, and then finish at a high temp. The trick to not burning the skin is to cover with foil once it has browned sufficiently.

Mark.
Mark.
3 years 3 months ago

Similar though not quite identical to the Zuni Cafe method, which I have found works very well. The summarized version of that on the Smitten Kitchen blog comes in handy. Probably you’ll want to avoid the bread salad side dish. Or just do as described above: it’s close enough. I like thyme sprigs and tend to loosen the chicken skin in way too many places just to insert them, sometimes overdoing the herbal flavors.

Sean Kelly
Sean Kelly
3 years 3 months ago

Cook’s Illustrated had a great article on crispy skin roast chicken. Rub the skin with a mixture of 2 tablesoons salt and 1 tablespoon baking POWDER (not baking soda- that’s a very important difference). Run your fingers under the skin to separate it from the meat, poke a few holes in the skin to let the fat drain off, and then let it air dry in the fridge a few hours or overnight. I forget the exact cooking times (Cooks Illustrated gets really technical with details) but you can roast normally.

Stella B
Stella B
3 years 3 months ago
I find that 1/2 tsp of Kosher salt per pound is plenty for my taste. Gravy made from the drippings is still too salty for me. A few hours of advanced salting is fine for pork chops, but the 24 hour time works better for turkey, whole chicken or a pork tenderloin. The ultimate roast chicken though is pre-salted, spatchcocked and cooked at high heat with the indirect method on the BBQ. Spatchcocking is easy (use a good pair of kitchen shears to cut along both sides of the spine and open the sucker up like a book) and helps… Read more »
Arronrod
Arronrod
3 years 3 months ago

We use the a method from America’s Test Kitchen where you use a hot oven (450F) and preheat an oven safe skillet in it while you rub the chicken with olive oil and salt. The hot skillet speeds the thigh cooking, then about 20 to 30 min in you turn off the oven and let it be for about half an hour. I forget what temp the meat should be at when you turn off the oven but it’s easy to google the recipe. Then you can make a pan sauce from the skillet drippings.

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[…] Daily Apple / Posted on: June 01, 2013 Mark’s Daily Apple – Every home cook should have a no-fail recipe for roasted chicken, one you can count on to […]

Juli
Juli
3 years 3 months ago
I just want to tell a funny story: When my husband and I were at the height of our SAD diet eating, we went to Canada and discovered poutine. (SCD staple). For those of you who don’t know, this is french fries and cheese curds with gravy on top. Of course, this must be eaten with beer. On a quest to replicate this in the US, we talked with our neighbor who is a good home chef and she said (to make the gravy), “first, you roast a chicken.” We thought this was hilarious because who would ever roast a… Read more »
Suzanne
Suzanne
3 years 3 months ago

So you’re saying that first, you roast a chicken??

Juli
Juli
3 years 3 months ago

Whatever gave you that idea?

It’s kind of a Monty Python sketch. On that note I think I should say something like “A CHICKEN?! Whatever gave you the idea?.”

And then there would have to be something about haggling over the chicken at a famers market or perhaps this was already covered by Portlandia. Yes, I think it was. The chicken’s name was Colin.

Brianne
Brianne
3 years 3 months ago

Nothing wrong with poutine, I make home made all the time!

Juli
Juli
3 years 3 months ago

Where do you live and how do I get there? I can bring fresh cheese curds. And of course A CHICKEN!

EatMoveSleep
EatMoveSleep
3 years 3 months ago

That’s actually a very funny story IMO.
I probably would have burst out laughing if I was told that was the START of making gravy.

I too would have used the line “First, you roast a chicken……” as the beginning of the explanation of all sorts of stuff for years.

Question : How post a comment on MDA website?
Answer : “First, you roast a chicken………”

You’re doing the chicken roasting start of prep now – which is great – but a funny ending.

Juli
Juli
3 years 3 months ago

I am roasting some beef today which doesn’t lend itself to any funny stories but I appreciate your reply, which is hilarious.

KC
KC
3 years 3 months ago

So out of curiosity… Did you ever make the poutine by first roasting a chicken?

If it’s been a running gag for years, I would at least do it once. Make an epic long day of it to get around to making a small amount of poutine.

Rose
Rose
3 years 3 months ago

For incredibly moist white meat, roast the bird breast-side down. I tried it with my Thanksgiving turkey this past year, and it was the most succulent white meat I’ve ever prepared. I’ll have to try this method of seasoning.

John
John
3 years 3 months ago

I’d have to look this up again, but last year I tried a turkey recipe from Alton Brown. It included soaking in a brine (which isn’t needed here), then roasting the turkey at a high temp-450F I think it was-for the first half hour, then reducing heat to 350-375-again, check on this-until it reached the desired inner temp. I tried this last year, and it was great. Crisp skin, moist meat.

Steve
Steve
3 years 3 months ago

Concur with John. I’ve used Alton Brown’s turkey recipe several times, and it’s yet to fail me. A couple of other tips in his recipe are oiling the bird before cooking it at high heat (essentially frying the skin), and using a foil “shield” on the white meat to cook it more slowly while the dark meat makes its way to done.

Sher
Sher
3 years 3 months ago
Okay, I’ve finally read something that I have to factor in on. I’d like to offer a variation to those few folks who have access to normal chickens. At age 60, I have been breeding and raising poultry for almost 4 decades. I belong to a number of poultry organizations and we even show some of our birds (yes….there are chicken shows!). We have a youth sponsorship program and also do presentations on breeding, raising, culling, processing, and cooking “real chicken”. We call them “real” because the chickens we eat are the birds your great grandparents ate. The bird in… Read more »
Juli
Juli
3 years 3 months ago

This is an incredibly useful post: thank you. Our first “real” chicken left us a little unsure because it was so different. We have figured it out, although I like your tips.

Your details about other chickens, well, I didn’t know any of that. We still have conventional chicken when we are out and after this I’m not sure what I’m going to do between the chicken and the vegetarian (wheat / corn / GMO) entree. I guess mindfully eat what I’m eating — and knowing me have some need to discuss with my table.

Sam
3 years 3 months ago

@Sher – Incredible info! Thanks for sharing.

John
John
3 years 3 months ago
“Real chickens (the ones your great grandparents ate, are butchered @ 4 to 6 months of age. What you buy at the stores are 5 & 6 weeks old, sometimes 7. They MUST be butchered at an early age. They grow so fast that @ butcher time, their feathers only cover half of their skin, their hearts and other organs are tiny, and if they don’t get butchered by around 10 weeks their leg joints give out, assuming their organs have held up. (we raised some….all true). They also don’t get much exercise because they grow so fast and eat… Read more »
Finnegans Wake
Finnegans Wake
3 years 3 months ago

I hope you’re being facetious…

If nothing else, real chicken tastes >>> Frankenbird.

Debbie
Debbie
3 years 3 months ago

Thanks…have struggled cooking the pastured chickens from my farmer. They are always too dry. Will use your tips. The pastured pork however is incredible. Never had anything like it from the store…Never!

Erin
Erin
3 years 3 months ago

Cornish game hens are much, much easier to work with. I highly recommend Alton Brown’s recipe. It is on the Food Network website. He uses a brick on top of the hens and roasts at 500F. It is absolutely delicious! He recommends serving with bacon and onions. That is one meal I won’t forget for a while.

Primal_Alex
3 years 3 months ago
I recently became a fan of long cooking, and this thanks to the cast iron pots 🙂 When I roast anything, from lamb’s gigot to a big piece beef, I set the oven to 180°C can cook it from 2 to 2.5 hours, but in a closed environment. I turn the piece 2-3 times, the external part caramelizes evenly, without burning. I also add plenty of additional fats, especially for lean meats like rabbit or game meat, and aromatic herbs (rosemary is a must when I cook in the oven, and lamb wouldn’t be the same without thyme). The juice… Read more »
Juli
Juli
3 years 3 months ago

Friends, this is a little off topic, but have you smoked a chicken? We have the smoker set up and I’m just curious.

John
John
3 years 3 months ago

Yes. Just put on the smoker and let er rip. Let internal temp (in meat near thigh) hit 160. It can take a few hours though, BUT, if you spatchcock the chicken it will be done much more quicker.
In both cases, start breast down, then turn over. When to turn is a judgment call, but pretty much like you were grilling it.

Juli
Juli
3 years 3 months ago

Thanks, on the list for next week, appreciate the “breast down” tip.

DuncaN
DuncaN
3 years 3 months ago
I have great results using a smoke box with wet hickory chips inside and slow cooking on a Gas grill at about 300 degrees F. If you have a three burner grill, you turn them all up to high, and put the smokebox in. When the temperature hits 500 and the chips start smoking, turn off one burner and turn the other two down to medium-low. Put the bird breast down on the “cold” burner, close the grill, and monitor the temperature to keep it around 300. You will have a crispy skinned, moist inside, with a great smoked flavor.… Read more »
Juli
Juli
3 years 3 months ago

I appreciate your obsession but I cannot duplicate it. Yet, sir, yet. Thanks for your detailed comments I have some friends with the equipment who could be put up to this. Thanks!

DuncaN
DuncaN
3 years 3 months ago

Yes, this is a middle-aged obsession. The gas grill is new to me, and I am having all sorts of fun with it.

Laurie
Laurie
3 years 3 months ago
This technique for cooking chicken works well with turkey and Cornish hens, too. Barbara Kafka came out with a cookbook, The Art of Roasting, some years ago and everything, even veggies, is roasted at 500 degrees. I have done that but found it works just as well at 425 with no smoke and great results. And yes, putting the breast side down in the pan helps keep the breast meat juicier. You can turn it over the last 20 mins or so if it needs to brown up. It can flatten the breast a little bit but not a big… Read more »
Laurie
Laurie
3 years 3 months ago

“Roasting: A Simple Art” is the correct title of Barbara Kafka’s cookbook. Sorry, I didn’t quite get it right before. It came out in 1995 and Amazon has it now for $5 new, and used copies for a penny.

Patrick
Patrick
3 years 3 months ago
Wow, sorry but I don’t agree – a bigger chicken, 4lbs/2kilos and above has bigger bones, so more bone stock and more skin and more mature and tasty flesh. I live in the Uk so am maybe only applying my thoughts to the FREE RANGE (forget organic) birds I buy, but a 4lb bird feeds me if I’m alone for 5 days plus skin, bone stock and gravy from the bloody drippings in the pan (I only wish our supermarkets did them with giblets!). Don’t rinse the bird, the heat on cooking will kill pathogens but meanwhile if you rinse,… Read more »
evillil
evillil
3 years 3 months ago
Have you tried Abel & Cole or Green Pasture Farms in the UK? We get a weekly delivery from A&C. For meat, they do a choice between free range or organic in a variety of weights and they always come with the neck and giblets. They also sell quite meaty carcasses (2 per pack, giblets included) for a couple of quid. I feed my family of four PLUS four cats and a dog who are raw-fed from there from £80-£110 per week, which I don’t think is bad for seasonal, organic fruit and veg and free range beasts. You can… Read more »
pruneey
pruneey
3 years 3 months ago

Message to evillil, Im in the uk I will give those suppliers a try thanks. Just wondering if I can ask a few tips on the kind of meals you put together. The money you spend is so reasonable to feed a family of for. Id appreciate any tips you may be ableto give.

thanks

Vanessa
Vanessa
2 years 10 months ago
Another good supplier in the U.K. for meat only (they don’t do veg) is Roaming Roosters. We had tried out Devon Rose but weren’t happy with them and just got an order from Roaming Roosters last week, all grass fed, totally and truly free range. I bought the weekly box and then added on extras I wanted to bring it up to a fortnights worth, included things like oxtail and lambs liver and real beef dripping along with the usual suspects, cost was £100 for a fortnights meat for family of four (and we have a large quantity of meat… Read more »
Suzanne
Suzanne
3 years 3 months ago
I think I have you beat here….I marinate the chx in some olive oil, wine, herb & salt (tiny bit of tamari or lemon too!) while it comes to room temp. I put a pan in oven that I can later put on stovetop (like a big oven safe saucier) and preheat BOTH to 450 degrees. When ready, I pull pan out and put chicken directly into it (starts cooking immediately), back in oven and set for 30 mins (med size, 3 more or so for larger) and then turn oven OFF and set timer for another 30 mins (+)… Read more »
Sara
Sara
3 years 3 months ago

I highly recommend spatchcocking the bird as it cooks in half the time, and it cooks much more evenly!

Juli
Juli
3 years 3 months ago

I had to look that up! Will try it. That might be funnier than saying “First, you roast a chicken.” Ergo first you “spactchcockenzi” the chicken.” (I tried to make a German verb, sorry). That’s an awesome idea. I’m kind of in silly mood, but serious about my chickens so please forgive me.

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[…] Every home cook should have a no-fail recipe for roasted chicken, one you can count on to always deliver golden skin and well cooked, moist, flavorful meat. So what’s the secret? Well, there are several: Buy Smaller Chickens Smaller chickens – those weighing 4 1/2 pounds (2 kg) or less – cook fast and evenly, […]… Mark’s Daily Apple […]

Kristy
3 years 3 months ago

I usually cook my birds on low heat in a meat smoker and they always come out great. I would never have thought to do it at that high of a temp! I will have to try it next time i do it in the oven.

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[…] Perfect Roasted Chicken […]

Alex
Alex
3 years 3 months ago

Ok – so followed this recipe last night, as I had a chicken to cook anyway. It turned out wonderfully! I didn’t quite believe it would work (there are so many ‘perfect’ chicken recipes). I had a 4lb bird and roasted for 50 mins. The skin was perfectly crispy and flavoursome, the meat was juicy and tasty.
Plus – this is just so convenient, 50 min roast! No, basting for hours, no faffing around, no spatchcocking, no bricks! This will be my go to recipe for roasts now.

Claudia
Claudia
3 years 3 months ago

Made this tonight – spectacular. Made a dry rub of fresh sage, rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper and garlic. Some slices of lemon in the carcass. Followed the recipe otherwise to a T. Amazingly crispy on the outside (for my fiancé) and juicy on the inside. Thank you!!!

Me
Me
3 years 3 months ago

Any easy way for a roast chicken is to first put it on its side in a hot cast iron skillet (with some olive oil at the bottom), fry it like that for 5 or 6 minutes, then swap sides. After the second side is cooked for 5 or 6 minutes, put it in the oven, 20 minutes a side, at 375, with a final 20 minutes breast side up.

The frying it bit helps cook the dark meat without drying out the breast meat so they are finished together.

Moon
Moon
3 years 3 months ago
I have used a chicken stand for roasted chicken for the last 10 years and always have a moist chicken with crispy skin. It is remarkably simple. Preheat oven to 425 (Fahrenheit) RInse (I rinse due to the yellowing of the skin from the chickens I get local) Pat dry Rub with sea salt and thyme Place on chicken upright stand and into roasting pan Place into preheated oven Add 4 cups warm water to bottom of pan Let cook for approximately 1 hour, or until thigh reaches 165. The water at the bottom steams the inside of the chicken… Read more »
Tatts
Tatts
3 years 3 months ago

This is very similar to Thomas Keller of French Laundry Fame’s roast chicken recipe and it with out fail produces a chicken that has moist tender meat and skin that all the fat renders out and is paper thin, in fact shatters like glass when you tap it and tastes amazing.

Rob
Rob
3 years 3 months ago

Okay! Just finished feasting on a 4lb organic chicken cooked exactly the way suggested. It was terrific! Absolutely delicious! Sauteed some onions in the drippings…oh yeah!

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[…] Love Eat–Perfect Roasted Chicken. Watch–Bear Tricks. This one’s for you, […]

Amgino
Amgino
3 years 3 months ago

Beer butt chicken all the way, so easy and always get moist chicken with crispy skin.

Gary Merrill
3 years 3 months ago

When grilling whole chicken on your gas or charcoal grill. Just set your grill for the indirect method of grilling. Rub chicken with your favorite oil and season. Grill for one hour

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[…] but always reppin’: Rachel in Puerto Rico! —- 15 Dan John Quotes to Live By   Perfect Roasted Chicken   Evolution – take a step back (Video) […]

Daniel Price
Daniel Price
3 years 3 months ago

I tried this last night. Honestly, it was the best chicken I can remember tasting. The meat was juicy and the skin was crisp and tasty. Thank you for sharing this!

ReapusMaximus
ReapusMaximus
3 years 3 months ago
Another way I use frequently to roast a bird and get great results with a large margin for error is to quarter the carcass first (which in my world equals 2 breasts, 2 legs plus the spine section as a bonus for picking or making a broth afterwards) and lay out flat in the roasting tin. I set the wings aside and save them up in the freezer to make a batch of BBQ wings as a separate meal when I have a decent stash). That way the meat is arranged in a more uniform way and cooks evenly and… Read more »
David Gardner
3 years 3 months ago

This looks amazing…going to try this very soon. Have never tried to roast a chicken, always just buy the rotisserie from the grocery store.

Joyce
Joyce
3 years 3 months ago
I had discovered this method not long ago. I use the cast iron skillet, preheated in the oven, and slide the chicken into it when it is ready to go. I check temp at around 50 minutes, then go from there. This is wonderful, tasty, juicy, tender. My teenage daughter usually picks at protein…she downed an entire thigh/drum quarter the first time she tried it. Just kosher salt and freshly ground pepper is all it really needs if you don’t have the fresh herbs. I found the breast meat to be very moist as well. And it is easy…this is… Read more »
Troy
Troy
3 years 3 months ago
I think a good way to get juice and crispiness (especially at high temperatures) is to start roasting the chicken breast-down first to brown on the bottom, at 190C for about 2/3rds of the time and then turn it over and whack the heat up about 10 degrees for the last 1/3 with about a bit of salt and butter on top. That way the breast doesn’t dry out relative to the rest of the bird. Cooking time is about an hour for a medium chicken, by feel – if you wiggle a leg and the thigh joint’s loose then… Read more »
Stephanie Smith
Stephanie Smith
3 years 3 months ago

I followed the recipe exactly and came out with an amazing chicken! It was the first whole chicken I’d ever roasted, and the skin was so perfect and delicious, I can’t even tell you how good it was! Thank you Mark! I will be making many more chickens in my future, there wasn’t any meat left!

Patrick
3 years 3 months ago
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3 years 1 month ago

[…] article weight-loss motivation recipe perfect roasted chicken […]

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[…] I hit up the Farmer’s Market on Saturday and procured me an $18 free-range, antibiotic-free, local, butchered 4 lb chicken.  I have a go-to recipe that I always use to roast a chicken.  It involves lemons, garlic, thyme, olive oil, etc.  Well, much to my dismay, I could not locate the recipe.  Whilst looking for it I discovered this recipe that I printed out a while back:  Perfect Roasted Chicken. […]

Kathleen
Kathleen
1 year 5 months ago

Finally got around to trying this. Very good. I cooked it a little long, the legs were dry, even though 4.5 lb chicken = 45 minutes. I was using a convection bake though. I think in convection maybe 35 minutes would have been perfect.

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