I have a simple rule, whenever I figure out what good restaurant cooks like to make at home I follow suit. It’s because most professional cooks like simple but deeply satisfying meals, roast chicken is one of those, it is a cook’s meal. When I say simple I don’t mean in flavor and not necessarily in ease of cooking but more that it falls into the category of not being fussy.
And really, that is it isn’t it, that roast chicken is delicious, very satisfying and not at all fussy. Most importantly though it is easy on the cook and that is always something to grasp hold of and learn how to do. So this is how I do it, I try not to complicate roast chicken, I use only a few dried spices and I try to follow some simple guidelines I have come to trust over the years.
Roast Chicken Know-How:
- Season the chicken with salt the day before you want to cook it. Then set it into a tray with sides. Place it uncovered into the refrigerator to dry out the skin and soak up the salt. This drying of the skin makes for a deeply colored crispy skin. The salt helps keep the chicken moist.
- Trussing the chicken helps the chicken to cook evenly. Besides we eat as much with our eyes so why not make it pretty.
- You can cook the chicken on top of vegetables if you like letting the juices drip down onto them making for a wonderful side dish. I do this as often as not but I never throw out the pan juices. The pan juices make a wonderful addition to all sorts of things from pasta to…well, anything.
- Adjust the top rack of your oven so the top of the bird is 5 to 7 inches from the top of the oven. If it is to close to the top it will brown the skin well before the meat is cooked.
- Avoid buying birds that are more the 4 or 5% juices added. The birds that are 12% are brined and they are very, very salty.
- Save any and all pan juices. Use them in a vinaigrette to dress a salad, in pasta or in chicken salad but don’t waste them.
Cost to roast a chicken: it depends on what kind of chicken and where you buy it but anywhere between 6 and 10 dollars for a 4 pound bird. It should feed four with the added bonus of making soup from the carcass.
Click here for a pasta recipe using roast chicken leftovers: Chicken, Black Olives and Lemon with Spaghetti
To Roast a Chicken:
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 chicken, about 4 pounds
1. Salt the chicken the day before you want to cook it or at least 4 hours before you want to cook it. To do this sprinkle salt onto all sides of the bird including inside the cavity. Place the bird onto a tray with side and put it back into the fridge.
2. Crush the fennel seeds either using the bottom of a heavy pan to grind it or with a mortar and pestle. Combine the fennel with the rest of the spices and, again, sprinkle the spice rub all over the bird including the cavity.
3. Let the bird sit at room temperature for a half an hour or up to an hour.
4. Heat the oven to 400˚ F. Place the chicken, still on a tray with sides, into the oven and let it roast for 30 minutes. Bast the chicken with the pan juices. Bake another 35 minutes. Check to see if it is done. I can usually tell by the legs. If the meat has pulled away from the knee bones then there is a good chance the rest of the bird is done. Wiggle a thigh. If it seems loose then you are probably good to go. Tilt the bird backwards and see if the juices running out from the cavity are red. If all three of these test are passed letting the bird rest will finish the cooking. Let the bird rest cover with foil for 15 minutes.
5. Carve and serve.