Food experts make a big deal about roasting a chicken, and for good reasons. Chicken is delicious when roasted properly, a whole chicken is still relatively inexpensive, and leftovers from a whole chicken are valuable to have on hand for quick meals the following day.
Roasting a whole chicken intimidates some people, but it shouldn’t. It may be that some cookbooks tend to complicate the process and make turning out a plump, juicy roast chicken a bit of a mystery. Truth is, with a little bit of planning, it’s no more complicated than preparing individual chicken parts.
The goal is roasting a whole bird to cook it thoroughly without drying it out. While there are a number methods for roasting a chicken, the only method I use is both reliable and versatile. It starts with an overnight dry brining in a zip lock bag with only two basic pantry staples. A large (half-gallon) zip lock bag eliminates any mess with this. When it comes time for roasting, it’s a simple matter of a quick rinse before popping in the oven. The result is a perfectly juicy chicken with crisp, golden skin and pan drippings that make fabulous gravy.
The basic recipe below is truly outstanding just as it is. The overnight rest in a salt and sugar mixture works to season and lock in the chicken’s natural juices without making bird overly salty. You may be familiar with the brining process when looking at methods for roasting a turkey for the holidays. The same process works wonders for any poultry.There’s no need for additional seasoning with this method, but it can be easily tweaked to suit your mood. Lemon halves, peeled garlic cloves or your favorite fresh herbs and aromatics may be tucked inside the chicken cavity before roasting to impart a lovely flavor
Basic Roast Chicken
1 5-6 lb whole chicken
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
Rinse the chicken inside and out under cold water and pat of excess moisture.
Combine the salt and sugar in a small bowl and rub the entire outside of the rub with the mixture reserving a bit to toss inside the cavity. Place the bird in a plastic zip lock bag large enough to hold the bird, place on a pie plate and refrigerate overnight, turning the bird over once.
When you are ready to roast the chicken, remove it from the bag, rinse under cold water and dry very well with paper towels. Tuck the wings under the body and tie the tips of the legs together to ensure even cooking. Place in a roasting pan large enough to hold the chicken.
Roast at 325 degrees for 2 to 2 ½ hours, basting every 30 minutes with the pan drippings, until the internal temperature taken in the thick part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees and the juices inside the bird are no longer pink.