In my former life (the one where I worked full-time outside my home and had no one calling me “Mama”), those tasty little deli rotisserie chickens made a regular appearance on our dinner table. Weeknights were busy, and a dinner that required no more effort than popping a steamy little bagged chicken into the grocery cart seemed like a great deal and an easy meal. I almost never bought those whole raw chickens from the meat department because the very thought of dealing with all that raw poultry and those freaky little giblets was a bit overwhelming and intimidating to me.
When I accepted my position as full-time homemaker two years ago, I was determined to make as much of our food from scratch as possible. Enter roasting whole chickens. And guess what? Roasting your own chicken is actually incredibly simple and economical. And I assure you, it will taste better than any of those bagged birds that have been sitting in the grocery store warming ovens for who knows how long.
Keep your eyes out for when Foster Farms fresh whole chickens go on sale for around .79-.99/lb. which is a great price. If you are looking for an organic, free range bird, you’ll likely have to pay a dollar more per pound (on sale). Most of the chickens are around 4-5 lbs, making them around $4 for 6-8 servings. I usually buy 2 at a time and roast them right away (you can use the meat in 101 different ways or freeze the leftovers). Evenly thawing and cooking a rock-hard chicken is a hassle so I prefer to work with the fresh birds and freeze the roasted meat, if needed.
The pre-cooked rotisserie chickens can’t even begin to compete with that price. Both Fred Meyer’s and Safeway’s rotisserie chickens are only 2 lbs. for $5.99, giving you 3-4 servings for about $3/lb! Albertson’s scrawny birds weigh 1 lb. 14 oz. for $6.99 each. Costco’s rotisserie chickens are cheaper, but they’re still only 3 lbs. It doesn’t take a math whiz to see where I’m going with this: your own kitchen!
My sister recently found this recipe, tried it, raved about it, and passed it on to me. After reading through it several times, I was skeptical. It seemed far too… simple to be any good. Seriously. We’re talking salt-and-pepper-simple.
However, after my first bite, I was convinced. Forget the rosemary, garlic, lemons, brines, and fancy spice rubs. As long as you have a whole chicken, some salt and pepper, and a hot oven, you’re set. The goal is to avoid extra moisture, keeping the heat as dry as possible. The end result will be a moist, flavorful bird that’s ready in just over an hour, which is a good thing because once the smell of this roasting chicken fills your home, your family isn’t going to be able to wait much longer.
My Favorite Simple Roast Chicken
recipe adapted from Epicurious, October 2004
one 4-5 pound whole chicken
salt and pepper
- Clean your oven. Seriously, start here or you will have smoke issues with such high heat, especially if you don’t have a good exhaust fan on your oven.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Rinse the chicken, remove & discard the giblets, then dry the chicken very well with paper towels, inside and out. The less it steams, the drier the heat, the better.
- Salt and pepper the cavity, then truss the bird. Trussing is optional, but it does help the chicken to cook evenly, and it also makes for a more beautiful roasted bird. Go here to watch a short how-to video. (The first time I made this, I simply tied the legs together and tucked the wings underneath the body. Nothing fancy, but it worked just fine.)
- Now, sprinkle a generous amount of salt (around 1 T.) over the outer skin of the bird so that it has a nice uniform coating that will result in a crisp, flavorful skin. Season to taste with pepper.
- Place the chicken in a pan and place in the pre-heated oven. Leave it alone— don’t baste it, don’t add butter; you can if you wish, but this creates steam, which you don’t want. Roast it until it’s done, around 70-80ish minutes, depending on the size. (I roast mine until the juices run clear, the skin is golden, and it registers 160 on a meat thermometer. The chicken will continue cooking a bit after you remove it from the oven). Baste the chicken with the juices and let it rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board.
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