Simple Roast Chicken recipe

by Emily from Frugal Living NW on April 23, 2010

Simple Roast Chicken recipe: This will become your go-to chicken recipe! All you need is a whole chicken, salt, pepper & an oven!

Simple Roast Chicken

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, 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 under 99¢ per pound. 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 pounds, making them around $4 for 6-8 servings. I usually buy two at a time and roast them right away (you can use the meat in 101 different ways or freeze the leftovers — find a bunch of delicious chicken recipes on our Recipe page and our round-up of 16 delicious chicken dinner recipes). 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 average $5.99 for a two-pound bird, giving you 3-4 servings for about $3 per pound! 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 pounds. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.
  5. 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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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott April 18, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Beth: DO NOT cover the chicken with foil. If you had studied the recipe at the website that I had suggested (America’s Test Kitchen), you would have found that you are supposed to add some water to the bottom of the roasting pan while the bird is cooking. It doesn’t waste potatoes either. :-) It will get rid of the smoke.

If your chicken was salty to taste, then you either left the bird in the brine too long or added to much salt in the water bath. Kosher salt and table salt have different proportions for the brine mixture too.

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Beth February 24, 2013 at 2:36 pm

I made this recipe a couple weeks ago and we all LOVED it. The skin was crispy, salty, the meat was juicy & tender. I was going to use the leftovers for enchiladas, but my 5 year old daughter (who is a veggie-lover) ate it all for snacks, right out of the fridge! BUT, it was NOT worth the mess and smoke I had a deal with!! I had a disasterous oven to clean afterwards and terrrible smoke in the house (that we fixed with a fan in the window). I know the goal is to avoid steam, but next time I will just try covering with foil anyway and just take it off for the last 15-20 min or so. Also might look for a tall-sided roasting pan. Yummy chicken, but not worth the work to clean up afterwards.

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John April 18, 2013 at 8:48 pm

@Beth
Use a roasting pan and line the bottom of the pan (under the rack) with 1/4″ thick slices of raw potato. When the bird cooks, the fat drops onto the potatoes, which soak it up, preventing it from splattering and smoking. The potatoes will have to be thrown out at the end (they will blacken by the time cooking is done at that temp) but you won’t have to clean your oven or deal with a lot of smoke. Well worth sacrificing a potato (and raw potato doesn’t add steam.)

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Scott W. Nelson October 3, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Roast chicken is fabulous and has been popular with Foodies for a very long time (200+ years).

I wouldn’t think of roasting a chicken without brining it first. The whole bird (including the breast portion) will be juicy and perfectly cooked. It’s easy and takes about an hour to brine the bird.

You can learn about bring and the solution proportions at this Website: http://www.americastestkitchen.com/science/detail.php?docid=1630&incode=M**ASCA00

Enjoy your feast! :-))
swn

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Joanna September 20, 2012 at 7:05 pm

I have always hated roasting chickens in the past because I felt they were too much work for what I got, i.e. the lemon, garlic, etc etc. So I made this tonight for dinner and LOVED it! It turned out better than all the other recipes I’ve tried. The meat was moist and the skin crispy! Thank you! I do have a question about the mess though. So much grease splattered in my oven that there was tons of smoke and now a dirty, nasty oven to clean. This makes me so mad and reminds me why I hate roasting chicken! I did do it in a pyrex 9×13 though. Do you have this problem? And would my problem go away if I used a big roasting pan?

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Emily September 20, 2012 at 9:23 pm

The same thing happens in my oven because of the high heat. I wonder if tenting it with foil once the skin is nice and brown would help?

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Joanna September 21, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Okay, thanks. I would hate to have a little tent create steam though, because after my perfect chicken last night, I am ANTI- STEAM! I’ll get an oven liner and maybe if I use a roasting pan the edges will contain some of that splatter. Thanks again for the awesome tutorial on chicken. So much easier and better than what I did before.

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Gae Linfoot January 25, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Hmmm, I thought that Consumer Reports did a review of Grocery Store Chickens, and Foster Farms was rated at the lowest level for sanitary reasons? Does anyone know more about this?

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Rebecca C November 29, 2012 at 7:32 pm

here’s the info
http://news.consumerreports.org/safety/2009/11/chicken-safety-salmonella-campylobacter.html

bottom line: it’s safe if the chicken is cooked. the danger is in the raw juices.

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Opal October 9, 2011 at 8:53 pm

Why toss the giblets? If you love savory gravy, you need to boil the giblets and use that stock in the gravy, or add it to your boiled stock. I make giblet gravy by slicing up the giblets into little pieces. YUMMY!!!

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karudden October 4, 2011 at 1:58 am

Since you are presumably speaking to newbies in the kitchen it would be helpful to add some basics about cleaning up after working with raw poultry (spray bottle of bleach and water) and some simple warnings about cross contamination (don’t use same cutting board/utensils for raw and cooked food until they have been sanitized). This is only common sense to those who have never learned it, either from jobs in the food service industry or other education, so it’s always good to mention along with a recipe for beginners. P.S. Julia Child’s My Life in Paris has a nice anecdote about roasting a simple whole chicken. Fun to read like your entry was! Thanks for reminding everyone how the smell of homemade food can make your mouth water. P.P.S. My co worker today regaled me with the tale of the first pie she baked, all from scratch, and it was so exciting for her, I wanted to go bake a pie myself!

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karudden October 4, 2011 at 2:00 am

ERROR: I meant, This is only ‘common sense to those who HAVE learned it’. Sorry BTW.

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Anna May 23, 2011 at 7:19 pm

I use this recipe from Our Best Bites. http://www.ourbestbites.com/2008/05/rotisserie-chicken/

I use this all the time with frozen chickens (I take the giblets out before freezing) I put the whole chicken in frozen rock hard (usually before I go to work) and 6-8hrs later I come home to a delicious smell and equally delicious chicken!

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Susan May 23, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Thanks for the recipe, we do get Costco when we go there monthly but will love substituting this!

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Cindy May 23, 2011 at 6:00 pm

This is the recipe I use. It is so quick and easy and My family loves it.

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Leah February 17, 2011 at 9:28 pm

I’m really excited to try this recipe because I make roast chicken every couple of weeks. Sadly I have to say that every time I find the foster farms chickens on sale they’re always frozen or partly frozen. I complained about this once at Safeway and they said its how they come. Guess the distribution center buys a bunch and freezes them for the sale.

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Cle Ella October 25, 2010 at 9:15 pm

Love chicken and rice. Put 2 cups of white rice in a large glass baking dish with 3 cups water, add chiched breasts, cover chicken breasts with on sm can of Campbells Mushroom soup, cover with tin foil, cook at 350 for a little over an hour – until the chicken is cooked completely through. Let rest for 10 minutes. Yummy chicken and rice!

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Melinda April 27, 2010 at 10:05 am

I am off to cook my FF chicken I bought using overage on the Fiber One Yogurt. Thanks for the great recipe Emily!

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kimi April 24, 2010 at 8:02 am

I roasted two chickens last night using this ab/fab recipe ~ they turned out soooo very tender and juicy. Thank you for such a yummy and easy recipe. (I froze over three dinners worth of chicken)

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sandiemamma April 23, 2010 at 6:19 pm

Here is even an easier recipe: The Pampered Chef has a new Deep Covered Baker that you can put in the microwave (if your microwave works well) and cook a five pound chicken in 30 minutes. I am a Pampered Chef consultant and I have done it at several parties. Guests cannot believe how tender and moist it is, and especially HOW EASY AND FAST IT IS!! The Deep Covered Bakes acts as a mini oven within the microwave and heats up itself to bake the chicken. It really turns out incrediably moist. You can use your favorite spices but my favorite is just plain old seasoning salt and pepper. Anybody interested in one, let me know. My e-mail is hodsonbigdaddy@aol.com.

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Scott April 18, 2013 at 11:13 pm

THIS IS NOT ROASTING AT ALL. MICROWAVE COOKING PRODUCES HORRIBLE CHICKEN TOO!!! You maybe a a Pampered Chef consultant, but in no way are you a professional foodie with formal culinary training such as I have. What restaurants have you owned or worked at sanddiemamma? Your posting is also very inappropriate where your are promoting your business!

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Rachael December 1, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Actually, I am NOT a pampered chef consultant, and I have roasted chickens in the oven for years. I was at a Pampered Chef party where the deep covered baker was used to microwave-roast a chicken, and it was FANTASTIC. It convinced me to buy one myself. Although I still prefer to roast the chicken the “old fashioned” way–this IS a reasonable alternative for a working mom with hungry kids. It is amazing how moist the chicken comes out–even in the microwave!

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Shannon April 23, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Keep an eye out for QFC ads also, another brand I like is Draper Valley (no hormones/steroids, etc) and they will often go on sale Buy One Get One Free or sometimes .69-.79/lb. The birds usually hover around the 5# mark and that makes 2-3 meals for my family! Also, it is way cheaper to buy the whole chickens and cut them up yourself to throw on the BBQ! We like to make chicken enchiladas with leftovers!

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Donaca April 23, 2010 at 9:59 am

I love roasting a chicken too…but I have to have gravy!!! So my bird rests on a bed of sliced onions while baking. I drizzle butter on the top of thebird too. Then when it’s done, I remove the burnt onions, and make gravy from the carmelized ones…Oh MY GOODNESS this gravy is the best!

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Shellee April 23, 2010 at 9:24 am

I always boil the giblets for a few minutes, let them cool, cut them in little pieces and give them to the kitties.

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AnnMarie April 23, 2010 at 9:20 am

I also LOVE Foster Farm chicken for my family! I roasted a chicken for the first time when I saw Jamie Oliver on a morning show. He suggested microwaving a lemon for about a minute, piercing it and putting it in the cavity of the chicken. I’ve done variations where I’ve also added rosemary. It makes the chicken so moist!! It is one of only a few meals that my 13 , 11 and 6 year old will all happily eat!!

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Teri April 23, 2010 at 8:57 am

Thanks for the info! I’ve roasted chicken a few times but have not been happy with the results. I’m going to try this over the weekend and I’m going to look up the crock pot version too!

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Carla Magee April 23, 2010 at 8:37 am

I love roasting my own chicken – even when I worked full time, I did it as Sunday dinner so we could have left overs during the week. Our favorite is white bean chicken chili or chicken enchiladas. I’ve done stock with the left overs too – great way to use up veggies left over in the crisper.

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kate April 23, 2010 at 8:33 am

I did the crockpot like rebecca. But I went a step further and made stock. I took all the meat off, threw the bones back in and then added enough water to cover. I cooked it for over night + some more and then strained. I got, probably, 10 cups of stock. I let them sit in the fridge and skimmed off the fat. I’m going to use it in a recipe tonight so I’ll let you know. But incredibly econimical too.

Great post Emily!

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JeninWA May 23, 2011 at 4:33 pm

I do that all the time – my freezer is full of stock, but my recipe is much more involved. But, I went one step further than that, and ground up all that was left over and made dog food. I freeze it in muffin tins. The dogs go bananas over it!

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Rebecca April 23, 2010 at 8:02 am

I laughed so hard at the “freaky little giblets” too. But I found a GREAT recipe for a whole chicken in the crock pot! Yes, you put the spice mixture on the bird (using what you have in the kitchen, substituting what you don’t), leave it for 8 hours on low. When you get home, the house smells wonderful and the chicken tastes freakin GREAT!!! The recipe is at wwww.recipezaar.com and is called Whole Chicken Crock Pot. ENJOY!!!

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Krista S. April 23, 2010 at 11:19 am

I love my chicken-in-a-pot recipe! I throw sliced onions and carrots in the bottom of the crockpot, the chicken on top (skinned and all insides out), sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme, and throw in about 1/3 cup water or chicken broth. Let it cook on low for 8-10 hours and you have the most delicious yummy chicken. And you are right, I think my neighbors can even smell the yummy chicken!

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Dsperin April 23, 2010 at 7:48 am

Normally I wouldn’t even bring up Roth’s IGA, but this week they’ve got locally grown whole chickens on sale for .69/lb, limit 3.

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Tiffany Mach April 23, 2010 at 7:46 am

Great post. When I moved out of my parents house (wait, can I remember that far back?) one of the first things my step-mom did was write down how to roast a whole chicken. It is so easy, and cheaper than buying the individual parts. I think though that my favorite line of this post was “freaky little giblets.” I don’t know why, but that got my funny bone this morning.

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Scott September 20, 2014 at 9:14 pm

Josefa,
I think that your are posting to the wrong Web page/site…

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