Roast chicken can be one of the most economical — and delicious — ways to serve a bird. Here in Southern California, I regularly find whole chickens on sale for $0.59/pound. For a large, five-pound chicken, this works out to be about $3. Add some spices and butter, maybe a few vegetables, and you’ve got a great tasting main dish.
Cooking a whole bird can be a little intimidating. It’s my hope to break down these steps so that you won’t feel overwhelmed by it. This is easy, really.
Five Basic Steps:
1. Rinse – Remove the chicken from its packaging. It needs to be completely thawed or close to, so if you’ve frozen it, you’re going to need to allow adequate time for defrosting. Reach inside both ends of the chicken and remove the giblets and neck. If you’re brave, you can cook with these; they make great gravy. But for now, let’s keep it simple. Discard.
2. Pat dry – place the chicken in a roasting pan. A simple 9×13 glass dish will work for most chickens. Pat dry with paper towels and discard those. Remember raw chicken can harbor unsafe bacteria, so avoid cross-contamination.
3. Season – Assemble other ingredients, such as herbed butter, salt, pepper, a peeled and chunked onion, a peeled and chopped carrot, fresh herbs. Loosen the skin from the chicken meat by sticking your hand in between the two layers. No, it’s not for the squeamish, but you’ll be okay. Scoop up a handful of butter and rub it in between the skin and chicken meat.
Rub butter all over the outside as well. Season generously with salt and pepper. Stuff the veggies and herbs inside the bird.
4. Bake – roast the bird in a 350° oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours for a 3 to 4 pound chicken, 2 to 2 1/4 hours if chicken is a 5 to 7 pound roaster. Test with an instant read meat thermometer. It should read 180° to 185° F. Remove chicken from oven and allow to rest 5 to 10 minutes on a platter or cutting board.
5. Gravy – scrape the roasting pan to loosen any browned bits that might be sticking to the bottom. Pour off drippings to a glass measuring cup or a fat separator if you have one. If using a measuring cup, spoon off as much fat that rises to top as possible. Add enough chicken broth to make 2 cups. In a medium saucepan, heat 4 Tablespoons butter or chicken fat. Stir in 4 Tablespoons flour. Stir until brown and bubbly. Slowly whisk in broth/drippings. Bring to a low boil and stir constantly until thickened to a sauce consistency.
Enjoy your roast chicken with gravy! And don’t forget that you can make a couple more meals with ALL the leftovers, bones and all.