Roast chicken is perfect for guests or just for dinner with the family. In fact, if I am in a hurry, I often pick one up from the grocery store’s deli department. But if you want to control the ingredients and make a conscious choice to avoid hormones, then consider roasting your own chicken. It is really easy and the results are awesome! You don’t even need a roasting pan.
This time, I selected a chicken that was about 4 to 4 1/2 pounds. (If you pick a smaller chicken, the cooking time will be a little less, so keep a thermometer handy.) The goal is to cook the chicken at a high temperature for a short time to seal in the juices and begin crisping the skin, so I preheated the oven to 450 degrees F. After about 20 minutes, you can turn the heat down and let the chicken finish cooking. The result is a moist and delicious roast chicken.
To prepare the chicken for roasting, I stuffed it with a quartered lemon, about 6 peeled cloves of garlic, and some fresh sprigs of thyme. Then I tied the legs together with some kitchen string. A simple way to tie the legs together is just to wrap the string around the legs a couple of times and tie a bow.
Be sure to push the herbs, garlic and lemons all the way into the cavity of the chicken.
Then brush the skin with melted butter. This will keep the chicken moist and help the skin get crispy.
Then sprinkle the chicken with lots of pepper and salt! I like to hold my hand about 6 to 8 inches above the chicken when sprinkling, so the salt and pepper will fall in a wider and more even pattern.
Remember I said you don’t need a roasting pan? You just need a pan that is wide enough for the chicken and at least an inch or two deep to catch the juices. Then cut two to four red potatoes and one or two onions into big chunks and place then on the bottom of the pan to act as the roasting rack. The potatoes and onions will absorb the broth from the chicken so you are cooking your side dish while the chicken roasts! If you prefer, you can use other veggies, such as carrots and parsnips, instead of (or in addition to) the potatoes and onions. You just need to select vegetables that will keep their shape fairly well to hold the chicken out of the liquid as it cooks.
I roasted the chicken at 450 degrees F for about 20 minutes. Then I lowered the temperature to 350 degrees F and cooked it until the juices ran clear and a thermometer stuck into the thickest part of the thigh (but not touching the bone) registered 160 degrees F. Depending on the size of the chicken, this will take from about 50 minutes to 1 1/2 hours. Start testing the temperature after about 40 minutes to avoid overcooking the chicken. You will be rewarded with this golden moist chicken!