This recipe is sponsored by Shenandoah Valley Organic.
When Daniel and I lived in New Jersey, there was a year there when we’d roast a whole chicken once a week, every.single.week. It didn’t always happen in some sort of ritual Sunday meal prep, ending in a pretty overhead photo of about a dozen filled glass containers, but we made that roast chicken without fail. On the first night we’d make it, we’d eat it as is, then use leftovers in stir-fries, burrito bowls, or chicken salad. It was so simple, so good. And yet, as routine and easy as roasting chicken seems to me at this point, I know that working with a whole bird can be intimidating if you haven’t done it before.
If you’re one of those folks, don’t be intimidated! My recipe for a beautifully browned whole chicken is foolproof. It’s also pretty darn flavorful, thanks to a dry brine method and a preheated roasting pan. The dry brine is a mix of garlic powder, onion powder, dried thyme, sage (optional if you’re not a big fan of sage), paprika, a little cayenne pepper, and salt, that you rub all over the bird and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours. Letting the chicken sit with the salt and spice mixture for a while gives it a rotisserie-style flavor with really tender meat.
It’s also important to note that when it comes to good taste, the quality of the chicken you choose matters. About six months ago, Daniel and I started getting birds from Shenandoah Valley Organic and we haven’t looked back. All of their chicken comes from small, farmer-owned farms with free, open ranges. The chickens are certified USDA organic, humanely raised and handled, and fed an all vegetable diet with no animal byproducts or antibiotics. All of these things matter a whole lot to me, and maybe to you, too, so I’d highly recommend you check out their store locator to find products near you!
Now let’s talk about how to cook that whole chicken. Here’s the pro tip: set your roasting pan (or a stainless steel/cast iron skillet) in the oven while it preheats to 425. Preheating your roasting pan or skillet is a tip I got from Cook’s Illustrated and it’s a great one. By putting the bird breast-side-up in an already-hot pan, you effectively sear the thighs. This gives the dark meat a little bit of a head start in the cooking process, allowing them to roast quicker and more in sync with the white meat, which tends to cook faster.
While your oven and pan preheat, grab your chicken from the fridge and stuff a halved lemon inside it. Using kitchen twine or unflavored dental floss, tie the legs together and trim any long strands left over. This shortcut trussing holds the legs closer to the breasts helping to prevent the white meat from drying out too quickly. Now you’re ready to roast! Ordinarily, a 3 to 4-pound whole chicken takes 50 to 60 minutes to cook. It should be browned, crisp-skinned, and if you slice deep into the thigh, the juices should be clear and you’ll see white flesh all the way through to the bone. I encourage you to test for doneness using an instant-read thermometer. Stick it into the plumpest area of the thigh without hitting the bone and it should read 165 degrees F.
Out of the oven, transfer your chicken to a cutting board and let it rest for 15 minutes before carving. That’s it! Use the chicken any way you like—it will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days in a sealed container.