Don’t call it “engaged chicken.” Let’s call it “anytime chicken” because roast chicken is one of the most versatile and forgiving meals out there. It doesn’t even have too many recipes as a framework, which can be tailored to use the ingredients you have on hand.
And while you can’t beat the convenience of supermarket roasted chicken, homemade roast chicken is even tastier and gives you that “cook once, eat twice” benefit. Save leftovers for a banh tet or burrito for the weekend and use the bones for stock. (Don’t stress. We’ll help you. Keep reading.)
Really, you only need one piece of equipment to grill chicken: a deep pan large enough to comfortably hold the chicken and safely use it in the oven as well as on the stovetop. Dutch ovens or high-sided cast iron pans are perfect. You don’t need a special roasting pan or roasting rack; instead, use vegetables to keep the chicken off the bottom of the pan. They will add flavor and keep the chicken from sticking and burning.
If you want to be 100% sure the chicken is not cooked or overcooked, buy a digital thermometer. An inexpensive probe-style thermometer is ideal because the beep function means you won’t need to keep the oven door open to check the temperature.
For components, the absolute bare minimum you need includes:
- optional onion and celery and/or carrot to put under the chicken
- liquid for pan sauce: stock or broth, wine, or even water in a pinch
- Optional: Additional aromatics like crushed garlic, leeks or minced chives, along with fresh citrus and herbs, will make your chicken more flavorful.
The perfect way to roast chicken
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In the bottom of the pan, place thinly sliced onions along with one or two thick stalks of celery or carrot if you have one for the base of the chicken.
2. Remove the sling bag from the chicken compartment and discard. Use paper towels to pat the chicken dry.
3. Fill the compartment with ingredients from one, two, or all of the following, depending on what you have: aromatics; fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, parsley, marjoram, bay leaf or sage; and halve citrus fruits like lemons, oranges or limes.
4. Place chicken on top of vegetables and sprinkle generously with kosher salt and any other seasoning mix you like, such as regular black pepper, BBQ sauce, adobo seasoning, or other seasoning mixes.
5. If you want to grill any other vegetables with the chicken, cut them into bite-sized pieces and lightly coat with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then arrange them around the chicken to prevent freezing. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash and beets are especially effective, especially when combined with members of the allium (onion) family such as sliced leeks, halved shallots or more onion.
6. Should you grill the chicken breast up or down? It is a matter of personal preference. Grill the chicken breasts so that the fat and water from the back and thighs flows to the bottom of the pan, coating the vegetables and giving them a rich flavor. It also gives you crispy chicken skin.
7. However, grilling brisket will remove the white meat in the fat and juices, preserve moisture and prevent overcooking. You’ll sacrifice crispy skin with this method, but it’s up to you how you want to do it. (No choice is wrong.)
8. If you’re using a probe thermometer, set the thermometer to 165 degrees F, sticking it to the meaty part of the chicken where the breast meets the thigh, making sure not to touch the bone. Place the chicken in the oven.
9. Let it roast, let it roast – then keep it for a few more minutes
10. How long should you roast the chicken for? A general rule of thumb is that whole chicken cooks in about 20 minutes per pound, so a 4.5-pound chicken will cook in about 90 minutes.
12. Remove excess vegetables such as potatoes and squash and set aside. Place the skillet with the chicken on the stove over medium heat and add about 1/2 cup of liquid – wine, broth, or water.
13. Using a silicone or wooden spoon, stir to scrape and dissolve the brown flakes, adding more liquid if needed if it evaporates too quickly. Serve the sauce as you would gravy along with the chicken.
Reward: Homemade Braised Chicken
Don’t throw away the carcass when you’ve enjoyed every last bite of grilled chicken. Cooking stock at home is as easy as boiling water – though you won’t want to boil it here.
On the stove: Place the chicken carcass in a bowl deep enough to cover the chicken by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over low heat and cook for 4 hours.
In the slow cooker: Cover the chicken and just enough water and cook for 8 hours on Low.
In the Instant Pot: Cover the chicken with enough water and cook for 30 minutes on high pressure. Let the pressure release naturally.
When the stock is cooked, remove the chicken bones and filter through a mesh sieve into a jar or other container. Refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 6 months.
Casey Barber is a food writer, illustrator and photographer; author of “Pierogi Love: New Takes on an Old World Comfort Food” and “Classic Snacks Made from Scratch: 70 Homemade Versions of Your Favorite Brand Food”; and editor of the Good website. Food. Stories.