Making the perfect roasted chicken is one of those things that makes me feel like a real cook. You know, the type of person who can whip together a beautifully composed meal while looking, well, beautifully composed. Like a 1950s housewife, but without the apron. Or, hell, maybe with the apron.
The thing is, a good roasted chicken is something that people think must be hugely complicated, but it’s not. You can make the best roasted chicken ever over three days, but you can make a perfectly decent roasted chicken in just about two hours on any night you have time. Though this might be a better weekend dish, it’s certainly possible to make this on a weeknight if you don’t mind eating late. (For an even quicker roasted chicken dinner, check out this recipe from my archives.)
In essence, the key is making sure your chicken is very, very dry. You probably want to sacrifice a few cloth dishtowels to making sure the chicken is as dry as you can make it. See, if your chicken skin isn’t dry, the skin will steam, becoming rubbery and gross. But when dry and salted, the skin becomes crisp and brown and incredibly flavorful, everything you want chicken skin to be.
Feel free to experiment with this. It’s pared-down for a reason, and that reason is that I was deliberately trying to make the simplest roasted chicken recipe possible. But if you’re feeling fancy, tuck herbs under the chicken’s skin on the breasts, stuff the cavity with more herbs and a lemon, or get fancy with other spices rubbed in. Just make sure that skin is as dry as can be, and you’ll be happy with the results.
- 1 whole chicken, between 3 and 5 pounds
- salt and pepper
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced (optional)
- 1 cup white wine (optional)
- Preheat oven to 470 degrees.
- Rinse your chicken, take out the giblets and the neck and whatever else is in there. (I know, ew.) Rinse both outside and inside thoroughly, then place in a pile of either paper or cloth towels and dry very thoroughly. VERY thoroughly. So thoroughly. Pluck out any stray feather stubs, remove the giant fat deposit neat the tail, and salt liberally.
- Heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet on the stove. Place chicken breast-side up in the skillet. It should sizzle just a little. Remove from heat, and insert in oven.
- After about 20 minutes, you should start to hear some crackling. If you don’t, turn up the heat. After 30 minutes, the top of the breast should be browning and starting to look awesome.
- Quickly flip the chicken, using either giant tongs or, as Michelle Tam does, the handle of a wooden spoon inserted in the cavity. Insert back in oven and cook for 25 minutes.
- Flip chicken again and roast for anywhere from 15 to 25 more minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted in the breast and thigh measures 170 degrees and the skin is a beautiful golden brown.
- Remove chicken from pan and allow to rest for about 15 minutes before serving. In the meantime, you can take your shallot and wine and place them in the cast-iron skillet with the chicken drippings and cook everything over medium-high heat until you have a nice pan sauce. Carve and serve.