How to Roast a Chicken

This is not your grandmother’s recipe for roasted chicken, unless of course, your grandmother is French. This is a classic bistro roasted chicken recipe, which has been altered from its original, because revising recipes is what passionate cooks do. Easy and relatively quick, it delivers such a satisfying, tasty roasted chicken that you’ll find yourself reaching for this recipe again and again.

Along the way, you’ll probably make your own changes to it, but making a recipe your own is half the fun of cooking. This recipe has some directions you must not change, however, or the end result will not be as delicious. So grab your beret; here’s the recipe:

Start by preheating your oven to 450 degrees. Hopefully, your smoke alarms won’t go off, if they do, keep two large hot pot holders ready to fan underneath them. The high heat produces a succulent golden skin, seasoned to perfection, and absolutely irresistible. Plan for one hour of roasting time and approximately 15 minutes of preparation time.

Now, collect your roasting gear:

You will need a shallow baking dish or roasting pan. If you don’t have one, a 9 x 13 cake pan will suffice, as will any baking dish with enough room to accommodate the chicken. You will need plenty of room on all sides for air circulation, and to host the basting liquids and the giblets. You will be turning the chicken at regular intervals, so the roasting pan must be shallow enough to grasp the bird without getting burned, and large enough to turn the chicken in it, without having it go slop over the sides of the pan.

Hot pad holders are a must, as is a baster, skewers, and a meat thermometer. Take note: you will be trussing the chicken. Don’t panic, however, trussing a chicken is easy.

To get the best results, proper trussing is essential. It helps the chicken hold its shape so it is more attractive when served and it’s easier to carve. Most importantly, that’s one of the secrets to this recipe. It allows the chicken to cook evenly and retain moisture well. Plus, this recipe directs you to truss a chicken with skewers, therefore, no kitchen twine or trussing needle is involved.

It’s time to assemble the ingredients:

1 Bay Leaf

2 sprigs fresh thyme, or ½ teaspoon dry thyme (not ground)

1 to 5 cloves garlic, peeled. (Use 1 clove for the chicken; at your option, add the others during the roasting period)

One 3 to 3 ½ pound fresh, or unthawed chicken, with giblets and neck

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or canola oil

1 or 2 whole white or yellow onions, peeled and halved

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup fresh or canned chicken broth

*baby carrots can be added during the roasting period


1. Thoroughly rinse the chicken inside and out. Pat it dry with paper towels.

2. Sprinkle the inside of the chicken cavity with salt and pepper.

3. Place the bay leaf, thyme, and 1 clove of garlic inside the chicken cavity.

4. Truss the chicken:

a. Pull the cavity of the chicken together, overlapping the skin on one side. Pierce the skewer into the skin through all layers, and then back out again in a “sewing” motion, two to three times, securing the skin and closing the cavity tightly.

b. Repeat this with as many skewers as needed until the cavity is completely and tightly covered. It usually requires about 3 skewers.

c. Cover the neck of the chicken in the same way using 2 to 3 more skewers.

6. Place your trussed chicken in a shallow roasting pan. Rub with the oil. Sprinkle with a pinch or two of thyme.

7. Place the chicken on one side, and scatter the neck, gizzard, liver, and onion halves in the roasting pan around the chicken. If you wish, you can also scatter baby carrots around the chicken, along with several garlic cloves.

8. Put the chicken in the oven, and set the timer for 20 minutes. After 10 minutes, baste it with its roasting juices. (If it has no liquid yet, baste with a small amount of chicken stock.)

9. When the timer goes off, take the roasting pan out, turn the chicken onto its other side, baste it, and place it back in the oven for another 20 minutes, taking note to baste it again after 10 minutes.

10. When 20 minutes have passed, take the chicken out of the oven. Remove the fat from the roasting pan with the basting utensil. Place the chicken on its back. Put the butter on the breast, allowing it to melt on the chicken. Gently pour 1/3 cup of the chicken stock over the chicken. Roast for 20 more minutes, basting with additional chicken stock every 5 to 10 minutes.

11.  Cooked completely, the chicken will be golden brown all over and juices will run clear when the joint between the thigh and leg is pierced.

12.  Place a meat thermometer in the center of the breast, it should read 150 to 160 degrees. If not, continue roasting until it reaches that temperature. Baste the chicken with all the juices.

13.  When cooked, remove the chicken from the oven and untruss the it. In other words, remove all the skewers (they will be hot, so use a fork!)

14.  Remove and discard the bay leaf, thyme and garlic from the cavity.

15.  Carve the chicken into serving pieces.

16.  Place the roasting pan on top of the stove, bringing the pan juices to a boil, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan.

Serve the chicken with the hot gravy, and the additional onions, carrots, and garlic, and also with French fries, dipping them into the gravy.

Voila! The classic bistro chicken is served. It will become a classic recipe for you as well; you need not be French at all.

Sources: Cuisine Rapide, Copyright 1989 by Pierre Franey and Bryan Miller, The New York Times Company Williams Sonoma Kitchen Companion, by Chuck Williams, Time Life Books, 2000


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