How to Roast a Chicken*

by Lisa Rosen on April 16, 2010

The people at my house love a plain roasted chicken.  Personally, I can take it or leave it, but every now and again I roast one just to humor them.  I’ve spent years (literally) reading about the latest-and-greatest chicken roasting techniques, and trying them all out:  special racks, different temperatures, breast side up, breast side down, turn it once, turn it 16 times, yada-yada-yada.  I’ve hesitated to post a roasted chicken here, because every technique I’ve ever tried has seemed like more trouble than it’s worth.

Until now.

One of the food websites I pay attention to is Food 52,the brainchild of Amanda Hesser, a food writer and former restaurant reviewer for the New York Times.  It’s an interesting hybrid concept, sort of curated crowd-sourcing.  As far as I can tell, the featured recipes are really reliable (unlike the wide-open sites, where anyone can post anything, and it’s hard to tell what will be good and what won’t).

Several weeks ago I came across this recipe for roasted chicken on Food 52.  The ease and simplicity kind of blew my mind–and guess what?  It works.  Freakin’ genius.

Here’s what I did (with all credit to monkeymom and Food 52):

Easy Roasted Chicken
Serves the four of us; your mileage may vary

1 whole chicken**
4 whole cloves garlic
1 lemon, quartered
salt and pepper

In the morning, before you want this for dinner, unwrap the chicken and remove the packet of parts that you may (or may not) find in the cavity.  Get out your bundt cake pan (aka tube pan).  Take out the removable insert (the tube part), and place it in a 9-inch cake pan.  Set the bird on the tube, so that it looks like it’s sitting upright (wings higher than drumsticks).  Carefully use your fingers to pull the skin away from the breast just enough that you can tuck in the garlic cloves and some chunks of lemon. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the outside.

Put the whole set-up in the fridge, uncovered, and leave it there for at least 8 hours.

When you’re ready to start dinner, turn the oven on to 400.  When it’s preheated, put the chicken in.  The Food 52 recipe says to cook for about an hour; I find that my people are happier if I let it go more like 80-90 minutes, depending on the size of the bird.  If you can’t tell when it’s done, buy an instant-read thermometer.  The temperature should be at least 165, in the thickest part of the inside of the leg; we tend to prefer it more like 175-180 (we like our chicken definitively done; I find that a high-quality chicken doesn’t dry out, even at a higher temperature).

Take the pan out of the oven, and let it sit for at least 15 minutes.  When you’re ready to eat, you can just use tongs to lift the bird off (someone else will need to hold the pan down) and put it on a cutting board to carve.

*This is one of several recipes I have queued from before we started The Diet.
**I don’t wash chicken.  A famous chef (Jacques Pepin, I believe) once said that any bacteria that survived being cooked deserved to kill him.  Besides, Consumer Reports did a study a couple of years ago showing that washing chicken actually does more harm than good by spreading germs around in the kitchen.  So I don’t.

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