Perfect Roast Chicken

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This dish is just simply comfort-food perfection.

We love serving this beautiful roasted bird on a chilly winter weeknight dinner for two, or for a fabulous summer evening dinner party. Serve with slow-simmered green beans, best mashed potatoes, and homemade dinner rolls, and you and your family will be in heaven. And the preparation is practically foolproof (if you follow our tips!).

A person using a large fork and knife to slice in a roast chicken on a platter with cut lemons and herbs surrounding the bird.

How To Roast A Chicken

There is just something so satisfying when serving an oven-roasted chicken.

Folks have been consuming roasted chicken for many, many generations. It’s economical, easy to prepare, and when done right, juicy and so delicious!

 

Adding Even More Flavor

A good roast chicken recipe should not call for a lot of ingredients.

Make sure you pick up a good-quality whole chicken, air-chilled if possible, and you’re more than halfway there for getting a delicious bird.

EXPERT TIP: A butter compound is a combination of softened butter and herbs and/or aromatics that not only will help the skin become nice and crispy, but will also infuse added flavor to the bird as it roasts. We love going with 1 stick of butter that is blended with fresh herbs, garlic, and smoked paprika.

A small glass bowl filled with softened butter that has been blended with fresh herbs, minced garlic, and smoked paprika, all sitting next to a sprig of thyme.

Whole chickens are often pre-frozen before they are placed out in most major supermarkets. Be sure your bird is completely thawed before preparing it for roasting.

In most cases, you will find a small bag in the cavity of the bird containing the giblets (chicken heart, gizzards, liver). Remove the bag and use the giblets (except for the liver) to make a nice chicken broth.

EXPERT TIP: For a subtle addition of flavor, add two lemon halves and a sprig of fresh rosemary and thyme in the cavity of the bird, right after you liberally salted and peppered it (the cavity). For adding the butter compound, smear it all over the bird with a knife, and then use your clean hands to massage it into the skin all over the chicken. Be sure to wash your hands immediately afterward as to not spread any bacteria from the uncooked chicken.

A person using a small metal spatula to spread a herb-butter compound over a whole uncooked turkey sitting on a baking rack.

How Long To Roast a Chicken

This is mostly going to depend on the size of the chicken. We start off with a super hot oven (450°F) for the initial roasting, and then after 20 minutes, we turn the heat down to 400°F. This blast of high heat helps to crisp the skin up as the butter compound melts into the flesh.

The following total cooking times are good guides, but the only way to ensure you have cooked your roast chicken completely is to use an instant-read thermometer.

Weight         Total Roast Time
3-4 lbs          60 minutes
5-7 lbs          60 – 90 minutes
7+ lbs           90 to 120 minutes

EXPERT TIP: Once the internal temperature has reached 165°F, remove the chicken from the oven and carefully transfer the rack (with the bird still on it) to a cutting board to rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, pour off all of the drippings from the pan except for a couple of tablespoons. Heat, in the pan, over the stove, and add ¼ cup of white wine, ¾ cup of chicken broth, salt, and pepper, and simmer on high for 2 minutes. Strain and serve with the roast chicken!

A large silver roasting pan filled with roast chicken drippings and broth being stirred with a wooden spatula while simmering.

Roast Chicken FAQs

  • Should I brine the bird before roasting? Because a chicken is so much smaller than a turkey, we don’t think brining is necessary. However, if you do decide to brine the bird, it will be wonderful. Follow our instructions for brining a bird here.
  • Can I roast the chicken with stuffing in the cavity? We don’t recommend this, as there is always the risk of bacteria from the cavity of the bird getting into the stuffing. It’s difficult to know if the interior of the bird is fully cooked when filled with stuffing. If preparing stuffing or dressing, simply cook it in a separate baking dish. Click the link for our favorite recipe for a delicious dressing.
  • Is basting the chicken while it cooks necessary? It’s not 100% necessary, but we find it does make the bird even juicier if you do. If you have a baster, then use it to pour the drippings and broth in the pan over the bird every 20 to 30 minutes. You can also use a large spoon if you don’t have a baster.
  • What if the skin is getting too brown before the internal temp reaches 165°F? This can definitely happen. Once you reach the optimal golden brown color on the skin, you can simply add a piece of foil over the top of the bird and let it continue cooking until it’s fully cooked. It’s normal for the herbs and the garlic to turn a darkish brown color on the skin as it roasts.

A roast chicken sitting on an oval platter with sliced lemons and herbs surrounding the bird.

When To Serve

This dish is really a wonderful meal for almost any occasion.

It’s an easy alternative to roast turkey during the holidays.

The presentation is so stunning, it’s very impressive to serve guests. Just remember, a 4 lb chicken serves 2 to 4 people. If serving more, you’ll want to prepare a couple of chickens.

It’s also so easy to make, it makes an absolutely wonderful weeknight meal. And the leftovers make incredible sandwiches!

A white dinner plate filled with sliced roasted chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and green beans.

And be sure you don’t skip the gravy!

It’s easy and is nothing short of amazing on top of the sliced chicken and a pile of mashed potatoes!

Now, aren’t you craving some roast chicken and gravy?

Brown gravy being poured from a glass gravy boat over sliced roasted chicken next to mashed potatoes and green beans.

Ready to make one of the most comforting home-cooked meals of all time? Go for it!

And when you do, be sure to take a photo, post it on Instagram, and tag @HowToFeedaLoon and hashtag #HowToFeedaLoon!

A roast chicken sitting on an oval platter with sliced lemons and herbs surrounding the bird.

Perfect Roast Chicken

This roasted whole chicken really is amazing. The flavors are classic. So simple, but so incredible in flavor. Ideal for entertaining or even a weeknight meal. Be sure to make the gravy/sauce!
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Entree
Cuisine: American / French
Keyword: how long to roast a chicken, how to roast a chicken, Roasted Chicken
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 356kcal

Equipment

  • Roasting pan, preferably with a rack

Ingredients

  • 4 lb chicken whole, giblets removed
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter room temperature
  • 1 tsp rosemary fresh, finely chopped, plus 1 sprig
  • 1 tsp thyme fresh, finely chopped, plus 1 sprig
  • 3 cloves garlic finely minced
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 lemon cut in half
  • 2 cups chicken broth plus more, if necessary
  • ½ cup white wine

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 475°F
  • Prepare the compound butter by adding the butter, rosemary, thyme, garlic, and smoked paprika to a medium-sized bowl. Use a fork to fully incorporate the herbs, garlic, and paprika into the butter.
  • Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel. Liberally salt and pepper the cavity of the bird. Stuff the lemon halves and one sprig each of the rosemary and thyme into the cavity.
  • Use a spatula, or even better, your clean hands, to rub the butter mixture all over the outside of the bird. Wash hands and then sprinkle salt and pepper all over the outside of the chicken.
  • Place the chicken on a rack placed in a roasting pan breast-side up. Pour 1 cup of chicken broth into the pan.
  • Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes, turning the pan 180° after 10 minutes, if browning too much on one side. Baste every 20 minutes. Add more chicken broth to the pan if becoming too dry or starting to burn.
  • Lower the heat to 400°F and cook until an internal temperature reaches 165°F. Continue basting every 20 minutes and adding more broth if necessary. (See Notes for Total Roast Time)
  • Remove the pan from the oven and carefully transfer the rack with the chicken on it to a cutting board. The chicken needs to rest for 10 minutes. Remove the lemons and herbs in the cavity before serving.
  • Meanwhile, pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the liquid in the pan. Place the pan on the stove over two burners and heat to medium-high. Add the wine, broth, and a liberal pinch of salt and pepper and bring to a strong simmer. Cook for 2 minutes and then use a strainer to transfer the gravy/sauce into a heat-resistant gravy boat.
  • Place the roast chicken on a platter and serve at once with the gravy on the side.

Video

Notes

The compound butter can be made up to 3 days in advance.  Keep chilled in the fridge up until about 3 hours before roasting the chicken.  Allow to sit out on the counter to become soft. 
Before placing the chicken on the rack, make sure the bird is breast-side up.  The legs and the wings should be on the bottom half of the bird (see photos and video for reference). 
Basting is not 100% necessary, but we find it does help to produce a juicier bird.  If you don't have a baster, just use a large spoon to pour the liquid in the pan over the top of the chicken.  
Cooking times will vary due to the size of the chicken, how cold it is when it goes into the oven, and actual oven temperatures.  Use the following chart as a guideline. 
Weight of Chicken           Total Roast Time
  • 3 - 4 lbs                    60 minutes
  • 4-5 lbs                      65 - 90 minutes
  • 5-7+ lbs                    90 - 120 minutes
The best way to ensure your roast chicken is fully cooked is to place an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh and wait until the internal temperature reaches 165°F to 170°F. 
Leftover chicken can be kept in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.  It can easily be frozen for up to 2 months. 

Nutrition

Calories: 356kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 112mg | Sodium: 294mg | Potassium: 294mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 580IU | Vitamin C: 14mg | Calcium: 27mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe? Take a Picture!Mention @HowToFeedALoon or tag #HowToFeedALoon!

POST UPDATE: This recipe was originally published in December 2014, but was updated with improved tweaks to the recipe, new tips and photography, and a fabulous new video in March 2021!

3 Comments

  • 5 stars
    Hey guys! I’ve never roasted a whole chicken (usually just grab a rotisserie chicken at the local market) but this looked so good and so easy that I had to give it a go. I roasted a 5 pound chicken last evening, following your recipe to a “t.”

    It was amazing! Perfectly cooked, so flavorful and so moist. Absolutely delicious! No more rotisserie chickens for this family!

    As always, thanks so much for yet another 5-star recipe and I love the website. I used to scan lots of recipe websites looking for ideas, but now HowToFeedALoon.com has become my exclusive, go-to website. I spend at least 15-30 minutes a day perusing the website (okay, I’m a foodie) looking for something new and different to make. I’ve yet to be disappointed! Keep the great recipes (and the awesome videos) coming and thanks again!

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