How to Roast a Whole Chicken
Learn how to make perfect roast chicken right in your own kitchen. We'll tell you the tools, spices, and cooking tips you'll need to roast a whole chicken, including how long to cook it and how to get the juiciest meat, crispiest skin, and most delectable flavor. Is your mouth watering yet? Let's get started!
All you need is a roasting pan (or a rimmed baking sheet in a pinch) and an instant-read thermometer. Setting a roasting rack into the pan is optional but will help the chicken cook more evenly, since air can circulate freely under the chicken. With a roasting rack, the chicken won't be resting in its own drippings, which will give you crispier skin. For easier cleanup, you can line the pan with aluminum foil.
You can also spatchcock (aka butterfly) your chicken, or remove the backbone and flatten it out before roasting on a flat rack in a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet. A spatchcocked chicken roasts more quickly and evenly and results in lots of crispy skin. Read more about how to spatchcock and roast the juiciest chicken ever.
Brining Chicken (Optional)
One secret to really flavorful, juicy roast chicken is brining: either wet-brining by soaking in salt water or dry-brining by rubbing the chicken with salt. If your chicken is kosher, you're in luck: it's already brined.
How to wet-brine a non-kosher chicken:
- Dissolve ½ cup kosher salt (or ¼ cup table salt) in two quarts of water. Immerse the chicken completely in the solution and place in the refrigerator.
- You should let it soak for at least one hour, but no longer than five or six hours.
- Pour off the brine, rinse the chicken under cold running water, and pat it dry with paper towels. For extra-crispy skin, return the bird to the refrigerator and let it air-dry for another hour, or overnight, before roasting.
How to dry-brine a non-kosher chicken:
- Measure 1 tablespoon kosher salt (not table salt) for every 5 pounds of chicken. You can add dry spices or lemon zest if you'd like, but it's the salt that will make the chicken juicy.
- Sprinkle the salt inside and outside the chicken. Cover the chicken loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours or up to 3 days. If you refrigerate for 3 days, uncover the chicken during the last 8 hours so the skin can air dry. This creates the crispiest skin.
- No need to rinse the bird, simply pat dry as needed and proceed with the recipe of your choice. Just remember the chicken drippings will be salty, so taste them before adding any more seasoning to the pan sauce or gravy.
If you're not brining, pat the chicken dry with paper towels to remove extra moisture and help the skin brown. For more on brining your bird, check out How to Brine Turkey.
Roast Chicken Flavor-Boosters
A chicken roasted with nothing but salt, pepper, and butter is very tasty indeed. But it's also easy to build on these basic flavors. Chop up fresh herbs and tuck them under the chicken's skin along with a few pats of butter, or stuff sprigs into the chicken cavity along with quartered onions and cloves of garlic. Wedges of aromatic fruit such as lemons or oranges will perfume the bird as it roasts, infusing the meat and the pan juices with extra flavor.
Roast Chicken Dry Rubs
Many cooks use a dry rub — a blend of dried and ground spices — rubbing them under the chicken's skin and inside the cavity. Since they're under the skin, the flavorings won't burn; plus they'll infuse the meat. This is a great way to add some spice if you'll be discarding the skin.
- For a Southwestern flavor, try chile powder or pureed fresh chiles, cumin, and sage.
- For an Indian-inspired bird, mix together equal parts ground coriander and cumin, plus turmeric and a pinch or two of cardamom or garam masala.
- To give the chicken a Thai flair, try a paste of ginger, lemon grass, green chilies, cilantro, and lime juice.
Check out our collection of Rub Recipes.
Skin On or Off?
Crispy, fragrant roast chicken skin is delicious, but can be fatty. But whether you eat it or remove it, always roast with the skin on, as it holds in moisture and keeps the meat from drying out.
How to Truss a Chicken for Roasting
If you're roasting a whole chicken that's not been spatchcocked (see above), you can truss the bird before roasting it — that is, tie it with butcher's twine to keep the legs close to the body. This is not an essential step, but it does make the chicken slightly easier to handle, and it helps hold the stuffing in if you've stuffed the chicken.
- To truss a chicken, cut about a 3-foot length of heatproof butcher's twine.
- Lay the chicken on a clean surface with the breast facing up.
- Hold one end of the string in each hand, and loop the center of the string underneath the chicken's tail.
- Catch the ends of the legs inside the string, then cross the string over the chicken's breast, making an X.
- Loop the string under and around the wings, then tie the string snugly in a knot across the middle of the breast. Make sure that the ends of the wings are tucked in.
There are two methods for roasting a whole chicken:
1. Regular-heat method:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- Roast whole (thawed) chickens for 20 minutes per pound, plus an additional 15 minutes.
2. High-heat method (this creates a crispy, darker skin):
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) and cook whole (thawed) chicken for 10-15 minutes.
- Then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and roast for 20 minutes per pound. (Do not add the extra 15 minutes to the cooking time as with the regular method.)
VIDEO: Orange Herb Roasted Chicken
Here's a roast chicken recipe that follows the regular-heat method.
How to Tell When Your Roast Chicken Is Done
Whether you roast a chicken using the regular-heat or high-heat method, a whole chicken is ready when a instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the inner thigh (close to but not touching the thigh bone) reads at least 165 degrees F (74 degrees C).
- The temperature of the meat will continue to rise slightly when you pull it out of the oven (this is called "carryover cooking"), so if the thermometer shows a few degrees below the target, give it a few minutes to rest — the internal temperature might still rise to at least 165 degrees F (74 degrees C).
- When you remove the chicken from the oven, cover it loosely with a doubled sheet of aluminum foil, and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing. This redistributes the juices and results in moister chicken.
How Long to Roast a Chicken
Use this chart to determine how long to roast your chicken:
Roasting Times Chart
|Weight (in lbs.)||Regular Method||High Heat Method|
|2.5 to 3||1 hour 15 minutes||1 hour|
|3 to 3.5||1 hour 25 minutes||1 hour 10 minutes|
|3.5 to 4||1 hour 35 minutes||1 hour 20 minutes|
|4 to 4.5||1 hour 45 minutes||1 hour 30 minutes|
|4.5 to 5||1 hour 55 minutes||1 hour 40 minutes|
|5 to 5.5||2 hours 5 minutes||1 hour 50 minutes|
|5.5 to 6||2 hours 15 minutes||2 hours|
|6 to 6.5||2 hours 25 minutes||2 hours 10 minutes|
|6.5 to 7||2 hours 35 minutes||2 hours 20 minutes|
|7 to 7.5||2 hours 45 minutes||2 hours 30 minutes|
NOTE: These times are for unstuffed whole (not spatchcocked) birds. Add 15 minutes to the total cooking time if you're roasting a stuffed chicken. And as with the chicken itself, make sure the stuffing reaches a temperature of at least 165 degrees F (74 degrees C).
A spatchcocked chicken takes less time to roast. A 3-lb spatchcocked chicken roasted at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) can be done in about 45 to 55 minutes. Try this recipe for Butterflied Roast Chicken with Lemon and Rosemary.
Favorite Roast Chicken Recipes
- Juicy Roasted Chicken
- Roast Chicken with Rosemary
- Cornbread Stuffed Chicken
- Lemon Stuffed Chicken
- Raisin Rice Stuffed Chicken