Preparing dishes using pre-roasted chicken is one of my go-to strategies in the ongoing journey of feeding the family on weeknights. My quest to put a relatively hassle free, fresh and simple dinner on the table depends heavily on my repertoire of quick soup, salad and casserole recipes using pre-cooked chicken. For years I bought the ubiquitous rotisserie chicken available almost everywhere I frequented. (Just recently I saw a row of the merry little maidens rotating away on a rotisserie spit at a local quick trip gas station.) However, the problem with the store bought chicken is, although very convenient, it doesn’t taste very good. Kind of unnatural and chemical tasting. And it’s dried out.
I became disenchanted a couple years ago and decided to switch to roasting my own. It’s not often in life making such a little change garners such huge results, but this is one of them. First of all, roasting the chicken at home is so stinking simple and easy. Even if you do nothing but rub the bird with a little olive oil and season it with salt and pepper before sticking it in the oven to roast, the resulting meat is juicy, tender and eons ahead of any purchased rotisserie chicken. I can also show you a couple of quick prep steps which will pump up the flavor factor even more. These birds are so tasty!
Best of all I use the leftover roasted bones to make a killer homemade chicken stock. I’ll show you how in an upcoming post.
Since this recipe is so simple, the quality of the chicken used really effects the outcome. Get a great, fresh organic bird to roast. Costco has a two pack of organic roasting chickens I often use. On most winter Saturday mornings you can find me sticking a couple of these birds in the oven to roast (after a quick ten minute prep time). After they are cooked, I slice the meat off the bone and store it to use during the week. It’s so nice to get a head start on the upcoming week.
I’m not making any assumptions here on your previous encounters with a whole chicken. First of all, this is what the whole chicken looks like when you grab it at the store. After you take the plastic off, fish out the organ meat (liver, heart and gizzards) usually wrapped in paper and stored in the cavity of the bird.
Save the organ meat to makes terrines and pates later, or just toss them if these culinary adventures are not on your horizon.
Rinse the bird and pat dry with paper towels. Rub the outside of the bird with olive oil and season it generously with salt and pepper. It’s perfectly OK to stick it in the oven to roast at this point. However, I like to add some extra goodies to pump up the flavor.
You can place any aromatics like lemons, herbs and garlic in the cavity of the bird to enhance the flavor. I used one lemon cut in half, a sprig of fresh rosemary and one whole garlic head sliced in half. After adding them to the large cavity of the bird, I tie the legs together for even cooking.
Place the bird in a roasting pan and cook at 425 degrees for 30 minutes. This step caramelizes the skin and locks in juices. At this point, turn the oven down to 350 degrees and roast until juices run clear. The internal temperature taken with a thermometer should read 160 degrees. Depending on the size of the bird this should take about an additional hour or so of roasting time.
Remove from oven, cover with tented foil and let stand for twenty minutes before carving. This ensures the juiciest, tastiest chicken ever. The leftover juice in the pan is perfect for making gravy too. Good luck! Leave a comment below and let me know about your adventures in roasting a chicken at home. Enjoy!