How To Roast A Chicken

Of all the dishes in my repertoire, this is the one that gets the biggest wows, the one that Craig requests the most often, the one that never fails to impress: it’s the roast chicken from the Chez Panisse cookbook with a few touches of my own (namely: potatoes and garlic). This video will show you how easy it is and then, after the jump, I’ll post a recipe and a few more tips.

Before I post the recipe (since the recipe is basically in the video) a few extra notes:

* Wash the chicken first and then pat dry with lots of paper towels. I can’t overemphasize how important it is that your chicken is super-dry, otherwise it’s going to steam.

* In terms of proportions, I use about 1/3 of a cup of kosher salt (I know that’s an awful lot, but I put it in the bowl with the other spices and then sprinkle it all over the chicken until the chicken’s coated: I don’t necessarily use all that salt), a Tbs of pepper, and then 1 Tbs fennel seeds and 1 tsp (or less) of cayenne pepper.

* It’s good to have a good roasting pan, and mine wasn’t very expensive. Go to your local kitchen supply store and get a good big one but don’t spend more than $40; I didn’t, and I still love mine.

Ok, that’s all I can think of to say: the rest should be evident from the video. And as promised, here’s the recipe as I recently wrote it to my mother in an e-mail. [It feeds 3; for any more, buy a bigger bird and use more spices.]


A 4 lb chicken that’s preferably organic and/or freerange

fennel seeds

cayenne pepper

kosher salt

fresh thyme (not dried thyme)

1 pound of red potatoes

butcher’s twine (to tie up the chicken legs)

a head of garlic

olive oil

The recipe is super easy. Take the chicken, remove the giblets from the cavity, wash the chicken under cold water and then dry THOROUGHLY. Use tons of paper towels and get it really really dry… the skin will get crispy that way.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a bowl, combine a big handful of salt–maybe a half a cupful–with lots of fresh ground pepper, a tablespoon of the fennel seeds and a scant teaspoon of the cayenne pepper (be careful it’s REALLY spicy… use a bit more if you want it spicy.)

Sprinkle the seasoning inside the chicken’s cavity, and then stuff the cavity with the fresh thyme. Tie the chicken’s legs together. Sprinkle the seasoning over the rest of the chicken–be really aggressive here, the salt will go through the chicken skin into the bird and that’s what’ll make it taste good.

Place breast-side up in a roasting pan and then take all the potatoes and cut them in half. Toss the potatoes with a bit of olive oil until they’re coated, throw in a few cloves of garlic still in the peel (don’t peel it), and toss with some salt and pepper. Place the potaotes CUT SIDE down all around the chicken. Placing them this way will get them nice and crispy and brown.

Roast in the oven for about an hour (for a 4 pound bird) a bit more if the bird is bigger. You’ll know it’s done when the chicken is golden brown and the potatoes are brown underneath.

When it’s done, remove the chicken to a plate or a platter and cover with aluminum foil: let rest for 15 minutes. That’s REALLY important: it allows the juices to go back into the bird.

Take the potatoes out and put on a platter.

If you want to make a delicious sauce, pour white wine into the roasting pan and put the pan on the stove and scrape up the brown bits as the wine boils. Let it reduce a bit and then pour into a bowl.

To carve the chicken, cut off the legs and thighs first (using a sharp kniife): don’t be afraid to push hard to cut through the bone. Then cut the wings off and finally cut the meat off the breast.

That’s it! It’s the best you’ll ever have.

33 thoughts on “How To Roast A Chicken”

  1. You really menage to make it sounds so easy…

    I’m not too good in roasting a chicken on my own, I’ll give it one more try following your recipe. Hope it will work or otherwise I’ll give up forever!

  2. I came here looking for a roast chicken recipe after having not kept up with your blog for a few weeks. It is clearly meant to be that I would stumble on this one today! I’ll be trying it next week and I’ll never stray again.

  3. Roasted chicken is one of my favorites. Easy to make and it essentially take care of itself when it’s in the oven. It really looks more complicated than it is. Great leftovers, too …

  4. FAF, don’t give up on roast chicken. You will succeed and the journey to the feast (this recipe certainly should take you well along that path!) will be entertaining as well as educational and filling. May I make one suggestion though, never try a recipe with more than five ingredients. How else will you be able to tell what you like or not. AG’s really has less than five. And yes, count the chicken as one of the ingredients. Keep notes, put together your own recipe and have fun.

  5. FAF, don’t give up on roast chicken. You will succeed and the journey to the feast (this recipe certainly should take you well along that path!) will be entertaining as well as educational and filling. May I make one suggestion though, never try a recipe with more than five ingredients. How else will you be able to tell what you like or not. AG’s really has less than five. And yes, count the chicken as one of the ingredients. Keep notes, put together your own recipe and have fun.

  6. Another thing to look for in the chicken is one that has been “air chilled.” I didn’t know what that meant until I read McGee, but basically they chill chickens after slaughter either in cold air or cold water; water-chilling is done to cause the bird to absorb water so they weigh more and fetch a higher price, but you’re just paying for the soaking water at that point.

    Air chilling doesn’t make the bird less juicy, but it goes hand in hand with the washing and drying with paper towels — as with anything, the drier the skin, the more it will brown, as it spends less time dehydrating and more time above 212F.

    It really makes quite a difference, I was surprised. And it’s worth the extra buck or two for the chicken since, if you think about it, you’re getting more actual meat per pound than from water-chilled birds.

  7. Great recipe, and I agree that a simple roast chicken is one of the greatest things. I would add three comments: First, it’s incredible how much the flavor improves if you season the chicken at least 24 hours ahead of time. (That’s a Zuni method and it works. Really. You still get good results seasoning just before, but it’s even better a day later. Really.)

    Second, I totally agree that dry skin is key. So, in addition to paper towels, let the chicken air dry for bit before roasting.

    Lastly, your test for whether the chicken is done is too vague, and cooking times will vary based on the bird. Use a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh, and figure the temp will rise another 10 degrees at least while the bird is resting.

    MMMMM Chicken!!!!

  8. Good to see that y’all are recycling these days AG! ;-) And the chicken looks fab as well – I am now officially famished and must find some lunch…

  9. Hey Adam,

    You’re great! You and Craig are so cute. I love the looks of that chicken and those potatoes.

    I roast chickens regularly too for my sweetie and me, and it is a frequently requested meal around here too. It’s so simple and delicious, and it makes the house smell soooo good.

    One thing though – it looks like you hacked the ass right in half! There’s more of the chef’s treat left on that bird.

    Careful you don’t burn yourself on the oven. You need those hands. (God, I hope that didn’t sound dirty. Did that sound dirty? I meant, like, for cooking and writing…)

  10. Adam I’m marinating my chicken Right Now!!! Will roast it tomorrow, hehe you better be right that this is THE best, heh ‘cuz I raved about your recipe all day to my bf haha…jk

    Thanks for the Recipe :P

  11. Adam, nice job! This looks very good. I’m curious, do you squirt the roast garlic out of it’s skin or is it just there to give off aromatic flavor in the cooking?

    Also, Mario Batali would tell you never to cover your meat in foil while it’s resting. The idea is that foil traps heats, creates steam, softens the crunchiness you worked so hard to achieve. That being said, I think if you tent it correctly this won’t be an issue.

    Fennel with roast chicken, what will they think of next? I’ve always fancied Jamaican Jerk or herb butter but this is going on the list.

  12. Hey Adam!!

    First let me give a shout out to your heavenly juicy kick-butt Roast Chicken… IT IS THE BEST CHICKEN I’VE EVER TASTED!!!

    Second, dudeee that was an awful lot of salt. I used 1/2 a cup of kosher salt and didn’t even use all of it, I only sprinkled half of it on the chicken and the potatoes and it WAS SOOOO FREAKING SALTY. Did I do anything wrong?

    I mean I’ve been known for loving salty stuff, but that was way too much, maybe because I marinated it over night? I’m not sure what happened there…Hmmm *ponder*

    However, that was only minor, I know minor because the meat was so juicy and PERFECTLY cooked and after you peeled of the salty skin (I knooow, I was so sad too, that was like one of the best parts) the meat actually tasted just right, so delicious and succulent, I really have no word for it. Oh I even added shallot in with the potattoes and garlics, and it was pretty darn good, mebbe you should try that next time, and try to marinate it overnight too. We paired it with a Rosé and boyyy, we couldn’t move after dinner.

    The best part??? I still have plenty left over for tonight… Yippee *dance with joy*

    I’d def make this again and again and again (with less salt of course hehe)

    The funny part??? My bf never thought about reading your book, even though I kept telling him about it and had it laying around for a few months. This morning he grabbed it from the shelves to bring it to work to read during lunch and declared that he had to find out more about “this amateur dude” because that was THE BEST CHICKEN HE HAS EVER HAD.

    Thank you, thank you and thank you :P

  13. Adam,

    Thank you so much for posting this recipe!

    I had never made roasted chicken before, but I wowed my girlfriend and her guest with this dinner last night. The best chicken any of us have ever had. Plus it made an awesome chicken soup this afternoon.

    Thanks again!

  14. This was really good on the whole–tender chicken, good flavor and aroma, perfectly roasted potatoes–but I’d definitely cut down on the salt, and not just for health reasons. I used about 1/3 cup, and the skin was too salty. But most of the salt ended up in the white wine sauce, which smelled really good but could wreck the dish if used in excess. I’ll probably go for 1-2 TB. of salt next time.

  15. Hey Adam, pretty cool. Looks very tasty indeed! Might I suggest you add something green to that dinner to make it a PERFECT meal! Broccoli, asparagus, even a green salad would have topped it off just right.


  16. Please help me… I use a digital internal thermometer when roasting. I have roasted about 6 chickens so far, cooking between 375-400F and about 20 minutes per pound. My thermometer, inserted in the thigh away from the bone, says the bird is done, but every time I take it out, there is pink (sometimes red!) juice in the cavity. I don’t want to overcook, but I am not doing something right. Bird is completely thawed, not frozen, when put in the oven, never stuffed.

    Please help me… I love roast chicken but this is becoming a DISASTER!!!!

  17. This is funny – Adam calls the chicken’s butt “The Cook’s Treat”; Mrs. W. calls it “The Pope’s Nose”. Growing up, my family called it “The Parson’s Nose”.

  18. I made this yesterday… except for the fennel, which we didn’t have…. it was excellent! Those potatoes (I used Yukon Gold, which we DID have) were, wow – so good! And I followed your recommendations for the sauce – although along with the wine, I did end up adding a little chicken base and some cornstarch to thicken it just a bit. It, too, was delicious. Thanks – now I have a new way to “do” a chicken!

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