Sunday, April 29, 2012

Herb-Roasted Whole Chicken

It's tempting to think that grocery stores have cornered the market on whole chickens.  Every store in town has whole rotisserie chickens available cheap and still hot off the spit nearly 24-hours per day.  And really, I've got nothing against that chicken.  In fact, I happily use it as a shortcut for things like Barbecue Chicken Pizza if I don't have the time to cook up my own chicken that day.

The world of whole chickens doesn't stop at the supermarket rotisserie, though.  Roasted meat is just a good thing, and it was high time that I tried my own hand at a whole bird.  As so often happens when I put off trying a recipe because there's a "good enough" alternative easily available, everything turned out both easier and tastier than expected.

One of the best things about this process is that it's both incredibly simple and incredibly cheap.  Unlike the boneless-skinless chicken breast that we buy so much of and pay a premium for, whole birds are almost absurdly inexpensive - I think I paid about $3.50 for this 5-pound chicken.  Throw in a lemon or two, a few cloves of garlic, half of an onion, salt, pepper, cooking oil, and some herbs (I used sage, thyme, marjoram, and savory), and you're all set.

First, pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees, and roughly chop about 1/3 to 1/2 of the onion.  You won't actually be eating it, so don't worry too much about size/consistency.  Peel the garlic cloves, slice the lemon into quarters, and separate your herbs into two roughly-equal piles.

Rinse the chicken well both inside and out and pat dry with paper towels.  Next, stuff the cavity with the lemon wedges, onion, herbs, and garlic.  Give the garlic cloves a good whack with the side of a knife before they go in so they'll add plenty of flavor.  Don't worry if you can't fit everything that you prepped into the cavity.

Twine?  Pssh.  No need for twine.  Just use a sharp knife to make a small slit in the skin near the back of the chicken opposite one leg, then tuck the tip of the leg through.

Fold the other leg under the first, tuck the wings in under the legs, and you've got a nicely trussed bird without any need for twine, skewers, or anything else inedible.

Take the other half of the herbs, remove them from any stems, and give them a fine chop.  Toss them in a small bowl with plenty of salt and pepper.

Add the juice of your second lemon and a couple of tablespoons of cooking oil.

I'm not usually a huge fan of cooking with vegetable oil rather than olive oil, but in this case, it's important.  We'll be roasting the chicken well over the smoke point of olive oil, so if you use it on the bird, you may end up with a very bitter, burnt taste.  Vegetable/canola oil (or blends) have a higher smoke point, and can stand up to the heat of the roasting process.

Coat the bird well on all sides with the herb mixture, and you're ready to roast.

 A little over an hour later, you'll have a beautifully-roasted chicken.  Take the temperature at the thickest part of the thigh and ensure that you've reached at least 175 degrees, then rest the finished bird under foil 10-20 minutes so it can cool and all the juices don't run out when it comes time to eat.

Slice, serve, and enjoy!

Recipe: Herb-Roasted Whole Chicken
Prep Time: 15 Minutes | Cook Time: 80 Minutes | Difficulty: Easy | Servings: 10

  • 1 Whole Chicken, approx. 5 lbs
  • 1 Whole Lemon
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • 2 oz Poultry Herbs (Sage, Thyme, Marjoram, Savory)
  • 1/2 Sweet Onion
  • 2-3 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Thoroughly rinse chicken both outside and in cavity.  Pat dry with paper towels.
  3. Quarter one lemon.  Roughly chop onion.  Peel and lightly crush garlic cloves.  Stuff chicken cavity with lemon, onion, garlic, and half of herbs.
  4. Truss chicken by making a small slit in the skin and inserting the end of the opposite leg.  Tuck other leg under the first.  Fold wings under tucked legs.
  5. Remove remaining herbs from stems and chop finely.  Mix generously with salt and pepper.  Add 2-3 tbsp oil and juice of the second lemon.
  6. Coat chicken thoroughly with herb mixture on all sides.
  7. Roast chicken on a heavy pan 75-90 minutes until skin is golden brown and internal temperature of thigh at the thickest point is at least 175 degrees.
  8. Rest chicken under foil 10-20 minutes.


  1. Looks delicious...but my next question is, can we have a recipe for the orzo dish that's in the final picture??