Roast chicken wears a lot of hats. For some people it’s the ultimate comfort food, made regularly for family dinners and low-key dinner parties. For other cooks, it’s an intimidating rite of passage they feel the need to master. Whole roast chicken should be in every cook’s repertoire, because it’s such a crowd-pleaser and once you get the method right, it’s actually a friendly, forgiving, and versatile dish.
There are as many ways to cook a whole chicken as there are cooks. This recipe, based on a method made famous by chef Judy Rogers of Zuni Cafe in San Francisco, will give you flavorful and juicy chicken meat and crispy skin. She takes pre-seasoning a step further by salting the bird a day or two ahead of time. This isn’t 100% necessary, but it does result in well-seasoned chicken.
Again, as with roasting any meat, follow the steps of tempering and pre-seasoning the meat, roasting in a dry, high-heat environment, and resting before carving. Because a whole roast chicken is a larger piece of meat, rest it for at least 10 if not 20 minutes before carving. These steps will result in tender, juicy, roast chicken.
- 1 4 to 5 pound whole chicken
- 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
- 1 small cluster fresh rosemary
- A day before you plan to cook, unwrap the chicken and pat it dry. Sprinkle salt all over the skin, in between the wings and breasts, and in the cavity. Remove any giblets from cavity and trim skin around neck, if needed. Place rosemary in cavity and refrigerate overnight.
- When you're ready to cook, heat the oven to 450°F and center a rack in the middle of the oven. Bring the bird out of the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking.
- Place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven for 10 minutes before cooking. Remove from oven. Pat the chicken dry again, and place in the skillet, breast side-up. Place in center of middle rack and cook for about 20 minutes, then flip the chicken. Roast for another 20 minutes. After 10 more minutes, flip the bird and check its temperature. Continue to cook, breast side-up, for up to 10 to 15 minutes, until the temperature reads 160°F to 165°.
- Tip the bird so that the pan juices run into the skillet and transfer to a cutting board. Rest for 10 to 20 minutes. Carve and serve with pan juices, if desired.