Classic roasted whole chicken at home that is juicy with crispy skin is just a few easy steps away. This simple roast chicken recipe is the perfect healthy comfort food you can easily make at home.
This is very close to that "ideal" recipe of just throwing something in the oven and having it come out with great taste and moisture with crispy skin.
Based on a Cooks Illustrated recipe called Weeknight Roast Chicken. I took the technique and expanded the details and a few other changes.
The general idea is to preheat an oven with a cast-iron skillet to 450°, prep the chicken with some oil or butter, and season to taste. Put the chicken breast side up in the hot pan so the dark meat will cook faster, directly contacting the skillet.
Cook until breast temp of 120° and then turn off the oven and let it continue to cook in the hot oven. It works well.
👨🍳How to make this recipe
- Prepare a whole chicken with a coat of oil, and seasoning.
- Place on a preheated pan in a high oven.
- Turn off the oven half way through cooking and allow to finish cooking in the oven.
- Make gravy if you want an serve.
A 3-pound chicken will be 3-4 servings while a 4-pound chicken 4-6 servings. A serving of whole chicken will need ¾ to 1 pound of chicken once cooked and account for waste. It also will vary some by appetite and side dishes.
Clean, trim, and pat dry a whole chicken. Be sure to remove any giblets from the inside of the chicken.
I have a hard time not rinsing the interior of a bird. If you do it, do it carefully and clean up after done. See my discussion on Chicken… To Rinse or Not To Rinse?
Tie the chicken legs together with kitchen twine and tuck the chicken wing tips under the ribs. This will help them cook more, even with the chicken's body.
Be sure to pat dry with paper towels to get crispier skin. Give the chicken a good brush of vegetable or olive oil for crispier skin. A light coat of butter is more traditional, which is fine.
Many people like to use rosemary, thyme, other spices, or fresh herbs. Spice mixes like lemon pepper or cajun spices are also excellent choices.
Spicy Options: Do you want more taste, more like a tasty rotisserie chicken? Kick it up several notches with a spicy rub. Here is my spicy version of this recipe.
Mix this spicy rub after applying the oil or butter. 4 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon each of pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, and sugar. Then add 2 teaspoon paprika and ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional).
I would not make gravy if using the spicy rub.
♨️Cooking in the Oven
What pan to choose?
Any roasting pan will work well, but I suggest a large cast-iron skillet.
Cast iron transfers and retains heat well to help the chicken cook evenly. Plus, if you want to make gravy, it will perform better than a roasting pan. Add in cheap and non-stick when properly seasoned. You must buy some cast iron if you don't have it.
I don't suggest a rack. You want the breast side up and the chicken thighs in contact with the hot pan to cook faster to a higher temperature than the chicken breasts.
The last note on the pan is the chicken should be uncovered, so no lid is needed.
What oven settings to use to cook a whole chicken?
This cooking method starts with a high oven temperature of 425° convection or 450° conventional. There is no flexibility in that for this recipe.
Once the chicken reaches an internal temperature in the breast of 120° and 135° in the thigh, then turn off the oven and allow the chicken to finish cooking as the oven slowly cools.
This technique addresses the need for different final temperatures for dark vs. white meat.
⏰How Long to Cook
A 4-pound whole chicken will take about 1 hour to cook. About 25 minutes to reach 120° when the oven is turned off and another about 30 minutes to finish cooking to 165°.
Be sure to allow the chicken to rest for 5-10 minutes after removal from the oven to allow fluids to reabsorb into the meat cells. Also, cut with a sharp knife since the meat is moist and tender.
When is the chicken done and safe?
Chicken needs to reach 165° for safety. For texture, dark meat is better at 180°-185°, and the breast meat is good at 165°.
You are cooking to a final internal temperature and never by time alone. So you must use a thermometer.
Remember that whole chicken varies a lot in size and sometimes thickness. So the real cooking time varies by the size of the chicken and not the clock.
⏰Approxiate Cooking Time by Weight
Cooking time varies by the oven and the weight and thickness of the whole chicken.
Oven On Time
Oven Off Time
Total Cooking Time
|3-3 ½ lbs||about 25 minutes||about 25 minutes||about 50 minutes|
|4-4 ½ lbs||about 30 minutes||about 30 minutes||about 60 minutes|
|5 lbs||35-40 minutes||about 35 minutes||about 70+ minutes|
❓FAQs and Troubleshooting
Turn the oven back on to 350° and cook to a final internal temperature of 165°.
If turning the oven off makes you too nervous or you don't trust your oven, leave the oven at 200°. I recommend using a remote thermometer of some type to monitor for 165° in the breasts. Never cook by time.
This recipe depends on a high initial temperature, so that can not be changed.
A few helpful suggestions are to use a higher temperature oil instead of butter use a pan with some sides to prevent oven spatter. And be sure the chicken is as dry as possible before coating it with oil.
I have done this in three different ovens with good results, but some ovens may lose heat faster due to leaking or just poor insulation. If your oven is one of those, leave the oven on at 200°.
Also, frequently checking will lose heat rapidly. Use a remote thermometer and keep the door closed. Only check once, about 5 minutes before it should be done.
If you want to just straight-up roast the chicken without this technique, you would generally start with a high oven for about 20 minutes and then turn down to 350° for about another 40 minutes to reach 165°. I suggest looking at other roast chicken recipes.
But this will tend to leave the thigh area undercooked or breast overcooked, depending on your choices.
🥣How to Make Gravy
Gravy is a wonderful side dish for your chicken. It is great on mashed potatoes and on the meat.
I'm using the slurry method of homemade gravy in this recipe. Start by adding chicken stock or broth to the pan drippings. After boiling, slowly add a slurry of flour to the pan while whisking. Then boil until thickened.
You can easily adjust the volume to your needs. While 2 cups are enough if you just want some on the meat, you will want 4 cups if you do potatoes and gravy as a side dish.
See How To Make Gravy at Home for a more detailed discussion.
Roast chicken goes well with rice or potatoes of various types. Fresh salad and other common vegetables are also good compliments.
For a wine pairing with chicken or turkey, we like Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay. But a red wine like Pinot Noir also works well.
📖Whole Chicken Recipes
This recipe is listed in these categories. See them for more similar recipes.
Step-by-Step Photo Instructions
Spray a 12-inch oven-safe pan (cast iron preferred) with PAM. Place in the oven and preheat to 425° convection or 450° conventional.
Pat dry a whole chicken, tie legs together with kitchen string, and tuck wings under.
Coat the surface of the chicken with a good brush of oil or a tablespoon of butter. Butter will tend to smoke more.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste. I'm using some of my 7:2:1 All Purpose Seasoning. You can season any way you want.
Transfer the chicken to your preheated pan. Let it roast until breast temp is 120°, and thigh is 135°. About 30 minutes, it depends on size and oven.
Turn OFF the oven and let set in the hot oven until breast temp is 165° and thigh is 175°+, about 30 minutes. Move the chicken to a plate and pour any liquid in the chicken cavity into the pan. Allow the chicken to rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting with a sharp knife.
Combine flour with a cup of cold water. You need 2 tablespoons of flour for every cup of gravy you are making. You can use a bowl and whisk to combine the flour and water, or I like to use a Tupperware shaker.
Move the pan to the stovetop and add the amount of chicken stock or broth you want to the juices in the pan. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil and scrape anything off the bottom of the pan.
Slowly add most of the water/flour mixture while continuously stirring. In about 2-3 minutes, the mixture will thicken. Add more flour mixture is not thick enough and continue to stir. Continue this until the desired thickness. Add salt to taste.
How to Cook a Whole Chicken the Easy Way
- 1 whole chicken - about 4 lb.
- 1 tablespoon butter - Or Oil
- Salt and Pepper - to taste. Or seasoning of your choice.
Optional Gravy - this is for 2 cups. Double if having potatoes and gravy
- ¼ cup AP flour
- 2 cups chicken broth
- to taste salt
- Spray a 12-inch oven-safe pan (cast iron preferred) with PAM. Place in the oven and preheat to 425° convection or 450° conventional.
- Pat dry a whole chicken, tie legs together with kitchen string, and tuck wings under the body.
- Coat the surface of the chicken with a good brush of oil or a tablespoon of butter. Butter will tend to smoke more.
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste. You can season any way you want.
- Transfer the chicken to your preheated pan. Let it roast until breast temp is 120°, and thigh is 135°. About 30 minutes, it depends on size and oven.
- Turn OFF the oven and let set in the hot oven until breast temp is 165° and thigh is 175°+, about 30 minutes. Move the chicken to a plate and pour any liquid in the chicken cavity into the pan. Allow the chicken to rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting with a sharp knife.
- Move the chicken to a plate and pour any liquid in the chicken cavity into the pan.
Optional Gravy Instructions
- Combine flour with a cup of cold water. You need 2 tablespoons of flour for every cup of gravy you make. You can use a bowl and whisk to combine the flour and water, or I like to use a Tupperware shaker.
- Move the pan to the stovetop and add the amount of chicken stock or broth you want to the juices in the pan. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil and scrape anything off the bottom of the pan.
- Slowly add most of the water/flour mixture while continuously stirring. In about 2-3 minutes, the mixture will thicken. Add more flour mixture is not thick enough and continue to stir. Continue this until the desired thickness. Add salt to taste.
Your Own Private Notes
- The times will vary by size, thickness, and oven. Please cook by temperature and not by time. Times are provided for timing purposes only.
- Season to your taste. We usually use All Purpose Seasoning - 7:2:1 and 7:2:2.
- Crispy skin depends on drying the skin well with a paper towel before starting.
- Most people will use butter to coat the chicken, but the oil may give crisper skin and less smoke.
- The gravy is optional. 2 cups are enough for just the chicken, but you will want 4 cups if doing mashed potatoes with gravy.
- The spicy option is provided in the discussion
- Gravy is not included in nutrition.
- Oven issues, smoking ovens, and troubleshooting are provided in the post. Please check there first.
To adjust the recipe size:
You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
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Editor's Note: Originally Published October 22, 2011. Refreshed with expanded and clarified instructions and updated photos.