A whole roast chicken is one of those things that can be incredibly delicious or incredibly boring. My own approach to chicken is similar to how I look at tomatoes or pizza: if they’re just so-so, don’t even bother. But when they’re good, they’re really good, and I’ve made countless versions in my quest to find out how to roast a whole chicken.
For example, there’s the method that calls for flipping middway through cooking, or the technique that involves brining in advance, or the one that stuffs all kinds of aromatics under the skin. I’ve tried just about all of them and am happy to report that the best roast chicken recipe happens to be extremely simple. Aside from the basic EVOO + salt and pepper equation, there are three secrets I count on to ensure the juiciest bird with crispy golden brown skin every time.
Read on for how to roast a whole chicken for the best results, and scroll to the bottom for the recipe.
Roast chicken tip #1: Remove the backbone before roasting.
If you’re wondering how to roast a whole chicken in the easiest, fastest way possible, the answer lies in the butterfly technique, also known as removing the backbone. I ask the butcher to remove it when I’m at the grocery store to make my life really easy, but you can totally do it yourself, too. Start by removing the giblets, then rinse the chicken and pat dry. Place your bird on a cutting board with the backbone facing up. It’s easiest to use kitchen shears to cut alongside both sides of the backbone. Discard the backbone, then flip the breast side up and lightly press with your palm to flatten the chicken. You’re ready!
Why butterfly your chicken before roasting? In short, this creates more surface area to come in direct contact with the heat, resulting in the crispiest, golden brown skin, which is what we’re going for. Plus, it cuts your cooking time in half (always a bonus.)
Roast chicken tip #2: Let it rest for 30 minutes.
I know, this seems like a really long time, but trust me: it’s worth the wait and yields the best roast chicken. I’m not sure where I initially picked up this weird little technique, but it really does make a huge difference. When you let the chicken rest after it comes out of the oven, all those wonderful juices redistribute throughout the bird making it super moist and flavorful throughout. “But won’t it get cold?” you might be wondering. I did too, but thankfully, there’s a fix for that. Pop the chicken back in your already preheated oven for five minutes just before serving, which is the perfect amount of time to rewarm without drying it out. Carve and eat!
Roast chicken tip #3: Let the sauce make itself.
One night, Adam suggested that I throw a bunch of cherry tomatoes in the pan alongside our chicken while it roasted. I thought this was a strange idea because I knew the tomatoes would break down and turn to mush at that high of heat—and I was right, but turns out that’s precisely what makes these so good. This one simple move creates a slow-roasted tomato confit that’s almost sauce-like, oozing with a sweetness that complements the chicken and creates a condiment that requires zero effort. Now I amp up the flavor by adding a whole head of garlic, sliced in half (squeeze the cloves onto the chicken for instant garlic paste!), and lots of lemon slices that caramelize in the oven to a candy-like consistency. Yum.
Here, I level up this roast chicken with a cilantro salsa verde that gets drizzled on at the end, but for ease, you could totally skip this step. The tomato, garlic, and lemon combination are flavorful enough to stand alone.
Now that you know how to roast a whole chicken for maximal flavor, minimal effort, I’d love to hear if you give this recipe a try! Rate and review the recipe below, and be sure to tag us on Instagram so I can see your version.
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dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free
- 1 whole chicken, backbone removed (I ask my butcher to do it - or see the post for instructions.)
- extra-virgin olive oil
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 head garlic, halved down the center horizontally, left in skins
- 1 large lemon, sliced thinly
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
for the cilantro salsa verde
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves and stems
- 1/2 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves and stems
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 tablespoons white wine (or rice) vinegar
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 450. In a large skillet or roasting pan, lay down your butterflied chicken, skin side up. Around it, arrange your tomatoes, garlic heads, and lemon slices.
- Drizzle olive oil over everything, and season well with salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes.
- Remove chicken from oven and let rest on counter, tented loosely with foil, for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the salsa verde by blending everything together in a blender. I like to leave mine a little chunky so you can see the fresh herbs, but you may need to add a little more olive oil to make it thin enough to drizzle.
- When you're ready to eat, pop the chicken back in the oven for 5 minutes to warm through. Cut crossways into fourths, so you'll end up with 2 breasts, and 2 legs for serving. Pass the cilantro salsa verde around the table and let people drizzle over the top. Eat!
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Spatchcock. Not Butterfly. And no chef I know would Ever discarded that backbone.
I just observed a very renowned chef make a roasted chicken in this fashion! The backbone was removed and a process was used to insure that the chicken made contact with the pan for good browning.
I won’t go into specifics but you need to research this method.
Thanks for the feedback — it’s my understanding that both “butterfly” and “spatchcock” are acceptable terms and are interchangeable for this method. I’d love to hear if you have a favorite use for the backbone — making stock?
Sounds amazing! Do you think it would work with bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts? If so, would you adjust the cooking time?
It totally would! I actually think the cooking time will be roughly the same, but maybe test it 10 minutes early just in case it’s done a tad sooner. Report back and let us know how it goes!
Made it tonight with bone-in, skin-in chicken breasts. It was AMAZING! Such a beautiful dish, too.
When you say loosely tent for 30 minutes, do you mean that you leave some space for air to escape?
Yes, the goal is to just keep some of the heat trapped inside so that the chicken doesn’t get completely cold, but since you put it back in the oven to rewarm, it’s not a crucial step.
I’m with the first comment.
It’s Spatchcok, not butterfly. Butterfly is totally different.
Loved this recipe. Simple, beautiful and delicious.
My new favorite. I made it exactly as written, including the salsa. It was super juicy and delicious, and the salsa was a great addition.