Here at Home Ec 101, we get many questions on how to stretch those grocery dollars. One of my personal favorites is to roast chicken. You can get a lot of bang for your buck when you buy whole chickens. As you are choosing your chicken, be sure to watch the amount of salt water solution injected. You don’t want more than 5%. The salt water itself isn’t bad, you just don’t want to be paying for a lot of weight that isn’t meat.
The chicken in today’s example was 5lbs, and I’ll be using it for three meals*.
*Important note – this was written back in 2007, back when I only had two very young children. One five-pound chicken doesn’t cut it at this point and I roast them two at a time if I want to have a chance of any leftovers.
Also, the bones will later be used for homemade stock. It is important to consider seasonings carefully when deciding on the future use of the bird. In this example, I have the original meal, chicken salad, and stir fry. With this in mind, I chose not to go crazy with an exotic rub. However, spice rubs can be fun, and I will link to several of my favorites after the recipe.
When preparing to roast a chicken, I first preheat the oven to 350. I then remove the bird from its packaging and give it a thorough once over in the sink. Check for pin feathers or any large fatty areas that can easily be trimmed.
Never forget to remove the giblets! I don’t eat them, but some people swear giblet gravy is the only way to go. I’ll leave that to your discretion.
We’ll tackle gravy on another day. Which I finally got around to, only 14 years later…
Slather the chicken with 1 – 2 TBSP of olive oil. Don’t be scared to use your hands and get all of the crevices. The fat is what keeps the bird moist and ensures basting is unnecessary. Rub the bird with your choice of spices. The chicken in the picture above example was rubbed with Chef Paul Prudhomme Blackened Redfish Magic, one of my favorite seasoning blends. (I served the meal with baked sweet potatoes, roasted carrots and onions, and dressing.)
Place the chicken in a heavy roasting pan or large casserole dish. Make sure the pan is deep enough to contain two or three cups of liquid in addition to the bird and any vegetables. Typically, I like to add potatoes, carrots, and onions to the pan. As a final touch, I usually add a few slices of onion and a sliced clove of garlic to the cavity.
The vegetables will absorb some of the juices and a lot of flavor from the chicken. Be careful not to overload your pan. A crowded pan can increase the cook time.
The bird will need to be roasted for approximately twenty minutes per pound. Check on the bird occasionally (with the light, not by opening the door). If the skin starts to brown too quickly, tent the bird with aluminum foil. Fold foil into a tent shape and place it over the breast to protect it from direct heat.
Remove the bird from the oven and check the temperature with a meat thermometer. Poultry needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of 180*. It is important to note that the bird’s internal temperature will rise for 5 to 10 minutes after it has been removed from the oven. Don’t despair if the temperature reads 178; it will reach 180 before carving. Remove the bird from the tray and set it on a cutting board, preferably one with a well around the edge to catch drippings.
If you had vegetables in the pan, check them for doneness and return them to the oven if necessary.
Enjoy your first meal. Let the chicken hang out in the fridge while you eat.
After dinner, come back to your chicken. Separate the meat from the bones and store it refrigerated in tightly sealed containers. I toss the remaining carcass in a large freezer bag and wait until it’s been joined by a friend or two before preparing stock.
Recipes for the leftover meat will follow over the next few days.
Enjoy these additional ideas for seasoning roast chicken: