Simple Roast Chicken

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Servings:


    , or 2 pounds shredded chicken

Appears in

When it comes to selecting a chicken, pick the best bird you can afford. Free-range and organic chickens not only have an ethical advantage over the factory-farmed birds but also tend to have more flavor and, in my opinion, will be healthier for you and your family. For a few extra bucks, you really can’t go wrong.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 90-120 minutes


  • 1 (4-pound) chicken
  • 1-2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • Olive oil
  • Freshly cracked pepper and salt to season


  1. If time permits, it’s best to salt the chicken the day before you plan to cook it. For best results, rub the bird with the kosher salt and then wrap it in plastic wrap. This will result in a juicier and more flavorful finished product, though I’ve definitely skipped this step with fine results.
  2. When you’re ready to cook the chicken, preheat oven to 400°F. Whether or not you salted your chicken, rinse it under cold water and pat it dry. Drizzle with olive oil and rub salt and pepper all over the chicken. Be sure to get inside the cavity as well.
  3. For a more pleasing presentation, tuck the wings under the body and tie the drumsticks together with a bit of kitchen twine so they stay snug to the body. No need to do anything fancy. Again, I’ve skipped this step with fine results, but if you don’t tuck the wings back, they will burn.
  4. Roast the chicken, breast side up, until the juices run clear and the chicken registers 170°F in the thickest part of the thigh. (In actuality, I always pull mine around 165°F because it will continue to cook after you take it out, but my lawyers say I should specify 170°F.)
  5. This roasting will probably take about 90 to 100 minutes for a 4-pound bird, but I recommend using a meat thermometer to ensure that it’s done. Baste the chicken with the juices and rotate the pan every 30 minutes.
  6. When the chicken is done roasting, cover it loosely with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing into it.

Six Roast Chicken Variations

Herbed Butter Chicken

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper

In a food processor, combine all ingredients and pulse until mixed well (or chop finely and mix well in a small bowl). Generously rub dried bird inside and out with mixture. Roast normally. Baste frequently with juices.

Citrus Zing Chicken

  • 2 lemons
  • 2 limes
  • 1 orange
  • tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper

Zest the fruit and combine zests, salt, and pepper. Coat bird well with mixture (preferably the night before cooking). Before cooking, stuff cavity with zested lemons, orange, and limes and roast normally.

Five Spice Chicken

  • tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon five spice powder
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • A few inches fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1 orange, peeled and sectioned

Whisk together salt, pepper, oils, spice powder, and honey and coat bird. Add ginger and orange pieces to bird cavity. Check bird every 20 minutes while roasting. If pan is dry add cup water to make the glaze liquid again and baste bird. The final chicken should have a nice dark glaze on it.

Italian Pesto Chicken

  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well mixed. Use just the juice from the lemon for the pesto, but add the lemon itself to the cavity of the chicken. Rub pesto over bird and roast normally.

Hot Maple Chicken

  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • A few inches fresh ginger, chopped
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Combine maple, cayenne, ground ginger, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Add lemon and ginger pieces to chicken cavity. Rub chicken with maple mixture and roast normally, basting frequently.

Tandoori Chicken

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 inches fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and rub the chicken well with marinade.If possible, try to get marinade under the skin as well. Let marinate overnight. Wipe off excess marinade before roasting at 425°F until the chicken reaches 165-170°F.