Roast That Bird

With a forecast that looks to dip back to the 60s next week, this may be the last chance to roast a good bird before late fall. Let us explore this idea. There is something almost magical about roasting a bird.  We have an entire holiday built around roasting a turkey for friends and family.  I try to roast a chicken at least once a month, especially during the fall and winter.  It is a luscious dinner with more than enough leftovers to carry you through a lunch or two.  Most people who know me know that I am a big Top Chef fan.  In season two, Elia roasted a chicken to glowing reviews, so when I started my chicken roasting I turned to the recipe from the Top Chef cookbook. Page 155 for reference. I made a few adjustments over the years, streamlining the recipe and working on my own twists.

First thing to note, I usually don’t use a broiler chicken.  I rarely need a 7lb chicken for a dinner for one or two, especially when you consider leftovers.  I usually get a little fryer chicken that clocks in around 5lbs. It is more than enough for a few dinners, a lunch, and a few snacks.

Assemble your ingredients:

  • 1 Chicken
  • 2 Carrots
  • 2 Lemons
  • ½ cup of Vegetable Stock (If you have homemade vegetable stock, why are you reading this little how-to?)
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Pepper


  • Herbage
  • Baby Potatoes
  • Onions


Step 1:  Get your chicken out of the fridge so that it can come up to room temperature.  Probably will take about an hour. Don’t skip this step!

Step 2: Preheat your oven to 410 degrees.  Most recipes will be more precise and specify 400, but the oven I use is old and imperfect.  One way I have learned to compensate for that is to set the oven 5 to 10 degrees over the specified amount. Also, my electric oven needs some attention so I make do with what methods I use.

Step 3: After removing the neck and innards which are kept inside the chicken for your potential use, rinse and pat the chicken dry both inside and out. I will trim off some of the fat here.  There are little pockets of fat that honestly are not needed.

Step 4: Use a little bit of butter or olive oil and rub the outside of the chicken, get the skin just moist with the fat of your choice. Now apply salt and pepper to the chicken cavity and the skin as well.  We put the butter or oil on first so the salt and pepper will stick.

Step 5:  Quarter one of the lemons.  If using the onion, quarter it as well. Stick these and any associated herbage you want to use inside the chicken cavity.  As the chicken cooks, a little of the flavor of these will permeate the chicken.

Step 6:  Slice the other lemon evenly.  Lay the slices in a roasting pan.  We will rest the chicken on the lemon slices while it cooks so the bottom doesn’t stick to the pan and because our resulting pan sauce will be awesome.  MMMMM.

Step 7: Tie the bird’s legs shut.  This will help with even cooking.  Use butcher’s twine for this purpose if you choose to tie the legs. Fold the wings back over themselves so that they stay out of the way. Place the now stuffed and trussed chicken onto the lemon slices.

Step 8: Sprinkle the chopped carrots and potatoes if using into the bottom of the pan. Pour the half cup of veggie stock into the pan adding any flavor enhancers and herbage you want.  This picture has red pepper flakes and fennel seeds. I keep a stock of boxed stock in the pantry to use in just such an occasion.

Step 9: Insert bird in pan into the oven.  Set time for one and a half hours. You will be guessing for a lot of this the first few times.  It can be hard to judge, so in case you undercook the bird, have a frying pan ready to keep cooking he pieces after you carve it. Yeah, you will be carving.

Step 10: Check the bird.  If you think it is done, pull it out of the oven  If you are not sure, well, you might overcook the breasts but that won’t destroy the meal.  Once you remove the chicken, after topping out at two hours in the oven, let it rest just like a steak.  I think a good twenty minute rest will do it good.  Usually you don’t rest poultry, but the other benefit is that some of the excess juices will run out …. and we have  uses for them.

Step 11: Taste the pan sauce.  The rendered chicken fat and chicken juices will combine with the vegetable stock that didn’t evaporate during cooking.  The lemon at the bottom of the roasting pan will infuse the juices with this amazing citrus flavor.  Sometimes, I will add some red pepper flakes and fennel seeds at the very beginning just to amp up the flavor even more.  Ooooh yesh.  Spooning this over the chicken will be amazing.  Or “amazeballs” if you prefer.

Step 12: Carve that beast! The wings will come off pretty easily, just pull and they should pop out.

Next look to breasts while the thighs are still attached.  This makes it easier to balance the bird.  Find the breastbone and slide the knife down the breastbone and angled slightly off the wishbone. Follow this through to slice off the entire breast in one glorious piece.  Repeat on the other side so you have both breasts.

Getting the thighs can be a little trickier.  The goal is to make one big cut across the body to get the thigh.  I lift the bird by the thigh while I am cutting to find the joint because you can cut all the connective tissue to get it off in one piece.  Drumstick and thigh as one large, rustic serving piece.

What to do with the rest?  Put down the knife and get your hands involved  Remove as much of the chicken left and put in a plastic storage container.  This is the prime candidate for salads and sandwiches.

Step 13:  Eat this dinner.  Oh, the carrots and potatoes were there to eat while you carved.  Or with dinner.  I cooked some quinoa with more vegetable stock and some rendered chicken fat for this dinner.

Do this enough in the fall and you will master your carving skills in time for that Turkey Day festivities we mentioned earlier.

  • Wm Smith

    Don’t forget to save the bones and scraps for stock/broth.