How to Roast a Whole Chicken

Let’s learn how to adult together! Today, we’re going to talk about how to roast a whole chicken. It’s simple, it tastes great, and you can choose any cut you want!

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Kids, you all know that I love me some chicken.

For the most part on this blog, you’ll see me working with either pork, chicken, turkey, or vegetarian options. I probably won’t do a lot of beef because my body doesn’t respond too well to it. Red meat in general, really.

For the most part on this blog, you’ll see me working with either pork, chicken, turkey, or vegetarian options. I probably won’t do a lot of beef because my body doesn’t respond too well to it. Red meat in general, really.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a proper steak before. You can weep for me, but frankly I don’t know the difference.

So if I put a meat in a food, chances are it’s gonna be chicken.

I love to roast a whole chicken.

There’s something about making the whole chicken and not just cuts; you’ve got any meat cut you want to pick and that skin wrapped around the whole bird just keeps the meat so juicy… It’s really great.

I love seasoning it the way I want to. I love just getting to do my own thing with the flavors.

You can also roast a whole chicken for house parties. White meat? Dark meat? It’s all there! And then you get to show off all your great adulting skills to your friends. look at you go.

And when it is all said and done, if you play your cards right, you have leftovers! You know how I love my leftovers. (in my fridge. Then the next day, in mah belly.)

Is buying a whole chicken cheaper?

Y’know, it always depends on the circumstances. And by circumstances, I mean it depends on what is on sale! The day that I bought my bird, I got a small 5 lb. bird for a little over five bucks. And that is a free range, no antibiotics kinda chicken. (it was one of Aldi’s Never Any chickens, #notsponsored.)

So that is two drumsticks, thighs, breasts, tenders, and wings; and you have all of the bitties on the bone for chicken salad and/or stock making. All this could be yours for $5.30, or thereabouts. It really depends on where you get your chicken. Still, I’ll say that is a lot cheaper than eating out.

With that being said, check the price for cuts too. Sometimes cuts per pound are cheaper than buying a whole bird.

So let’s get this flavor party going, shall we?

I am going to have step by step directions in the post on how to roast a whole chicken, and a recipe card to follow. If you used the step by step, let me know if it was helpful in your chicken prep!

To start, get yourself a deep pan and a roasting rack. The roasting rack isn’t 100% necessary, but I want to keep my bird away from soaking in its juices. If I wanted to do that, I would use a slow cooker!

Which I’ve done, by the way, pre-blog. Did you know you can overcook a chicken in a slow cooker?!


This is what your butter is going to look like. Not attractive, but it does it’s purpose well!

Let’s make our butter!

Cook’s Note: Read all of the instructions first!! It will make things easier later. Trust me.

Compound butter is butter with different flavor additives. Today, we’re making a quick herby butter.

Over soften your butter. I don’t want it melted, but I don’t want it at normal softness either. You can do this by heating your butter in the microwave with a close eye. When it is ready, it will have a pasty consistency. Mix in your olive oil. It’s going to thin it out for now, but don’t worry. It will help out later.

Today, we’re adding in very basic seasonings: salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, and sage. They all taste great with chicken (obvi!). Make sure your herbs are at least crushed. I threw mine in a mortar and pestle, just to break them up a bit. The rosemary especially needs it because there is nothing more gross than biting down on a dried rosemary leaf. It feels like a twig and the rosemary will overpower everything else!

So just break it up, would ya?

Mix everything up in a bowl, and stick it in the refrigerator until we need it. Prepping the chicken is going to take a few minutes, so by the time the chicken is washed and dried, the butter mix will be just a little bit more solidified.

And yes, I have this down to a science.

Now it’s chicken time.

Get that chicken out of its bag. Pull out the giblets from the cavity and set them aside. You can use them however you like, but I like to put them in my stock!

Now, rinse your bird, inside and out. We need to see the water run clear. Cool tap water is fine; just don’t use hot water because then you will start to “cook” the outside. I.e., it will start to discolor and we don’t want that!

Be patient, and be strong. Chances are, this is going to take a while. That no-fuss 5 lb. chicken after a few minutes of turning and rinsing might feel much heavier. At the very least, make sure that the chicken is no longer slimy, k?

Once the bird is rinsed, pat dry with some paper towels. We want the bird to be dried off because the butter will stick to it better. And we want better butter bondage to the chicken, right?

Pull that butter out of the refrigerator. At this point, it will have solidified just enough where we can use it like a paste, but it is not completely hardened. Thanks olive oil!

Put that bird on a roasting rack.

I bought mine recently because I tried a few different methods. The first time I roasted a chicken, I didn’t lift the bird at all. The bottom of the bird got soggy and the bones, later on, didn’t make the best stock.

Then I saw somewhere that you could prop up the bird on celery sticks. In theory, it sounded awesome. So I tried it out and wouldn’t you know it, the drippings cooked the celery, causing them to break down! I ended up in the same predicament as before.

Now we move onto the roasting rack. No more futzing around! And let me tell you, I highly recommend getting a roasting rack. It made everything so much easier.

Get ready to get your hands dirty!

Using your hands, gently separate the skin from the meat. Don’t use tools because we don’t want to cut the meat and we also don’t want to rip the skin. The more intact this skin is, the better! The skin is moisture retention and protection from the direct heat, so the skin is our friend.

Pull away as much skin as you can. Generally, you are going to be able to pull away the skin from the breast, some of the back, and some of the thighs. But if the skin is really giving you a hard time, don’t go any further. It’s not worth potentially ripping the skin. I couldn’t even pull any of the back skin off of this one, and that’s okay. I’d rather you have it intact than buttered.

Next, take some of that butter and rub it in under the skin. Sometimes it is better to take a glob of butter, put it at the base of the chicken, and spread up the breast from the outside. Rub some of your compound butter under the thigh and back skin as well. Look! I even made a gif so it is easier to understand what I am saying! (I’m really proud of myself for this one, okay?)

Any extra butter will be spread all over the outside of the bird. If you didn’t have a lot of the compound butter left, then use a bit of olive oil and some more seasoning, mix it in a bowl, and pour it over the top. Yum!

for my 5 lb. chicken, the amount of the butter mix I had was more than enough, so you probably won’t have to add more anyway.

On the inside of the chicken

Get yourself a small onion and a few cloves of garlic. Peel the onion to the first clean layer and peel and crush your garlic. I want the garlic to be flattened! Place your garlic in the cavity of the chicken.

If the onion is too big, cut it in half before also placing it inside of the chicken. Both will impart flavor but the onion is really great on making sure the chicken is moist from the inside.

The funny thing about chicken is, it is very easy to overcook. If you leave it alone for too long, it will dry out. And chicken, when it is dry, is like sawdust meat. It is so desperate for moisture that it will suck any liquid from your mouth. So be watchful!

Place a half cup of water, a carrot and a stalk of celery in the bottom of the pan. This is my last insurance to a moist bird. No, actually… wait. Adding tin foil on top is my last insurance. The carrot and the celery are there more for flavor anyway.

Trussing your chicken

Lastly, we need to tie up, or truss, our chicken. Tying up the legs and wings is not completely necessary if you can tuck the legs and wings under the body of the bird. But be warned, I have done this and 1) broke bones and skin and 2) on another occasion, accidentally cooked the chicken upside-down. That was a super juicy breast though!

If you have a roasting rack like I did, chances are you won’t have to tie up the wings. This was awesome because I don’t like tying things against the breast! The rack kept the meat in place.

Back to tying our strings. Tie your legs together with preferably butcher’s twine. Criss-cross the legs and wrap the twine around the legs, tying into a knot when you are done.

I have used many other types of twine (like for craft twine and embroidery floss) and they worked, but I don’t trust to use them on the regular. Hence, why I bought the butcher’s twine. It’s made for this, y’know?

So now we have all of this in place, it’s time to cook.

When you’re all done, your bird will look a little something like this.

Time to roast a whole chicken!

Okay. We’ve gotten this far. You have cleaned and dressed your chicken, so most of your work is done!

The other part of your work is to simply make sure your chicken doesn’t overcook.

Preheat your oven to 425⁰F (218⁰C). I was gonna tell you to do this earlier, but I didn’t want to just have the oven running for an indefinite amount of time. You don’t want to waste energy, right? And you read through the instructions first before taking on the recipe, right? Right?

Once your oven is ready, Put your chicken in the oven, obviously.

The time, however, is a different story. When using a regular conventional oven, cooking usually takes about an hour to an hour and a half for a lil 5 pounder. For the last 20-30 minutes, take off the foil. Give the chicken some room to breathe.

Every half hour, I like to take it out and baste it like a turkey and get those juices on top of the chicken.

When checking the temperature, stick the thermometer in between the thigh and the body. Not only is this a thick section of meat, giving you one of the coolest places on the chicken, but it will also result in less meat damage! It’s a win-win.

We want that thermometer to read between 175-180⁰F (80-82⁰C). You only want this bird to be well done. And when you cook any meat to well done, what do you risk?

Moistness! And I want me some moist chicken. Mmm, moist.

But seriously. This is the tightrope we walk.

Once your chicken is cooked, You have two options. One, you could just pull it out of the oven. Pure and simple. You successfully cooked a moist, delicious chicken!

Or two, If you have a couple extra minutes and you like crispy skin, set your oven to broil and put the chicken about two to three inches away from the broiler. I’d rather have it be a little farther than way too close. Watch carefully!! This will only take a couple minutes to get golden crispy skin, but if you walk away you could burn your chicken and ruin all of your hard work!

I’ve also used a culinary torch to crisp the skin. It worked, but it took a lot of butane and I still had a few spots of concentrated fire (i.e., spots that were more brown than others). So I recommend sticking to a broiler. Save the torch for places less browned, like under the wings and between the thighs. Get the butane torch I use here.

Oh, and one last thing. Before you cut into the chicken, give it 15-30 minutes to rest under a foil blanket. It has gone through a lot today and needs a quick rest to get the juices really settled into the meat.

And there you have it! You have learned how to roast a whole chicken!

Isn’t it beautiful?

How do you normally cook your chicken? Is there anything you would have done differently? Let me know in the comments down below! And don’t forget, if you are cooking up anything from the blog and you’re on Twitter or Instagram, be sure to use #FDLFoods so I can give you a shout out!



Chicken Roast

It’s delicious. It’s moist. And even though it ends up being a bit of a waiting game, I promise it will be worth it in a very moist and delicious chicken!

Yields: A whole chicken

  • 1 whole chicken, 5-8 lbs.
  • 5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. ground sage
  • pinch of rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 1 small onion
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed (depending on how garlicky you want it!)
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 celery stalk, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup water

Preheat oven to 425⁰F. Line a 9"x13" pan in foil and place your roasting rack inside. Put your carrot, celery, and water at the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

In a small, microwaveable bowl, add your butter. Microwave for 20 seconds, watching to make sure it does not melt. Butter, when finished, should be a paste consistency.

Add in oil, salt, pepper, and herbs. Stir until thoroughly combined. Set aside in the refrigerator.

Rinse off your chicken, inside and out until water runs clear. Pat dry with paper towels and place in your roasting rack.

Pull the skin away from the breast, thighs, and back (if you can). Don't force the skin if it won't separate from the meat. Spread the butter under and on the skin.

Place onion and garlic inside the cavity of the chicken. If the onion is too big, cut it in half.

Tie the legs together and the wings together. (optional)

Cover with tin foil and cook until a thermometer between the thigh and body reads 175-180⁰F. For a 5 lb. chicken, this took about an hour and a half. Check every half hour or so.

In the last 15 minutes to 1/2 hour, take off the foil and allow chicken to finish cooking.

Allow chicken to rest covered for 15 minutes to a half hour before serving.

  • Preparation time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 60-90 minutes
  • Total time: 2-2 1/2 hours

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  1. This is really helpful for a twenty-something like me, who is in the process of learning how to cook for herself. I need these step by step instructions, and the final product seems absolutely delicious! Thanks for the great post!

    1. Awesome! you are welcome. 🙂 and being a twenty-something myself, I understand! Our generation wasn’t really taught how to cook. It’s a good thing we have the Internet!

  2. I love whole chickens and they’re so easy to prepare once you know what you’re doing! I love the combination of herbs you used for this recipe.

    1. Thank you! Yeah, I wanted to keep it simple. Something that would add flavor but won’t overwhelm anyone new to cooking a whole chicken.

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