I feel like I know a lot of people who are talented, whether that means naturally good with directions or years-of-practice good at playing instruments or just impressively able to wear a lot of hats, like people who can cook and play sports and play the piano and tell you which way is north, while also taking cool photographs or something. Renaissance men, they like to call themselves.
I’ve never been mistaken for one of those. I mean, don’t get me wrong: I can do a lot of things OK.
I can bake cookies. I can read music. I can remember basic grammar rules.
But none of these things are really spectacular. None of them make me go wow when I think about them.
Except this. Because here is the thing: when you can roast a chicken right, you feel like a superstar.
In fact, as far as I can tell, there is nothing else quite like it, nothing that will make you feel as successful, as capable, as victorious as this one simple act of culinary skill. And as far as roast chickens go, I’ve loved other recipes before this one (that lemon version comes to mind) and I’m sure I’ll love others to come, but I doubt any will be easier or offer a bigger payoff than this.
After just one hour (and no turning! no basting!) of baking time, you’ll pull it out of the oven, all golden and brown, juicy and riddled with salt, slicing tender slices to eat on your plate. And it will be easy to see you’ve made something that’s the very definition of spectacular.
It’s a good feeling. I really don’t know what else to say except, do yourself a favor, and try this sometime soon. Impress yourself, especially if, like for some of us, it’s one of the few ways you can.
Easiest Roast Chicken Ever
One 4-pound chicken (approximately), preferably farm-raised*
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 Tablespoons dried thyme (optional)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Rinse the chicken and pat it as dry as you can, inside and out, with paper towels.
Salt and pepper the inside cavity, and then truss the bird.
Sprinkle salt and pepper generously over the bird, like you’re “raining” it on there, enough that you will be able to see the salt on the chicken after it’s cooked. Bake, on roasting pan in preheated oven, for 40 minutes.
Then turn temperature down to 375 and bake for another 20 minutes. It’s done when the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.
Remove it from the oven and add the thyme, if using, to the pan. Baste the chicken with the juices and thyme and let it rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board.
One extra thing I did was tent the chicken with foil about halfway through, only because mine must not have been dry enough and spurted a lot of steam and juices while it was cooking. For that reason, it’s helpful to keep your eye on it, but not at all necessary.
Cooking By the Numbers….
Step One: Roast a chicken. Use the easiest method known to man — simply dry and brine, then cook for an hour, no big deal, barely a blip in your day.
Step Two: Share the chicken with a friend for dinner, and share the recipe with everyone you know on your blog. Talk about it, Tweet about it, brag about it over and over again. (Tell yourself that’s not weird at all either.)
Step Three: Because of the serendipity of timing and Twitter and blog connections, have your friend over to do the whole thing over again. Times three.
Find her at the front door carrying a bag full of snacks and groceries, ready to cook, and thank your lucky stars you know her. (And that she’s someone who gets the excitement of roasting a chicken completely.)
Step Four: Eat. Eat while the chickens roast (hummus, red grapes, crackers topped by goat cheese and fig jam).
Eat after the chickens roast (sliced meat fresh off the bird, whole wheat bread, sauteed dandelion greens with ramps and raisins and pistachios). Eat for days and days after (sandwiches and salads and anything else with chicken! chicken! chicken!).
Step Five: Think to yourself, amidst all this eating, how nice it is that something small like roasting a chicken for dinner one night can lead to something awesome like roasting three with Jacqui.
Remember every day our small things — words of kindness to a friend, evenings spent in meaningful conversation, asking someone a question instead of assuming you know the answer — push towards patterns and reactions and changes that become big and, while in themselves seem simple or inconsequential, put together can change the course of our days and so our lives.
Think about this while you eat salads at your work desk. Think about this while you make paninis for dinner.
Think about this as you plan to roast another chicken sometime very soon.
*I got my Amish, free-range chicken for $9 and change at Whole Foods, where it came from an Indiana farm. I know that can feel a little pricey but seriously, it’s worth it.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography, and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn, MSN.com, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Houzz.com, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World, Mom.me, Babble, Delish.com, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.