How to Roast a Chicken the Easy Way

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.

A close up image of a beautiful golden roasted chicken.

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.

An image of a roasted chicken still in its packaging.

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.

A prepped chicken, tied and stuffed, and ready to go into the oven.

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.

An image of a juicy looking delicious roasted chicken in a black pan.

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

Ingredients:
One 4-pound chicken (approximately), preferably farm-raised*
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 Tablespoons dried thyme (optional)

Directions:
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.

Close up image of a beautifully browned roasted chicken still warm from the oven.

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.)

An image of two prepped chicken ready for roasting.

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.)

Still warm from the oven, two golden brown roasted chicken in a baking pan lined with foil.

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!).

An image of a white plate, with a fork on a table napkin beside it, filled with a sliced sandwich on a bed of fresh greens and a bunch of grapes.

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.

An image of s square bowl filled with delicious chicken and fresh green salad with a squeezed lemon in the corner.

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.

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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.

34 thoughts on “How to Roast a Chicken the Easy Way

  1. Ever since I first tried your roasted lemon chicken I’ve been roasting chicken about once a week. I’m excited to try this recipe at the higher temp so we can have roasted chicken even FASTER!

    : D

    BTW, I agree with you; roasting a lovely, moist, savory chicken is such a satisfying thing to do and the wows and oohs and MMMMmmmm’s makes it even more satisfying!

  2. Sara – Good question! I will update the post to say this, but I used dried.

    Carmen – Awesome! It’s really wonderful.

    Kim – Right? And it is sooo easy to do when you don’t have to keep turning/basting/etc. Enjoy!

  3. shanna. i am afraid of roasting a chicken. i think you know this. did i ever tell you my roast chicken fail? the bird never even made it to the oven. i think we’ll have to have a roast chicken date one of these days, in which you teach me the way.

    and i don’t believe it’s the number of talents that one possesses, but the passion behind them that truly makes that talent come to life and wow others. and you wow me with every post! 🙂

  4. What is extraordinary to one person is everyday to another, just remember. Many people never get closer to baking a cookie from scratch than Pillsbury slice and bakes! And I believe that many people would be wowed by something as “simple” (to you) as a roast chicken – given how little I cook or eat meat, it’s still something I’m a bit tentative with!

  5. Weird. We’re cooking Thomas Keller’s whole chicken at my cooking class next weekend. Yet more evidence that we should be friends.

  6. Look at you with that twine! Isn’t it amazing how just a little bit of spice, a whole chicken, and high heat are all you need to make alchemy happen? I’m planning to make chipotle roast chicken tacos tomorrow night, but you’re making me wish I’d done so a day early. 🙂

  7. LoveFeastTable, I think this recipe would be great with lemons!

    Jacqui, CANNOT WAIT for our chicken-roasting date on Wednesday!

    Caitlin, Well that was a very nice, encouraging thing to say.

    Rachel, Me too!

    Kendra, Not should be. ARE. I was sold as soon as I knew you liked LOST and that was ages ago. Can’t wait to make this a real-life thing in June!

    JessieV, I know! Me too.

    Karen, Why not?

    Maddie, Ha! Yes, yes, it is. One of those beautiful things in life.

  8. Oh wow! I’ve never roasted a chicken before, and it has always been one of those daunting things that I just didn’t want to screw up. (This is the reason behind me not cooking other things, too, that could be too complicated.)

    I want to try this now, and I think we might. This week!

  9. Wow that chicken looks amazing! I cannot wait to try this. I’ve been thinking about doing a full chicken lately. what would you recommend for a side? Hmm, looks like I need some twine, where do you think I can find that? Yes, I’m full of questions today.

  10. E.P. – You can do it! You can do it! Seriously.

    Jessica, Thanks! Oh there are so many things you could have with this. Whatever you like! Maybe a potato (mashed? roasted? smashed?) and a vegetable (something green sounds good to me – roasted broccoli? green beans? a salad?). I’d love to hear what you do. Oh and good question about the twine. I feel like it must be at grocery stores but I have to look this week when I go buy some more. I’ll let you know where I find it!

  11. Sigh. I’ve never roasted a chicken. Can you believe that?! Not only do I feel like kind of a lame food blogger, but sort of a lame cook. How can this be?! Recently bought Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food and she does a really nice entry on roasting chickens and how unbelievably easy it is. Then I see your post and –that’s it–I’m taking the little roasting chicken my mom gave me a few weeks ago out of the freezer. Love the idea that you can have leftovers in salad, enchiladas etc. Really pretty photos, too (tough to take a pretty photo of a raw chicken!–bravo)

  12. I’ve seen this method mentioned before and am certainly curious – must try it next time I roast a chicken. I normally do butter, salt, pepper, juice from half a lemon and thyme and then put the other half of the lemon in the cavity but the ease and speed of your method certainly appeals!

  13. Megan, I am already anticipating your sure success and cannot wait to read about it!

    Gemma, Seriously it was the ease and speed that swung me over, too. I wonder what would happen if I took this method and added lemon and thyme? Maybe I shall try that next!

  14. I roasted this chicken! I must say, I think it was the most moist I’ve ever roasted a chicken. I added some ‘magic spice’ from Martinique to the bird, gave it a little kick and I sort of tented halfway through.

    Needless to say, it was delicious, so, thank you for sharing!

  15. Whoops! I think our first comment was meant for your lemony post!! Now that we’ve stopped by again…we’ll add that your chicken looks wonderful. We think a roast chicken is awesome “fast food”! It cooks itself!! And, it is always like you say, impressive! Chris Ann & Kristin

  16. I love your photos. The salted chicken…the kitchen string…the pan. Beautiful. I don’t roast chicken enough. Your writing and photos are very persuasive. 🙂

  17. You’re a superstar in my book. Roasting a chicken is an absolutely vital skill. Give yourself a standing ovation. Looks fantastic!

  18. I think you’re being a little too harsh on yourself – you’re a fantastic writer and photographer with a lovely, successful blog – what’s so unremarkable about that?? Plus, you make a killer roast chicken, reminds me that it’s about time I made it again 🙂

  19. Jordan, I’m so glad!

    LoveFeast Table, Ha! No problem. I love my lemony chicken recipe too, but this one wins for easiness. Thanks for the comments!

    Tracy, Do it! Do it! And thank you for the encouragement!

    Redmenace, Ha! Well thank you!

    Danielle, You’re sweet. And I agree, it’s always a good time for roast chicken. Tonight, Jacqui and I made three.

  20. Sometimes, when looking at all of the talented people around you, it is difficult to see your own talents. I’ve definitely had my moments where, surrounded by the musicians, scholars and athletes, I’ve felt mediocre. We all have our talents though, and our skills. People tend to be their own harshest critic. Don’t disparage yourself and forget your talents.

    Everyone can roast a chicken, not everyone has the skills or the knowledge base to do it well.

  21. Well, Dana, you are very gracious. Sometimes I may be my harshest critic, that’s true. But trust me when I say I’m such a big fan of myself too, that even when I am putting myself down, I still tend to think I’m pretty awesome. I’ve actually wondered if that’s why I don’t have big-time talents, you know? It’d go to my head, ha! Thank you for your sweet comment.

  22. Pingback: Step One: Roast a Chicken | Food Loves Writing
  23. i am happy to sat i am back after a hiatus from my kitchen and one of the first things i made was this roast chicken. shannalee…this really is one of the best recipes of yours i use over and over. its superb. thanks!

    • I’m sorry to hear that, Tami! Are you sure your oven was at 450 and 375 degrees? And did you dry the bird thoroughly before salting it? I’ve used this recipe several times, and an hour really does do the trick.

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