roast chicken

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.

Amish chicken

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.

trussed chicken

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.

roast chicken done

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
Adapted from Romanlily, who adapted it from Thomas Keller

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.

(Romanlily provided this helpful link to Alton Brown’s trussing technique, if you’re looking for guidance. Personally, I just tied the legs and wings in close to the body, and this worked well.)

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.

*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.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 36 Comments

  1. sara

    Just curious if the 2 tbsp. of thyme is fresh or dried? I love a good roast chicken!

  2. carmen

    This has been my go-to roast chicken recipe too! I absolutely love it. :)

  3. Kim Shenberger

    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!

  4. Shannalee

    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!

  5. LoveFeast Table

    This is fancy enough for our FancyFriday carnival on lemons…today!!

  6. Jacqui

    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! :)

  7. Caitlin

    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!

  8. rachel

    yes. i do love a good roasted chicken :)…looks lovely!

  9. Kendra @ My First Kitchen

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

  10. jessiev

    yum. i LOVE roast chicken!!!

  11. Karen

    The chicken looks so yummy! how about roasting a few veggies at the same time?

  12. Maddie

    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. :)

  13. Shannalee

    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.

  14. E.P.

    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!

  15. Jessica

    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.

  16. Shannalee

    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!

  17. Megan Gordon

    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)

  18. Gemma

    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!

  19. Shannalee

    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!

  20. jordan

    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!

  21. LoveFeast Table

    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

  22. Tracy

    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. :)

  23. redmenace

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

  24. Danielle

    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 :)

  25. Shannalee

    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.

  26. Dana

    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.

  27. Shannalee

    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.

  28. julie

    I am definitely going to try this!

  29. Shannalee

    Julie, I hope you love it!

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  31. jordan

    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!

  32. Shannalee

    Jordan, That makes me so happy! Yay!

  33. Tami

    An hour, really?! The bird is still raw after 1.5 hours!!

    1. Shannalee

      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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