How to Roast a Really Flavorful Chicken

roast chicken in pan

I’ll admit it; for a long time I was really intimidated by the thought of cooking any whole animal. I didn’t want any fish eyes looking back at me, I didn’t want to hear the lobster “cry” as it was dropped into the pot of boiling water, and I sure didn’t want to reach my hand up inside a chicken to pull out the giblets.

To make matters worse, I assumed (incorrectly) that cooking a whole animal would take more time and more refined cooking techniques. Boy, was I wrong.

Roasting a whole chicken is one of the easiest ways to prepare a really delicious — and compete — meal. All you need to do is stuff a few flavorful ingredient inside the bird, rub some butter on the outside, and then roast the chicken in a preheated oven over some roughly chopped vegetables — the chicken ends up having a really crispy, flavorful skin and the meat inside is moist and juicy. The vegetables underneath are sweet and melt-in-your-mouth soft.

Best of all, if you save the chicken bones (and any carrot tops or root ends of the onions that you may have planned on tossing) you can use them to make a simple chicken stock. Not only will you save money by not purchasing stock, but you’ll make the most of what’s available from your chicken — and, from an ethical standpoint, I think that’s the least that any omnivore can do when they consider what is sacrificed in order to bring meat, fish, or poultry to the table.

If you time your cooking correctly, you can even make savory lemon thyme scones to serve along with the chicken. Start mixing the dough after you take the chicken out of the oven; the chicken needs to rest for 15-20 minutes before you cut into it (otherwise you’ll lose most of the juices when you carve the bird) and the scones take that same amount of time to bake.

Once you have this recipe down, use it as a base recipe; try stuffing the chicken with different herbs or citrus fruits, rubbing any variety of compound butters on and under the skin, rubbing a blend of herbs and spices onto the outside of the chicken, or roasting the bird on a different assortment of hardy root vegetables. Similarly, change the ingredients in the scone recipe to imitate (or complement) the flavors of the roast chicken.

ingredients for roast chicken

For the Roast Chicken
1 small chicken (about 5 to 6 pounds)
Salt
Pepper
1 bunch of fresh thyme
1 lemon, halved
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
3 tablespoons lemon thyme butter (or regular butter)
1 large onion
6 large carrots
4 tablespoons olive oil

For the Scones
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon zest, plus more for sprinkling
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
6 tablespoons cold lemon thyme butter (or regular butter), cut into small pieces
⅓ cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing
2 eggs
12 small sprigs of fresh thyme

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Remove the giblets from the chicken and either discard them or save them for another use. If you notice any remaining feathers, pull them out. Then, pat the chicken dry with paper towels.

Salt and pepper the inside of the chicken.

Take half of the thyme and bundle it with kitchen twine. Stuff the thyme into the cavity of the chicken along with the pieces of lemon and garlic.

stuff the chicken

Then, stretch the chicken skin over the opening to the cavity to close it and liberally salt and pepper the outside of the chicken.

close the chicken

Gently lift the chicken skin and reach your hand underneath to rub butter in between the skin and flesh of the bird. Be careful not to tear the skin. Rub the outside of the chicken with the remaining butter and sprinkle a little more salt and pepper over the bird. Then, tie the chicken’s legs together with kitchen twine.

Roughly chop the onion and carrots and spread them into the bottom of a shallow roasting dish. Drizzle the olive oil over the vegetables and toss to coat. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt, pepper, and a few sprigs of thyme and then lay the chicken on top of the vegetables, tucking the wing tips under the body of the bird.

ready to roast

Roast the chicken in the oven, uncovered, until a thermometer inserted into the meaty part of the thigh reaches 160 degrees F, approximately an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes. When the chicken reaches 160 degrees F, remove it from the oven and cover the pan with foil. Let the chicken rest for 15-20 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F, whichever is longer.

While the chicken is resting, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, lemon zest, and chopped thyme for the scones. Then, add the cold butter, using your hands to work it into the flour until only lentil-sized pieces of butter remain.

work the butter into the flour

Make a well in the center of the flour and add the cream and eggs. Whisk the cream and eggs until combined and then stir them lightly into the flour using a fork. Be careful not to over-mix the dough or the scones will be tough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and very gently shape it into a disc. Cut the disc into six wedges. Place the wedges onto a parchment lined sheet pan.

Brush the tops of the scones with more cream and sprinkle some lemon zest on top. Cross two small sprigs of thyme over each scone.

unbaked scones

Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees F and bake the scones until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.

Then, serve the chicken along with the roasted vegetables and warm scones.

roast chicken and savory scones

Herb-Roasted Chicken

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Ingredients
1 small chicken (about 5 to 6 pounds)
Salt
Pepper
1 bunch of fresh thyme
1 lemon, halved
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
3 tablespoons lemon thyme butter (or regular butter)
1 large onion
6 large carrots
4 tablespoons olive oil

Directions
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Remove the giblets from the chicken and either discard them or save them for another use. If you notice any remaining feathers, pull them out. Then, pat the chicken dry with paper towels.

Salt and pepper the inside of the chicken.

Take half of the thyme and bundle it with kitchen twine. Stuff the thyme into the cavity of the chicken along with the pieces of lemon and garlic.

Then, stretch the chicken skin over the opening to the cavity to close it and liberally salt and pepper the outside of the chicken.

Gently lift the chicken skin and reach your hand underneath to rub butter in between the skin and flesh of the bird. Be careful not to tear the skin. Rub the outside of the chicken with the remaining butter and sprinkle a little more salt and pepper over the bird. Then, tie the chicken’s legs together with kitchen twine.

Roughly chop the onion and carrots and spread them into the bottom of a shallow roasting dish. Drizzle the olive oil over the vegetables and toss to coat. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt, pepper, and a few sprigs of thyme and then lay the chicken on top of the vegetables, tucking the wing tips under the body of the bird.

Roast the chicken in the oven, uncovered, until a thermometer inserted into the meaty part of the thigh reaches 160 degrees F, approximately an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes. When the chicken reaches 160 degrees F, remove it from the oven and cover the pan with foil. Let the chicken rest for 15-20 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F, whichever is longer.

Savory Lemon Thyme Scones

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon zest, plus more for sprinkling
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
6 tablespoons cold lemon thyme butter (or regular butter), cut into small pieces
⅓ cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing
2 eggs
12 small sprigs of fresh thyme

Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, lemon zest, and chopped thyme. Then, add the cold butter, using your hands to work it into the flour until only lentil-sized pieces of butter remain.

Make a well in the center of the flour and add the cream and eggs. Whisk the cream and eggs until combined and then stir them lightly into the flour using a fork. Be careful not to over-mix the dough or the scones will be tough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and very gently shape it into a disc. Cut the disc into six wedges. Place the wedges onto a parchment lined sheet pan.

Brush the tops of the scones with more cream and sprinkle some lemon zest on top. Cross two small sprigs of thyme over each scone.

Bake the scones until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.

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