Preheat the oven to 350 while you’re preparing the bird.
Begin by checking if there is anything in the cavity of the chicken — often there are packets with the liver or a gravy mix, or the neck might be stuffed in there. If you find anything, remove it.
Reach inside the cavity and pull out any loose bits you find. Most of them will be along the backbone (the very rough bone — the breast bone is smooth opposite it). Usually, you’ll have to pull away the “lights” (lungs) — they look like little tiny pieces of liver. Even in the US, the lights are usually left in. It won’t hurt you to leave them or eat them, but you’ll notice a different taste. I’ll also usually find some loose bits of fat and maybe even some bone fragments.
Pat the chicken dry — while I use bar rags for most things, this is one time I use paper towels!
Rub the outside of the chicken all over with the butter. If possible, try to slip some of it under the skin on the breast (do this gently so you don’t tear the skin). Put the remaining butter in the cavity or rub the cavity with oil.
Place celery, onion and/or garlic in the cavity if they are being used. Salt and pepper the inside of the cavity, too — even if you are limiting your sodium intake, try to use at least a little salt. Without it, the chicken just won’t have any flavor.
If you have a roasting pan with a rack, use the rack. This will do two things: virtually eliminate problems with hot spots as the chicken won’t be sitting on the pan, and all the skin will be crispy, not just that on the top. Otherwise, just use any baking pan that the chicken will fit into.
Place the chicken into the pan, breast side up (if in doubt, put your hand in the cavity — the rough backbone should be down and the smooth breast bone up). I prefer NOT to tuck wings under the body or tie the drumsticks together — while tucking and tying makes a tidy little package, it also makes it harder to have the drumsticks done before the breast meat is overly dry. Plus the drumsticks will have more crispy skin if they’re not tight against the body.
Salt and pepper the outside of the chicken, then sprinkle the poultry seasoning over it (you can rub it in a little if you like). Don’t put foil over it, or water in the pan or anything.
Put the bird in the oven and bake for approximately 20 minutes per pound. Unless the bird is really scrawny and lacking in fat, you don’t need to baste it. If you decide you should baste it, brush butter over the top every 30 minutes.
The best test for doneness is an instant-read meat thermometer, inserted into the thickest part of the thigh but NOT touching bone. It should read 165 degrees.
If you don’t have a meat thermometer, use all three of these tests: (1) the skin should be a dark golden color; (2) if you pierce the thigh with a fork, the juices should run clean without a rosy tint; and (3) if you can grasp the drumstick (it may be too hot), the socket should feel loose when you try to wiggle it.
Remove the pan from the oven and put the chicken on the serving dish (one advantage of a chicken over a turkey is that a chicken will usually fit on a dinner plate). Put a piece of foil over the top to keep it warm, and let it sit about 20 minutes while you prepare the gravy and other side dishes. This “sit time” will make it much easier to carve as well as making the meat juicier.
In the photo below, you’ll notice that the drippings in the pan are carmelized and there really isn’t a lot of “juice.” This makes extremely flavorful gravy even though there isn’t much liquid — you may have to add broth or water.
OPTIONAL: Use celery salt or 6″ piece of celery, onion powder or wedge of onion placed in the cavity. Some people like to add garlic powder or clove of garlic, although I don’t — it can easily overpower the other seasonings.
Whole Roast Chicken Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 340Calories from Fat 234
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 10g50%
Vitamin A 420IU8%
Vitamin C 2.1mg3%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.