Foolproof Roast Chicken

Foolproof Roast Chicken |

I’m writing to you from the wild west coast this week. The kids and I came out here for a couple of weeks to take in our family’s Thanksgiving festivities and check out the Food Bloggers of Canada annual conference (more on that to come).

Foolproof Roast Chicken |

It has been a very long time—17 years—since I last spent time in Vancouver during the fall. (Aside: Am I really talking about my adult life in increments of 17 years? Scary.) And while Ontario and Quebec get all the attention for their colourful autumn foliage, I’d forgotten that fall in BC is beautiful too. In it’s own warm, drizzly, Mario-Brothers-magic-mushroom kinda way.

Skeptics: those are real mushrooms, I swear. I spotted a whole family of them under a holly bush by the edge of a busy street.

Foolproof Roast Chicken |

Foolproof Roast Chicken | www.kiwiandbean.comPerhaps it’s the weather, or some sort of weird poultry celestial alignment, or maybe I’m just an exceedingly diligent recipe tester (yup, that’s it), but in the two weeks I have been here, we have roasted FOUR chickens. All of them AFTER Thanksgiving was done.

Foolproof Roast Chicken | The roast chicken is a humble thing, but so satisfying—impressive, even—if prepared in the right way. (And yes, after this 2014 roast chicken run, I am fairly convinced that there is one foolproof and perfect way to do it. Read on!) It’s also the holy grail of fast family food, because with a little planning one chicken can be stretched into three dinners. Eat half the chicken with roasted tubers and salad the first night; toss the remaining half into a casserole the second night (I am crushing on enchiladas right now; recipe to come), and then turn the carcass into a flavourful stock for a soup, stew or risotto on the third night.

I’ve tried countless recipes and methods for roasting chicken in my search for one that was easy enough for a weeknight dinner, but flavourful and moist too. I’m not a trussing and trimming kinda gal so the winning method had to be more of a throw-the-darn-bird-in-a-pan kinda thing. And while I do recognize the value of a good brine, I am still traumatized from dropping an entire pot of turkey brine on my kitchen floor last Christmas. I know brining is great, and I’m all for brining at Christmas and Thanksgiving and stuff, but it’s too much trouble—and clearly far too dangerous—for the weekly roast.

Foolproof Roast Chicken |

What I’ve discovered from all this tasting, testing and brine-dropping is that there are five basic steps to poultry perfection:

  1. Start with a very good very big chicken. By very good, I mean the best you can afford, whether it be free range, all natural, organic, or some combination of the above. And by big, I mean about 4 to 5-ish pounds, or at least big enough that you will be left with lots of leftovers for a future meal.
  2. Stuff the very good very big chicken with flavour—a quartered lemon, and a couple of handfuls of fresh herbs—and rub it down with oil and a little salt and pepper. This super simple combo adds a surprising amount of flavour.
  3. Roast the chicken on a bed of sliced onion. This leaves you with a soft oniony pan gravy type of thing that takes the chicken to a whole other level. At 9 months old, the Beansprout DOGS the soft onions before just about anything else that I place on his highchair tray. It’s a sign.
  4. Roast the chicken in a 400 degree oven. You need a little heat to crisp up the skin. Yes, the SKIN. Which brings me to 4(a). DO NOT REMOVE THE SKIN. I grew up eating skinned roasted chickens, and (sorry mom), they suck. They really really suck. If you are watching your waistline, ditch the potatoes and wine and dessert and salad dressing and just about EVERYTHING else before you ditch the skin.
  5. And most critical: Use a digital meat thermometer to test for doneness. I resisted this for years and figured I could test for doneness by cutting into the chicken or jiggling the leg to see if the “juices run clear” (wtf). But my digital oven-safe meat thermometer has been a game-changer. Put one on your Christmas list.

The full Foolproof Roast Chicken recipe appears below. I’m suggesting that you eat half the meat on day 1 and save the other half for a later meal (like the kick-ass Chicken, Goat Cheese & Spinach Enchiladas, pictured below), but that is totally optional. I’m also suggesting that you boil the heck out of the chicken carcass—because homemade chicken stock is about 156 times better than that crappy boxed or canned stuff—but that step is optional too, of course. If you do make the stock, stash it in the freezer for a soup, risotto (I have an excellent baked butternut squash one that I will share soon) or stew.

(Aaaaaand, to be sure you don’t miss any of these forthcoming recipes, subscribe to our newsletter, or follow along on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest.)

Happy roasting season, friends.

Foolproof Roast Chicken |
Foolproof Roast Chicken

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

Yield: 4 servings, plus leftovers


  • 1 4 to 5 pound roasting chicken
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 2 handfuls of fresh herbs (I like a combination of sage, thyme and rosemary)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Put the sliced onions in the centre of a roasting pan that is large enough to hold the chicken.
  3. Reach into the chicken cavity and pull out the innards (if there are any). Put any innards into a small container and stash them in the fridge.
  4. Pat the chicken dry and place it---breast side up---on top of the bed of onions.
  5. Push half the fresh herbs and the lemon segments into the chicken cavity, gently squeezing the lemon segments to release some of the juice.
  6. Use your hand to gently loosen the skin from the chicken breasts. Coarsely chop the remaining half of the fresh herbs, and push them under the loosened skin.
  7. Rub the whole chicken with the olive oil, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
  8. Roast it in the 400 degree oven until a thermometer inserted into the chicken thigh (be careful not to touch the thermometer to bone) reaches 165 degrees. This will probably take about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and test the temperature in a few other spots to ensure they are at least 165 degrees.
  9. Cover the cooked chicken with a piece of foil and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
  10. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Carve off the chicken breasts and refrigerate them for another meal. If you won't be using the meat within a day or two, cube the breasts, throw them into a medium zipper bag, and throw the bag into the freezer.
  11. Carve the rest of the chicken, place it on a large platter and spoon the onions and pan juices over top to serve.


We are dark-meat eaters, so we reserve the breast meat for a later meal. But you can do it the other way around if you prefer.

If you want to make chicken stock with the carcass and reserved innards : remove the lemons from the chicken cavity, then put the chicken carcass and innards (if any) into a large pot. Cover the whole thing with cool water and bring it to a boil. Reduce to low heat and let it simmer, uncovered, for about two hours. Strain, and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, remove any surface fat, and refrigerate or freeze the stock in containers or zipper bags.

I like to start the stock simmering before we even sit down to dinner, but if you don't have time to do this, or you'd prefer to cook it later, throw the carcass into the fridge or freezer and make the stock whenever you have time.

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