I know what you're thinking - why the heck would anyone go through that effort when you can buy them already roasted at the grocery store? It's the same thing people ask me about making homemade chicken stock, but I'll tackle that another day. In the meantime, here's my top ten list - I hope you'll be sufficiently convinced to roast a bird soon!
10. It will make your whole house smell like the Sunday supper that Grandma used to make.
9. The store bought already roasted birds have water injected into them (see the label to see just how much).
8. The store bought versions also generally have sodium injected into them.
7. When you roast your own, you control the flavors.
6. You can roast more than one bird at the same time and can feed a crowd.
5. Because you can roast more than one bird at a time, you can also have plenty of that great roast chicken leftover for snacking or future meals.
4. You can use the leftover carcass to make the world's best chicken stock (remember, you'll see more on that another day).
3. It's cheaper - and in this scary economy every dollar saved counts!
2. Your mom will be impressed. (I was running out of reasons leading up to #1.)
1. It just tastes better!
So if I've sold you, here's the technique. Start by lining a rimmed baking sheet or the bottom of your broiler pan with foil and setting a rack on top. You want the chicken to roast all the way around and to give the fat somewhere to go as it melts off.
Next pull out anything that was stuffed in the cavity of the bird (I toss all that but you can chicken foie gras with the liver if you are so inclined). Rinse off the bird inside and out and pat it dry, then prepare some flavor enhanceers to put inside that empty cavity. I happened to have some onion, lemon and thyme springs from the garden. Don't worry about peeling or de-stemming anything - these aromatics are just to add flavor to the bird and will be thrown away at the end. And if you don't have the ingredients, time or inclination, leave the cavity empty.
After that stuff is all tucked inside I do my magic trick. I gently separate the breast skin from the meat and shove some flavored butter into the cavity that will melt through the bird while it cooks and flavor the meat. I like an herb butter with chives, parsley and/or tarragon best, and that's the lumpy part you see in the photo above.
Season the outside of the chicken liberally with salt and pepper and put it in a 350 degree F oven and let it roast until the internal temperature reaches about 170 or the juices run clear, usually 1 to 3 hours depending on just how big your bird is.
Let it rest a few minutes when you take it out, then you can do like I do and start ripping off small pieces like the tip of the wing or a stray piece of crispy skin and start nibbling away before you even get it to the table. Or if you are more restrained than I am around food, pull all the aromatics out of the bird, carve it up, and serve it to your family.