Most people buy chicken breasts—no skin, no bones, no gunk. To buy a whole chicken, however, is to take a more authentic look at where we get our food. Dinner is never more intimate than when you are shoving your hand inside a poultry cavity and rooting around for innards. Right?
Right. After all, this is what the animal is. Preparing the whole bird allows you to use (nearly) all parts of the bird for use in homemade chicken stock that will impress your friends. And talk about frugal; even though you’re paying for bones with a whole chicken, you still get quite a lot of meat for a low price. That means you can splurge a little and buy a more ethically-raised chicken. Win-win!
Carving may be intimidating, but I included a link to a video. I usually just hack the thing to pieces because I have not yet mastered this culinary art. It still tastes good, even when it’s not in perfect chunks.
Simple Roast Chicken
Inspired by The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters
Step 1: Prepare the bird.
Alice Waters recommends seasoning the bird with a day in advance. If you don’t have the time, prepare it as soon as you can by getting all of the insides out of the chicken. Rinse the bird and pat it dry, and place in a lightly oiled baking dish. Season with salt and pepper, inside and out. If you want, stuff some softened butter and herbs (like sage) under the skin, massaging it into the meat. Stick a cut-up lemon or some onions inside the cavity.
Step 2: Roast the bird.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. A 3 ½- to 4-pound chicken will take about an hour to roast. Most chickens have time and temperature instructions on the labels. The key is to get your internal temperature to 160 degrees in the thigh (don’t touch bone with the thermometer). Waters recommends turning the bird every 20 minutes during roasting (from breast-side up to breast-side down and back again) to facilitate easy browning. Let the chicken rest for at least 10-15 minutes.
Step 3: Carve the bird.
There are numerous videos online. Here is a quick 2-minute one from Gourmet. Remember to save the carcass for your homemade chicken stock!