There's Only One Right Way to Roast a Chicken

Some people might argue that the best way to enjoy roast chicken is to pick up a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store. That way you don’t have to cook it and you can be lazy and those chickens are only like five bucks anyway so why bother roasting your own chicken at home anyway?

Except that, if you’re really being honest with yourself, supermarket rotisserie chicken tastes nothing like home-roasted chicken.

Supermarket rotisserie chicken is dense and dry. Home-roasted chicken is tender and juicy.

Supermarket rotisserie chicken is boring and bland. Home-roasted chicken is exciting and satisfying.

Supermarket rotisserie chicken makes people sad. And have you ever known a home-roasted chicken that didn’t make people happy?

But roasting a whole chicken at home is time and labor intensive, you grumble. I get that, and I’ve grumbled too. Then I developed a recipe for the A Man, A Pan, A Plan cookbook that includes just seven ingredients, requires only the bare minimum of chopping, takes only an hour to make, and comes complete with a heaping helping of delicious roasted vegetables.

Here’s exactly how to make it.

Step 1: Buy a smaller chicken.

Most “small” chickens, these days, are larger than a French bulldog. While your urge may be to buy a bigger bird because it’ll make for more leftover, resist. Larger chickens require more time to roast and their white meat frequently dries out before the dark meat has the chance to cook through.


Buy a chicken that weighs between 3 to 3 1/2 pounds. You might have to dig around the grocery bin or work up the gumption to ask the meat cutter behind the counter, but consider this sweat equity.

Step 2: Break out the cast-iron.

Some people roast chicken on a baking sheet. I’ve tried this, but the skin on the underside of the chicken always comes out mushy and gelatinous.

Some people roast chicken on a roasting pan with a rack insert. I’ve tried this, too, and while the chicken does come out tasty, washing and storing the roasting pan and rack insert is a pain.

A large cast-iron skillet is all you need to perfectly roast a chicken. With a simple trick (more on that soon!) you can crisp the skin of the chicken. And, with the right method, you can clean up fast.

Step 3: Elevate the bird.

Whole chickens require good air flow to cook evenly and develop crispy skin all over. This is why there’s a rack in a roasting pan—to lift the chicken off the surface of the pan.

But, unfortunately, roasting pan racks are inedible. Vegetables, on the other hand, are.

After preheating your oven to 450°F, removing the giblet packet from the chicken, and then patting the chicken dry with paper towels, wash your hands and roughly chop enough vegetables to cover the bottom of the cast-iron pan.


Usually, for me, this involves taking a knife to 1 pound of red potatoes, 3 large carrots, and maybe 1 small yellow onion. I don’t spend a ton of time doing this. I don’t peel the potatoes or carrots. I do peel the onion, obviously. I cut everything into bite-sized pieces.

Then I toss all the vegetables into the cast-iron pan with a glug of olive oil, a good amount of salt and freshly ground black pepper, and some chopped fresh rosemary or thyme if it’s in the refrigerator.

Finally (and, honestly, this is the extent of the prep work here) I rub the chicken all over—inside and out—with more olive oil for flavor and to help crisp the skin. After seasoning the bird liberally with salt and pepper, I’ll jam a sprig or two of that rosemary or thyme into the cavity, along with 2 smashed and peeled garlic cloves.

That chicken goes atop the vegetables, elevated, and ready to roast.

Step 4: Add a lemon.


Roasted chicken without lemon is like a peanut butter and banana sandwich without a shake of ground cinnamon. You’ll enjoy your meal, but not as much as you could have.

Freshly squeezed lemon juice spritzed over just-roasted chicken cuts through the luscious fat of the bird and freshens the flavors of the vegetables.

For these reasons, beside the chicken, I always tuck one lemon, halved, next to the chicken before I put the whole thing in the oven.

Step 5: Go do something else.

Your chicken is going to take at least 20 minutes for the skin to brown. So set a timer and get out of the kitchen. If you’re in the kitchen you’re going to want to open the oven to check on the progress of everything. Don’t do that. You’ll lower the heat in the oven, disrupt the air flow circulating within the appliance, and only grow hungrier.

Step 6: Conduct a spot-check, then lower the heat.

Once the timer goes off, then open the oven door.


Does the skin look golden brown and slightly crispy? Are the vegetables beneath the bird beginning to soften? Can you smell the lemon roasting?

If not, close the door and set the timer for another 5 minutes.

If so, then lower the heat to 400°F. This gentler temperature will coax the bird to juicy perfection.

Set the timer for another 15 minutes and, yes, return to doing whatever you were doing that wasn’t in the kitchen.

Step 7: Temp the chicken.

The only thing sadder than supermarket rotisserie chicken is a chicken that gives you and your loved ones a severe case of foodborne illness.

If you don’t have a digital-read meat thermometer, buy one. They cost less than supermarket rotisserie chicken.

If you do have one, good on you. Jam that thing into the thickest part of the leg (the part that’s usually the last to reach doneness). It should read 160°F. When it does, and wearing oven mitts, carefully remove the pan from oven.

Allow the chicken to rest for at least 5 minutes. During this time the meat will rise to the USDA-recommended internal temp of 165°F.

Plus, some of the delicious juices from the chicken will further bathe the vegetables.

Step 8: Slice, squeeze, and feast.

Mitch Mandel

Transfer your perfectly roasted chicken to a cutting board, slice that baby up, and then plate it next to a heaping helping of the roasted vegetables, along with one of the lemon halves.

Then squeeze that roasted lemon juice all over everything and enjoy, vowing to never again to fall victim to another lackluster supermarket rotisserie chicken.

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