The Last Word on Roasted Whole Chicken

I want to tell you about my latest adventure in roasting a whole chicken. I think I’ve finally mastered the beast, and I’m not changing a thing.

First of all, a few years ago on this site I posted what I think is the perfect approach to roasting a chicken. It’s mostly hands off, takes only a few minutes of preparation, and an accurate kitchen timer—30-40 minutes in a hot oven (450 hot) and the same time with the oven turned off. Perfect every time. The timing, of course, depends on the size of the chicken. ATK says 30/30, for a 3 1/2 pound chicken. Good luck finding one of them in the grocery store. Everything now os 5-6 pounds, loaded with growth hormones and water. But I do get them at the farmers’ market, and they tend to run about 4 pounds. At that size, use 35/35.

But now, I’ve discovered a new seasoning profile, and it’s so good that I’m loathe to try anything else. Because let’s face it—roasting a chicken is, while an essential skill, pretty boring.

Until now.

You’ve got to try this. Because it’s all about flavor. This recipe turns an ordinary every-day roast chicken into a feature dish to which to be looked forward (um…grammar rules, you understand, but still…)

So here’s the blueprint:


2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp Harissa (mild or hot—you decide)

1 Tbsp dried sage

1 Tbsp kosher salt

1 Tbsp granulated garlic

1 tsp finely ground white pepper

1 tsp sweet paprika

1/2 tsp ground thyme

1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper

Start by mixing up the dry ingredients—standard stuff, mind you). Mix in some good olive oil and harissa until you have a thick paste. :


Run your fingers and/or thumbs under the skin of the breasts AND legs and thighs, to separate the skin from the meat.

Then, rub the seasoning glop all over the entire chicken—top, bottom, sides, into the crevices of the legs and wings. Then slather more under the skin, covering as much of the breast, leg, and thigh meat as possible. And don’t forget to dump a bit inside the front and rear cavities.

Tuck the wing tips under the bird.

Then follow the directions as in the earlier post—which I’ll repeat here because it takes only a few words. Preheat the oven AND A HEAVY 12-INCH OVEN-SAFE FRY PAN—an enamel pan is best, but a cast-iron pan works too—to 450 degrees. Carefully take the pan out of the oven, place the whole bird in the pan, and return the pan to the oven. Set the timer for 30-45 minutes (depending on the size of the bird). When the timer goes off, turn the oven off and set the timer for the same amount of time again. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR!!! When the timer goes of this time, take the pan out of the oven, set it on the counter, cover the bird with foil, and set the timer for 15 minutes. Then carve and enjoy.

Perfect every time. And if you have a convection setting on your oven, even better. The skin will be crisp and tasty, the chicken will be perfectly done and as moist as can be.

You’re welcome.

And by the way, this goes double for a turkey (or triple, depending on the size of the bird (which I did, just before writing this entry). Just use a larger vessel for a turkey.

About Cheff

Lancaster Eats highlights the best resources our community has to offer. From farmers to markets to vendors to retailers, we highlight those members of our wonderful food community who are striving to improve the presence of the commercial and retail food industry for all the citizens of Lancaster. The food we eat and drink is important to every single one of us, and we believe that everyone is entitled to safe and healthy food and drink. We hope to engage the citizens of our city and county who care about the food we eat and the environment in which we live. We know there are many people in the community who are doing wonderful things that benefit the people of Lancaster, as customers and consumers. We hope you will let us know who they are so that we can learn and inform those who eat and drink. That, as we know, is all of us. We are all in this together. Let's build a community.

Posted on March 2, 2021, in Recommendations. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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