How to Roast & Carve a Chicken (It’s Easier Than You Think!)

Roast chicken is what I make when I don’t really feel like cooking at all. It’s the easiest weeknight meal. After about five minutes of prep work, plus an hour of roasting (which lets me play Legos with my two-year-old daughter), I end up with a delicious and satisfying dinner that’s supremely comforting.

Roast chicken is also an essential recipe to master–you should memorize it! You can make basic roast chicken with just four simple ingredients: chicken, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Or you can dress it up a number of ways. Think of it as the little black dress of dinners—it can be infinitely accessorized.

Try it tonight with my step-by-step instructions (and photos), below:

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Choose a roasting dish. You can roast your chicken in any kind of pan you want, as long as the bird fits. I’ve roasted chickens on a rack in a roasting pan and in a large oven-proof skillet, but my hands down favorite way to roast a chicken is on a rimmed baking sheet. Mostly because I hate washing those poultry roasting racks (so annoying!) but also because, about halfway through roasting my chicken, I can scatter vegetables all around it for an insanely easy one pan meal.

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Whatever type of pan you’re using, drizzle it with a little bit of olive oil. Then place your chicken onto the pan. Make sure you’ve patted your chicken dry all over the outside with paper towel. This will help the skin to crisp. (Ahem, please disregard my hands, which I’m fully aware resemble the raw chicken itself. It’s been a cold, long winter here in the North East. Cut me some slack, Nesties!)

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Tuck the wings underneath the chicken. You could also tie the legs up with butcher twine if you want. I rarely do. Tying the legs up is more about presentation than anything else—it results in a prettier bird. Some claim that it helps to keep the meat moist. I have not found this to be true and on most evenings I simply cannot be bothered since I usually carve the chicken prior to serving. But I digress.

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Now drizzle the chicken with a little more olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. At this point you can throw it in the oven and start roasting. But sometimes I like to stuff the cavity of the chicken with garlic, some onion, lemon, and herbs—I’m using parsley.

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Into the oven the chicken goes. You want to roast it approximately 15 minutes per pound. By the way, there is nothing quite like the smell of a chicken roasting in your home to make your family really happy. Maybe someone should make a roast chicken aromatherapy candle.

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According to the FDA, you should cook the chicken until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. While I’m not going to disagree with them, I would add, that you do not have to keep the chicken in the oven until it reaches 165 degrees. I’ve found that if you remove the chicken when the internal temp reaches 160 degrees, it will continue to cook as it rests, resulting in a tender and moist bird that is not overcooked. To test the temperature of your chicken, insert a thermometer into the thigh meat, but not touching the bone. This will give you the most accurate reading.

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Let the chicken rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving. I usually use this time to prepare a quick salad to complete my meal. OK, full disclosure. Even though I’ve been to culinary school and I make a living making food pretty, butchery always fill me with a certain amount of dread. On Thanksgiving, I’ve found that the easiest way to carve my turkey is to make someone else do it. I’m lame, I know. That being said, carving up your chicken is actually super simple, and the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

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You want to start by removing the whole leg from the body. Place the chicken, breast side up (obviously!), on a cutting board. With a sharp chef’s knife (sharp is key!) slice through the skin between the breast and thigh. Gently pull the leg down revealing the joint. The joint is the white cartilage, not the bone. Cut through the joint and free the whole leg.

Then, with the tip of your knife, find the joint where the drumstick meets the thigh. The joint here is harder to see, so it might take a few tries. Cut through the joint firmly. Repeat with the other leg.

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Next, remove the wings, simply locate the joint where they meet the breast, and slice them away.

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Then using the tip of the knife, slice along one side of the breast bone. Carefully, so as to keep the breast in one piece, begin to pull the meat away from the body, and continue slicing, following the contours of the rib cage, removing the breast entirely. Slice the breast. Repeat with the other side.

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What’s my favorite part of the chicken? Well, officially, I’m a thigh man, but if I’m being completely honest, my favorite pieces are the oysters. They are the juiciest and most tender part of the bird. They’re located on the back. Just pull them off and eat them yourself. Don’t share them. You’ve just roasted and carved a whole chicken for your friends and family. They’re all yours!

So, to recap: Roasting a whole chicken is super duper easy, people love it, and you should commit the recipe to memory, or at least get it tattooed on your arm. (Ha ha! Just kidding—don’t do that. Just memorize it!)

Perfect Roast Chicken Recipe

  • Serves 4 to 6
  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Total time: about 1 hour

 Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken (3 1/2 to 4 pounds)
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • Aromatics such as garlic, onion, lemon, or herbs, optional

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Drizzle a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil. Place the chicken, breast side up, on the prepared pan and tuck the wings underneath. Drizzle the chicken with a little olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Fill the cavity with aromatics, if desired. Roast until a thermometer reads 160 to 165 degrees when inserted into the thigh, about 15 minutes per pound. Remove chicken from oven and let rest 10 to 15 minutes before carving.