simple roast chicken

roast chicken

I’ve been making roast chicken for some time but only recently have been happy with my results. My biggest frustrations in the past include uneven browning or a super “pale” roast chicken, overcooking, and a chicken that just looks ugly. Honestly, I don’t care much about how food looks as compared to how it tastes, but I still like to serve something presentable.

The past few times I’ve been using Thomas Keller’s technique and recipe for roast chicken from his book “Ad Hoc at Home: Family Style Recipes”. I’ve been pretty much successful all attempts. It’s a simple roast chicken recipe – salt, pepper, garlic, herbs, oil, butter. However, there were some parts of the chicken that were a little overcooked. As such, I’ve toyed with the idea of using my probe thermometer. On the other hand, adjusting cook times would also work. I’ve stuck to that method so far and it’s worked out okay.

I was very happy with this recipe as it results in a nice brown, crisp chicken. If you are not roasting it over a bed of veggies, you can also roast it on a rack for even browning. However, you risk having an oven fire because the fat dripping from the chicken will smoke and might catch fire. I am very paranoid about oven fires since setting my croissant on fire in the toaster oven last year. I wasn’t keeping a close eye on it, so technically it was my bad. As such, even when roasting on a rack, I always put some sort of veggie at the bottom. This time round I just sliced up a few onion rounds (skin on) and placed them at the bottom.

Thomas Keller’s recipe uses butter and oil to lube the chicken. Initially, I thought that butter was the secret to giving the chicken its beautiful brown color but lamented that fact (if it was true) because I wanted to cut down on my butter consumption. I am happy to report after today’s attempt (pictured in this post) that oil does the trick too. I think what matters most in the browning of the chicken is the dryness of the skin and temperature of the oven. I’ve tried other recipes before (e.g., Anne Burrell’s roast chicken) and no other recipe has produced such even browning as Thomas Keller’s. So, the important thing is to have DRY skin and use Thomas Keller’s cooking method.

Trussing the chicken is optional but gives the chicken a more presentable appearance for dinner parties. However, if you do not have the time, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Click here for a handy tutorial on how to truss a chicken.

a trussed roast chicken

Simple Roast Chicken

(taken and adapted from Thomas Keller’s book “Ad Hoc at Home: Family Style Recipes”)


  • 1 whole chicken (4-4.5 pounds)
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper for seasoning
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 6 thyme sprigs, or 3-4 stalks of rosemary, or herb of choice
  • 1 large onion, sliced into thick rounds (skin on)
  • Oil (olive or canola)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes (optional)
  • A mixture of root vegetables like carrots, leeks, beets, and potatoes, cut into chunks (optional)


  1. Remove chicken from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 1.5-2 hours, or until it comes to room temperature.
  2. Preheat oven to 475ºF.
  3. Remove neck and innards (giblets) of chicken. Using a paring knife, cut out the wishbone from the chicken. This will make it easier to carve the chicken, however, I didn’t do this step.
  4. Pat the chicken dry.
  5. Season chicken generously with salt and pepper.
  6. Massage 3-6 garlic cloves and herb of choice into the cavity of the chicken to infuse it with the flavors.
  7. Truss the chicken. As I mentioned above, this is optional.
  8. If you are roasting the chicken with root vegetables, toss the vegetables with some salt, pepper, oil and leftover garlic cloves. Spread the vegetables at the bottom of the roasting pan. If you are using only onions, lay out the onions at the bottom of the roasting pan.
  9. Rub oil all over the chicken.
  10. Make a nest in the center of the vegetables and nestle the chicken in it. If you are using just the onions, lay the chicken on top of the onions. I roasted my chicken on a rack, as such, I placed the onions around and under the rack.
  11. If using butter, cut it into 4-5 pieces and place it on the chicken breast.
  12. Put the chicken in the oven and roast for 25 minutes.
  13. Reduce the heat to 400ºF and roast for an additional 35-45 minutes, or until the temperature of the meatiest portion of the bird registers 160ºF and juices run clear.
  14. Once chicken is done, let it rest first for about 20 minutes before carving and serving with vegetables/onions.

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