Updated 09/20/2020 to add new photos, adjust the roasting temperatures, and give instructions for optional trussing.It has come to my attention that a shocking amount of my friends and acquaintances have never attempted to roast a chicken. In fact, some have admitted to being terrified of the process. Not intimidated. Terrified.
Y’all, that’s sort of ridiculous. If you fall into this category, let me be the one to tell you that roast chicken is one of the easiest things in the world to make. It’s chicken, not rocket science.Here’s everything you’ll need to make a quality roast chicken: salt and pepper, olive oil, garlic, thyme (or rosemary), a lemon, a lot of onions, and a whole chicken.First things first—slice up the onions and toss them together in the pan. You want your pan to be almost full of onions.
Dry off your chicken with paper towels and lay it on that bed of onions. You want it breast-side up, meaning that the neck and tail will be down. Grease the inside and outside of your bird with olive oil and give it a good massage with salt and pepper.
Tuck the wingtips under the breast. This helps the chicken to cook more as a cohesive unit and keeps the wings from drying out. They may move as they cook—that’s okay.Stuff the lemon, garlic, and thyme in the cavity, and truss the legs (tie them together) if that’s your bag. Whether you choose to truss or not, the next step is to slide the chicken into a 450F oven. Yes, 450F. This initial burst of high heat helps the skin turn golden. As the cooking time moves on, the heat will be turned down to 400F. This keeps the chicken from burning or drying out throughout the long roasting time.When you finally remove the chicken from the oven, it’ll be golden and beautiful. When I roast chickens, I nearly always get comments on how aesthetically pleasing they look.But who cares about looks—it’s all about flavor! And this chicken has plenty of it. The skin is crispy, the meat is moist, and everything is well seasoned.And that’s to say nothing of the soft roasted onions that are coated in rendered chicken fat (aka schmaltz). Seriously, if you’ve never tasted a sweet onion that’s been cooked in chicken fat, you’ve been deprived.
Better make up for lost time.
Roast Chicken with Schmaltzy Onions
makes one 5 pound chicken
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2-3 pounds sweet onions, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 1/2-2 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 4.5-5.5 pound raw whole chicken, giblets removed
1 lemon, sliced in half equatorially
1 small-medium head of garlic, sliced in half equatorially
2 sprigs fresh rosemary or 10 sprigs fresh thyme
trussing string (optional)
***Make sure your oven is fairly clean before starting. The high heat in this recipe can cause smoke if there is any significant grime on the walls or floor of your oven.***
Place an oven rack in the center position. Preheat oven to 450F.
Grease the bottom of a 9×13-inch casserole dish (or other large high-sided pan) with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Top with layers of onion slices. Set aside.
In a small bowl, mix together salt and pepper.
Use paper towels to blot chicken to remove excess moisture—make sure to do this inside the cavity, too. Place chicken, breast-side up, on the bed of onions.
Coat chicken inside-and-out with remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Massage salt and pepper onto chicken, including the cavity. Stuff the cavity with the lemon, garlic, and rosemary or thyme.
If trussing, cross the ends of the legs and tie them together with trussing string. Trussing is not required for this recipe.
Put pan in the oven. Roast for 90 minutes, reducing the heat to 400F at the 60 minute mark.
Chicken is done when a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh (not touching bone) reads at least 165F. Juices should run clear.
Remove dish from oven. Remove chicken to a plate and tent loosely with foil. Let rest for 20 minutes.
Stir onions and return to oven for 15-20 minutes. Set aside to cool while you carve the chicken.
Uncover plate. Lift chicken and pour any excess liquid from the cavity into the onions. Place chicken on a cutting board and remove lemon halves, garlic, and thyme/rosemary. Carve chicken (here’s a tutorial).
Use tongs or a wooden spoon to stir onions together with rendered chicken fat (aka schmaltz). Serve chicken and onions together, spooning schmaltz over the top as desired.
Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days.