From rotisserie chicken to the best date night meal, baking a whole chicken has been a popular way to eat this bird. Learn how long it should be cooked and how to prepare it to make it perfect.
Whole chicken should be baked at 375 degrees Fahrenheit in the oven. The weight of the chicken will determine how long it bakes. For a two to three-pound chicken, it can take 60 to 75 minutes; for anything above three pounds, it can take 75 to 90 minutes.
We will be looking at the best way to bake a whole chicken, how to keep it moist, and some of the best ways to season and flavor the bird.
Ideal Weight of a Whole Chicken
Most whole chickens weigh two to three pounds, but they can be bigger or smaller. Usually, you don’t want to go much bigger because then the cooking time will take longer. Unless you have the time to dedicate to baking, try to stay within the two to four-pound range.
The internal temperature of the chicken should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. This is very important because undercooked chicken can cause serious illness. The thermometer should be placed in the thickest part of the meat, which is usually the breast area.
How to Prep a Whole Chicken for Cooking in the Oven
Baking a whole chicken is no easy feat, but there are some things you can do to prep and make it an easier process overall:
Give enough time for the chicken to defrost
Defrosting a whole chicken will take time, so it’s important that you plan accordingly. A whole chicken that is less than five pounds will usually defrost in less than 24 hours. To be on the safe side, start defrosting at least a day in advance. Take the whole chicken out of the freezer and put it into the refrigerator to defrost.
Can I Defrost My Chicken on the Countertop?
Many people will often defrost on their kitchen countertop and while this can be an effective way to defrost your whole chicken, it comes with risks. The USDA states that once raw meat hits 40 degrees Fahrenheit, bacteria can begin to grow and multiply. Once it hits room temperature (generally 68 to 72 degrees), things can go downhill quickly.
Generally, most people won’t know what temperature their meat is when it’s on the countertop unless you use a thermometer. Leaving your whole chicken at room temperature for longer than two hours can result in spoiled or bad meat, something that’s not worth risking.
Remove the neck and giblets from the chicken’s cavity
Whole chickens will have the neck and giblets (organs) inside of the cavity. Take these out and save them to create a chicken stock. Some people will even cook them to eat as their own special dish; for example, deep-fried chicken giblets are a specialty in the southern United States as well as other parts of the world.
Season the whole chicken well, including the inside
To bring out the best flavoring in your whole chicken, you need to season both the outside and the inside. Using salt and pepper is the easiest, but other popular spices include:
- Minced garlic
- Garden herbs such as rosemary, thyme, sage, and oregano
- Garlic or onion powder
- Some kind of fat, like olive oil or butter
Inside the cavity, many people like to throw in half a lemon and herbs like parsley or cilantro. This helps to spread the flavor throughout the chicken, especially because the chicken is so big and seasoning the outside can only go so far.
Brine is a salty liquid (usually just water or stock with salt) and the chicken is left to marinate in it. This adds additional flavor as well as tenderizes the meat and helps it retain its moistness.
Making and Using Gravy
Gravy is very easy to make and elevates the flavor of the chicken. Simply whisk some flour in with the chicken juices until it thickens up and pour it over the chicken.
Make sure you have a container that is wide and deep.
The pan that you roast your chicken in should be wide enough to fit the whole chicken (nothing should hang over) and deep enough to catch all the juices (you don’t want to lose out on the flavorful meat drippings!).
How Can I Make A Whole Chicken Crispy?
While not everyone wants a crispy whole chicken, some people like the skin crunchy. Here are some tips for crispy skin on a whole chicken:
- Wipe the entire chicken down with a paper towel: crispy chicken skin occurs when there’s as little moisture as possible, so patting the skin dry ensures that the skin will crisp up.
- Use high heat: by baking chicken at high temperatures for a shorter period of time, the skin will crisp up while the inside will retain its juiciness. Cook about 50 to 75 degrees higher than 375 for 20 minutes or until the skin turns a golden brown color, and then lower it back down again.
- Put the chicken in the fridge the day before baking: another tip to help dry out your whole chicken is to put it in the fridge uncovered. This can take careful planning because, depending on the weight of the chicken, it could be 24 hours before it’s fully defrosted.
- Do not use aluminum foil: aluminum foil prevents chicken skin from crisping because it creates an environment where steam forms, which is too moist for the chicken skin.
General Tips for Cooking A Whole Chicken
Baking a whole chicken doesn’t have to be intimidating! Follow these tips for stress-free cooking:
Bake the whole chicken uncovered
Do not use aluminum foil as this prevents the skin from crisping up. Instead, bake the whole chicken uncovered. You can use aluminum foil on the wing tips since they tend to burn quickly but leave everything else uncovered.
Invest in a meat thermometer
Meat thermometers are vital to perfect baked chicken. This will ensure that the internal temperature is 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Even if it’s slightly undercooked, it can make you sick so take care to always check.
Let the whole chicken rest after taking it out of the oven
One of the most important steps you can do to baked chicken is to let it rest. This allows the juices to spread through the bird and keeps the meat moist, tender, and flavorful. The bigger the bird, the longer it should rest. General rule of thumb is about 20 minutes.
Can I keep my whole chicken in the fridge?
Whole chicken will last in the refrigerator about four days. To make the most of it, try cutting it up and freezing certain parts so they last longer. You can use the body of the chicken to make soup stock with, especially since it’s full of flavor!
What’s the best way to carve chicken?
Always slice between the joints for clean cuts. Separate the leg from the body as this will make for the easiest way to take the bird apart. When cutting the breast meat, place the knife right in the middle and slice down.
Perfect Roast Chicken Recipe
- whole chicken
- fresh thyme sprigs
- salt and pepper
- 1 lemon halved
- 1 head of garlic
- quarter stick of butter
- 1 yellow onion
- 4 carrots
- olive oil
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove the chicken giblets and neck and cut off excess fat. Liberally sprinkle salt and pepper all over the outside and inner cavities of the chicken.
- Stuff the inside with the thyme, lemons, and garlic. Brush the outside with the butter (melted) and sprinkle again with salt and pepper.
- Tie the legs together and tuck the wing tips under the body so they don’t burn.
- Chop up the onions and carrots, then place them in the roasting pan. Toss with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Place the chicken on top.
- Roast for 90 minutes or until the juices run clear when you cut into it. Remove the chicken and let it rest for 20 minutes.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 482Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 147mgSodium: 271mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 3gSugar: 3gProtein: 42g