How to Bake a Chicken and Not Go Mad

I began my obsession with bird baking two Thanksgivings ago when I had decided to flex my culinary muscles and host. Facing the reality that this is about the most ridiculous holiday that one could think up, and that I had only eaten turkey about two times in my entire life made a bit of research necessary. I brined and patted and rubbed and temped and basted and by George it payed off.

Only one problem remained: who the hell has time for all of that?

So! Here she is, a simple recipe for the much more approachable, and just as delicious, roasted chicken.

The time to complete this masterpiece can vary greatly on a few things. First, the size of your little guy. Next, the amount of time you prefer to salt the bird. I like to salt and season the chicken the night before to allow the juices plenty of time to distribute, but if you only have a couple of hours what can you do? Just try to maximize this time as much as possible and shoot for at least an hour. The longer the better to let the flavors seep in, but either way it’s going to be delicious.


One chicken

Three tablespoons melted or room temperature butter (may be more or less based on the size of the bird)

Three tablespoons Dried herbs of some sort (I like to use sage and rosemary but get creative)

About a tablespoon salt

A pan with a lip high enough to withhold any juices that cook out



Ensure that you have removed any giblets in the cavity of the bird. Set these aside to use to make a delicious chicken stock. Chop about one third of your dried herbs and combine with salt. Rub salt mixture over the entire surface of the chicken. Don’t be shy with the salt here, the way it draws flavor down through the meat really pays off. Leave covered in the fridge overnight or at least an hour if possible.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Remove the chicken from the fridge and pat dry with a clean towel. Drying the skin lets it get nice and crisp during baking. Combine softened butter with a combination of herbs. Sage and rosemary add a great flavor. I also like to add a pinch of pepper and any other components I want to get creative with– a squeeze of citrus, cayenne powder, garlic–it’s all fair game. Now this is the fun part: the butter mixture is going to go under the skin of the bird as well as over the top. Gently find a place near the cavity of the bird that you can slide your fingers underneath. Continue slowly moving your fingers deeper forward under that skin until you are able to pull the skin away from both the top and bottom of the bird (though the breast side is more important as it is not cooked in any liquid).

Smooth butter mixture liberally under skin on the breast side and back both over and under the skin. Once coated, place breast side up, turn the wings under the bird and tie legs together over breast (I use a strip of foil to tie if I do not have any cooking twine).


Place in oven, 15 minutes per pound of chicken give or take a bit. If you have a thermometer, check temperature in the groin in between leg and breast for doneness. 165 is the goal temperature for the thickest part of the bird. Without a thermometer, check for doneness by cutting into the groin area and seeing if liquids run clear. If there is any blood present don’t risk it, just baste with pan dripping and continue to cook.


Remove from oven and baste in pan liquid. Enjoy! You just won the battle of the bird.

The great part about this recipe is the plethora of meals you can make using this one ingredient. I eat the chicken meat over a couple days with rice or carrots or in a soup. I also boil whatever is left over when I have picked all the meat off and make a delicious stock which I ultimately use to cook everything I possibly can in for the next couple weeks.

Happy Cooking!


(image courtesy of

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