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cooking time/temp for roast chicken?


I am attempting to roast my first chicken tomorrow, and I am wondering what the correct cooking time is for different sizes. I need to feed a family of five, so what size chicken should i buy, what temperature should I roast it at, and for how long?


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  1. Family of five with one chicken might be difficult, only because bigger birds start to get a touch tougher, IMHO. You might be better off with 2 3.5lb birds, if you have a pan that can fit them. When I do 1 3.5 pound bird, I do a high roast (opinions will differ on this, but i've always had great results) at 425 for roughly 45 minutes or so. To check, prick the bird in the thickest part of the thigh; if the juices run clear, it's done. A couple of things to remember, since this is your first:
    -Make sure you let the chicken rest for about 15 minutes after you take it out of the oven. Like any meat, it needs to relax after cooking for a bit, and the resting time will allow the muscle fibers to do that, thus reabsorbing juices it might have lost.
    -throw some butter under the breast skin, and salt and pepper the whole bird, inside and out. you'll end up with nice crispy skin that may not be healthy, but it damn sure tastes good, and the butter under the skin will also moisten the breast meat, which is the first to dry out. i also like to stuff the cavity with a pricked lemon, 5 or six peeled and slightly crushed garlic cloves, and some fresh herbs--rosemary and thyme for sure, sometimes sage.
    -in the pan, try putting some leeks and onion down as a bed for your bird(s) to roast on. they'll be a nice accompaniment, almost confited when all is done. i do mine in a cast iron skillet, so you get a fair amount of caramelization-- while you're resting the chicken, splash 1/2 a cup or so of dry white wine into the pan and deglaze-- allow that to reduce a bit, and you'll have some nice pan juices to pour over your bird.
    -enjoy yourself-- roasting the perfect chicken is a lifelong pursuit for lots of cooks... but it is the embodiment of beauty in simplicity.

    2 Replies
    1. re: tacostacoseverywhere

      You are right on about roasting 2 small 3lb birds. Less cooking time, and double the liver - plus more options for dark or white meat.

      1. re: tacostacoseverywhere

        Wow... nice post tacos!! I would like to add this for icecreamgal: Save the carcass and scraps to make stock!! Just boil it with some celery and onion scraps and a 3 or 4 peppercorns. Soups uh comin!!

      2. According to the Good Housekeeping cookbook (the one I always use as a reference for things like this) a 2 1/2 -3 1/2 pound fryer will serve 4-5. I would buy a 4 lb chicken and make chicken salad with any leftovers and soup from the carcass.

        Cook it at 350 for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours. Use an instant thermometer to verify that the meat is 175-180 degrees in the thickest meat. (I poke the thermometer into the thigh just above the leg.)

        The trick to crispy skin is pat the bird dry with paper towels and rub with oil before cooking.

        2 Replies
        1. re: rouxmaker

          I wonder how old your book is--because I think portion sizes have changed so much over the years!! I wish it were true that a 2 1/2 bird would feed 2 of us in my house!

          1. re: rouxmaker

            I happen to be intimately, professionally, familiar with that book. You'll notice that nearly all meat/poultry serving sizes are 4 ounces before cooking. This is consistent with the USDA recommendation that a serving of beef or poultry be 3 ounces. I know we in the states have a reputation for embarrassingly large and unhealthy serving sizes, but 3 ounces of cooked meat is pretty skimpy.

          2. Maybe this isn't what you're looking for, but I always thought making each person a small one-pound hen was a fun thing to do, especially for dinners with 5-8 people.

            1. I've tried a variety of temps and times. The easiest and most effective is:

              500 degrees

              Cook the chicken ten minutes per pound

              Remove from oven and let sit at least 10 minutes

              Perfect roast chicken

              If you want ideas on prep, here is a link to a post of mine (I am obsessed with Roast Chicken):


              8 Replies
              1. re: Tom P

                Tom, my mother was The Queen of Perfect Roast Chicken, and I've tried my whole adult life to achieve her accomplishments in that regard, but with inconsistent results, alas. To date I've done best with pre-heating to 425, then turning it down once I put the chicken in, but I could do better. So I read your post and the other thread with interest, and I'm going to give your constant high temp a whirl.

                What I want to know is this: minus for the time a vertical roaster, where do you think I should set the rack? I've found if I don't turn it down below 400, with the rack set mid- or low-mid-oven, the skin around the keel bone and the fleshy part of the legs browns too quickly (read: burns). And it's not the oven, because I've had this dilemma in five homes now :-). But I don't like to cover any parts with foil (if I wanted steamed chicken, I'd steam it). *Does* a vertical roaster help with this?

                P.S. And, btw, I'm not even opposed to a little char here and there. But parts of the chicken finishing 25 minutes before the rest of it--no, that's no good. TY if you can help.

                1. re: MaggieRSN

                  I roast mine in a somewhat similar fashion to Tom P - 20 minutes at 550, then turn oven down to 425 and roast about 30 minutes more - adjusting for size of bird, though I've had a 4 pounder done in that time. I use the lower middle level for the rack and no burn problems. These days I'm roasting in an oval cazuela.

                  1. re: MMRuth

                    I'm glad to hear from you re the cazuela, Ruth. I've been thinking about one for some time. I *love* cooking in ceramic and have been interested in trying terra cotta. I take it you must be happy with the results.

                    Maybe I'm still just setting the rack too high and shouldn't worry so much that the bottom of the bird will burn...

                    1. re: MaggieRSN

                      Yes - v. happy w/ it - seems the perfect size for the bird. I've never had the bottom of a bird burn, FWIW.


                      I also have some smaller round ones that I've discovered are perfect for making gratins for two.

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        Ah, thank you for the link. I just got the most recent catalog yesterday. La Tienda's food prices seem high to me, compared to other sources (except for the Serrano, which seems typical). But their cookware, etc. has always seemed reasonable, and I've been tempted. And, after all, Christmas is coming up. ;-) Could I also use the cazuela to bake things like corn and quick breads?

                        1. re: MaggieRSN

                          Hmm - I don't know about the baking - but haven't tried it.

                  2. re: MaggieRSN

                    I have never tried a vertical roaster. I have been tempted to do so, but now that I am roasting it in the large cast iron skillet (15 inch, link below), I don’t think I will try anything else, both the chicken and the vegetables have been turning out so well.

                    I put my chicken on the lower third rack. I put it in horizontally, not nose in. I sometimes turn it once, but only if I think about it.

                    I agree you don’t want to steam your chicken…I have never had much of a problem with the skin getting too dark (though I admit I like it really crispy) but you could always top it with foil for the first 3rd or half of the cooking time, then remove the foil. It will still brown for sure. And if I did foil, I would just gently lay it over the top, barely resting there, with a couple of slits, to make sure it does not steam, rather than tightly fit it.

                    This method, by the way, comes from Barbara Kafka’s book ‘Roasting’, which I use all the time. She talks at length about roasting a chicken, how she came up with her method and there are a variety of roast chicken recipes, as well as how to roast any other type of food you can imagine, it is a terrific book. There is a recipe in there called ‘Not On Your Diet Potatoes’ that is worth the price of the book alone.

                    Can you tell us about you Mom’s perfect chicken? How did she do it? Or was it was of those innate cooking things people can do that are hard to replicate?

                    Lodge Cast Iron


                  3. re: Tom P


                  4. gal, I just wanted to give you a little encouragement, since it's your first roast chicken. As you see, different cooks have different methods that they swear by. And you'll see by reading the cookbooks of, or listening to, some of the great master chefs of our time, that their methods vary as well. But chicken is very forgiving. The main thing is you don't want to overcook it and dry it out, so use a thermometer. If you don't have one, get one as soon as you can, and, until then, check that the juices are clear and the legs and wing joints manipulate easily, as recommended by other posters. And DO let it rest out of the oven, as Tom and others say.

                    Other than that, it may take a few tries till you figure out what temp/time is best in *your* oven, with your pans, etc., but until then, if you don't overcook, probably the worst thing that will happen is that the skin may be less crispy or more crispy than you prefer... Have fun and once you get the hang of it, I find it's one of the easiest meals to make, and there are so many ways to dress it up or dress it down.

                    1. Thanks everyone! I just bought a 4-pound chicken and am considering using the mustard rosemary recipe from epicurious: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo..., but it calls for roasting a 7-8 lb bird for 1.75 hours at 375 degrees. I like the simplicity of Tom P's method (500 degrees, 10 minutes per pound), but since I am cooking this in someone else's kitchen, I worry about smoke, overcooking, etc. What do you think is the most fool-proof temp/time, and would you just recommend butter, salt, pepper, lemons in the cavity, etc...is that safer than the mustard rosemary idea?

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: icecreamgal

                        That link takes one to epicurious' home page, gal, so I didn't see the recipe...but, the other night I roasted split chicken breasts in Dijon, Balsamic and rosemary, and it was pretty darned wonderful.

                        But...are there small children involved? If so, I'd ask others here with little ones if pickier children sometimes like less distinctive flavorings?

                        1. re: icecreamgal

                          Good call about cooking in someone else's kitchen - we always have the windows open etc. b/c of smoke -though that may be due to my dirty oven (made dirty by my cooking the chicken the way we do - grin).

                          1. re: icecreamgal

                            a 7-8 pounder is more than a bird, it's an adventure. We call them oven roasters in CT. Although jfood can understand Tom P's method for a smaller bird, you crank up at 500 degree oven and keep that puppy in there for 10/pound (1 hour 15'ish) you are going to have some major dark skin on that bird. Not to mention that jfood is not sure the bird wll be large enough when the fire department shows up because you set off every smoke alarm in the neighborhood.

                            jfood would keep the degrees in the 350-375, use a thermometer (as the recipe also suggests) and place the mustard coating on the bird during the last 20 minutes. Jfood also thinks that a 170 white meat on a bird that size may not give you the desired doneness on the dark meat which takes a little longer to get to temp.


                          2. jfood thinks 1 bird at 4 pounds is tough for 5 adults but 2 adults and three little kids might, and he stresses might, work.

                            jfood has probably prepared a thousand roasted chickens and has settled on the following process. Oven at 425, season, throw in a roasting pan and into the oven for 40 minutes. Take it's temperature and at 180-190 out it comes.

                            More than 425 increased the smoke level too much, lower than 425 did not give the correct crispy skin, succulent meat ratio.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: jfood

                              agreed, when I've tried to do a bird at 475 and up the smoke factor and splatter in the oven was significant and had to do an oven cleaning later that evening.

                              1. re: jfood

                                Regarding high heat and oven spatter, when I roast a chicken (usually about 3 pounds) I nearly always use the Zuni method, which calls for a 475-degree oven. You roast upright for half an hour, turn the bird upside down for 10 to 20 minutes, then turn it upright again for the last 5 to 10 minutes. I've found that if I pour off the fat from the pan each time I turn the bird, I end up with very little smoke and very little spatter. The extra minimal effort is well worth it for the crispy skin and juicy meat. And . . . I have all that lovely chicken fat for roasted potatoes and other indulgences.

                              2. Thomas Keller's roasted chicken recipe is hard to beat:


                                The secret to enjoying ultra-moist chicken, including the breast meat, is to not overcook it. Breast meat need only be cooked to 150 degrees F and dark meat to 160 degrees F. Use a probe thermometer and pull it when either is five degrees below the target temperature and allow carryover cooking to carry the bird into the safe zone.