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Best-Ever Roast Chicken

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Serves four.

This is the classic roast chicken that all cooks should have in their arsenal. One of the secrets to success is starting it out breast-side down, which keeps the breast meat juicy. Though the chicken is fabulous on its own, you can take it to the next level with a few more ingredients by making a simple pan sauce.

Want to learn more secrets to perfectly roasted chicken? Watch our Test Kitchen's step-by-step video to learn exactly how to achieve tender, juicy meat and crisp skin.

For the chicken:
  • 1 4-lb. roasting chicken, giblets removed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
For the pan sauce (optional):
  • 1/2  cup dry white wine
  •  1  Tbs. chopped fresh parsley
  •  1  Tbs. cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  •   Freshly ground black pepper
Roast the chicken:

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F.

Put the chicken breast side up on a roasting rack in a medium (9x13-inch or similar) flameproof baking dish or roasting pan. Tuck the wing tips behind the neck and loosely tie the legs together with a piece of kitchen twine. Season the breast all over with 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper. Turn the chicken over. Season the back all over with 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper. Drizzle the oil evenly over the back of the chicken.

Roast the chicken breast side down for 30 minutes. Turn it over by inserting sturdy tongs into the cavity and flipping it. Continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 165° to 170°F, an additional 30 to 35 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, loosely tent it with foil, and let it rest for 15 minutes.

If you're making the pan sauce:

While the chicken rests, remove the roasting rack from the pan and let the pan sit for 10 minutes to slightly cool the pan juices. Tilt the pan so the juices run to one corner. Use a large soup spoon to skim off and discard as much of the clear fat as possible.

Position the pan over a large burner on high heat. Pour the wine into the pan. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up the browned bits stuck on the bottom of the pan. Add 3/4 cup water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer. If the liquid does not cover the entire bottom of your pan, tilt the pan to move the liquid around. Continue scraping up all of the bits, using the back of the spoon to dissolve as much of the browned bits as you can, until the sauce reduces to about 1/3 cup and is a deep mahogany color, 8 to 10 minutes.

Take the pan off the heat, add the parsley, and swirl in the cold butter until it melts. Season to taste with pepper and transfer the sauce to a pitcher or bowl for serving.

To serve:

Snip the twine from the chicken’s legs, carve the chicken, and serve.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : with skin; Calories (kcal): 560; Fat (g): fat g 35; Fat Calories (kcal): 310; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 9; Protein (g): protein g 56; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 15; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 0; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 7; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 450; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 180; Fiber (g): fiber g 0;

Photo: Scott Phillips

I agree with tiamo - while a great chicken, the smoke and the mess are too much. I think there are other excellent recipes that can be made without setting off the smoke detectors and creating the need to clean my oven.

This is a great recipe. I use it everytime I need the meat or a whole roast chicken. Doesn't take much longer for me than going to a rotisserie chicken stand and is much better and cheaper. A local discounter sells organic chicken for a reasonable price. We usually have this with a salad as side and nothing else. Gem of recipe/technique!

This is the 'Best-Ever' roast chicken. A bit of smoke from the high heat, but not a problem. A RecipesForKeeps!

This yielded a great taste and a very juicy chicken. The only drawback is (and its a big one) is the smoke produced by the high cooking temperature. I wonder if clarified butter would work instead of the olive oil just for the higher smoke point. Or if you have a commercial kitchen or a commercial hood to rapidly suck the smoke out it would work. My reg hood and down draft running simultaneously along with a ceiling fan with two windows open in February in New England and it was still smokey for about half an hour after I took the chicken out of the oven. I will not make this again for this fact alone. I believe I can get the same juicy results without the smoke overtaking my house.

Really good, super moist, sauce excellent. High heat is the way to go. There's a post that mentions a lot of smoke. Thanks for the heads up. I too, experienced a lot of smoke. I opened windows and turned on the fan.

A simple recipe with great flavor and moist chicken. I roast my T-Day turkey in a similar way, breast side down for the first half of cooking. All the juices run down into the breast instead of down into the pan. So, it makes perfect sense to do a chicken the same way.

The chicken was great... but because of the high heat, the fat at the bottom of the pan splattered and smoked terribly, and made a huge mess in the oven. Maybe it would be a good idea to cover the bottom of the pan with chopped onions to absorb some of that fat. I probably will not cook the chicken that way in the future because of this problem.

Wow, I didn't even have premium chicken and this was great, right down to the sauce. 30 minutes breast-side down made a big difference. My 4.5 lb. chicken cooked in an hour, with squash,onion, and fingerling potatoes along side. It will really be helpful for an organic, truly free-ranging bird with less breast-meat.

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