6 Common Mistakes You’re Making with Roast Chicken

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Janet McCracken, Deputy Food Editor

To many cooks, roasting a whole chicken is scary. A chicken is a blank canvas, so there are many factors that impact flavor and moisture. Plus, precise cooking time is important, not to mention the many different types of bird. There’s a lot of potential for failure. How do you season it? Where do you insert the thermometer? How do you get the skin (everyone’s favorite part) perfectly crisp? To ease your worries, we asked the food editors in our test kitchen to correct some of the most common mistakes home cooks make. Find their advice below.

1. Putting a Soggy Bird in the Oven
“Pat the skin as dry as possible with paper towels so the skin gets crispy.”

2. Skimping on the Salt
“Season the cavity and skin with salt and whatever else you like. Usually, 1 tsp. of kosher flake salt per lb. of meat is the perfect amount.”
–Mary-Frances Heck, Associate Food Editor

3. Leaving Out the Flavor Boosters
“At a minimum, stuff the cavity with a halved lemon to perfume the chicken and keep it moist. (You can add herbs and garlic, also.) For maximum deliciousness, rub a flavored butter under and over the skin of the breasts and thighs. Make any flavored butter you want by following our instructions . ”

4. Keeping the Oven at the Same Temperature
“To start, crank the oven up to 475 or 500 and roast the chicken hot for 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 400 and continue roasting until cooked through.”
–Hunter Lewis, Food Editor

5. Using a Taste-less Bird
“Start with a good-quality chicken! It’ll be hard to coax flavor out of a taste-less bird. I like to use organic grain-fed chickens.”

6. Not Using a Thermometer
“Avoid overcooking the chicken by knowing exactly what temperature it’s at. As soon as the thermometer registers 165° when it’s inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, take the chicken out and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.”


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