The honest to goodness truth about roasting a whole chicken? Whether it’s Tuesday night or Sunday supper, whether you’re cooking for two, like us, or a dozen, there’s nothing simpler, more delicious, or more comforting than a proper roast chicken (or two, or three). That, with a velvety pile of creamy mashed potatoes with pan gravy, and silky soft roasted leeks, and you have the ultimate comfort food meal.
Now our chicken weighed in at 5 pounds, slightly larger than the recipe calls for, but we used our “roasting convection” option on the oven and it cooked perfectly in the same amount of time.
There are lot of theories out there about how to season a chicken—we know, we’ve done most of them! But as Bon Appétit claims, the only truly nonnegotiables are (a) being generous with the kosher salt inside and out and (b) letting the chicken sit out for at least an hour, which gives the seasoning time to work its way deep into the meat, meaning every bite is delicious through and through.
The magic begins to happen when you salt the bird inside and out, tie the legs and refrigerate uncovered for 24 hours. The next day, while the oven is preheating, lightly oil the bird, and then pat it all over with the dry rub. Lift the tied legs and insert the lemon quarters and rosemary sprig into the cavity. Now let the oven continue the magic…
Simple, Juicy, Roasted Dry-Rubbed Chicken with Leeks
- 1, 31⁄2 to 4 lb. whole chicken
- Olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. fennel seeds
- 1 tsp. black peppercorns
- 3 large leeks, white and light green parts only
- Salt and pepper
- 1 lemon, quartered
- 1 large sprig rosemary
- Pat a 3½-4-lb. whole chicken dry with paper towels and season generously with kosher salt inside and out. Use 1 tsp. Diamond Crystal or ½ tsp. Morton kosher salt per lb.
- Tie legs together with kitchen twin. Let sit 1 hour minimum. Salting the chicken ahead of time allows the seasoning to really penetrate the meat. An hour is great, but longer is even better. Chill the salted bird, uncovered, up to 1 day, which is what we did.
- Meanwhile, to make the dry rub, grind the fennel seed and peppercorns in a spice grinder until fine.
- Slice off the dark green parts of the leeks, slice the light parts in halve lengthwise and wash thoroughly to remove all of the grit. Let dry.
- Place a rack in upper third of oven and set a 12″ cast-iron skillet or a 3-qt. enameled cast-iron baking dish on rack.
- Preheat oven to 425°. Once oven reaches temperature, pat chicken dry with paper towels again and lightly coat with olive oil. Now’s the time to sprinkle the dry rub all over the bird. Into the cavity, insert 3 or 4 of the lemon quarters and the rosemary sprig.
- Drizzle a bit more oil into hot skillet. This prevents the chicken from sticking to the pan.
- Place chicken in the center of the skillet. Arrange the leek halves around the bird for a built-in side dish.
- Roast for 50-60 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast should register 155°; it’ll climb to 165° as the chicken rests.
- Turn the leeks at least once to prevent them from getting too dark. (We didn’t do this and some areas became charred.)
- Lift the chicken and push the leeks under the bird so that they’ll absorb flavorful juices. Lightly tent with foil. Let rest in the skillet for at least 20 minutes, and up to 45 minutes.
- When done resting, move the chicken to a cutting board with moat, transfer pan liquids to a fat separator to remove excess fat. Wipe out any charred bits from your pan then add back the juices without the fat. At this point we added 1 1⁄2 cups of homemade chicken broth, made a cornstarch slurry, and put back any accumulated juices from the resting chicken and made a pan gravy.
- Carve the chicken into legs with thighs, breasts and wings, arrange on a platter and serve with your favorite sides.
Loosely adapted from a recipe for Bon Appétit