A Perfect Sunday Roast
Happy Fall! The weather has finally turned and we’re getting lots of cool autumn winds this week. It seemed like the perfect excuse to pull out the roaster and make an epic late September Sunday roast this past weekend. We love this method for roasting whole chicken so much and I wanted to share it with you so you can join in on making our cozy Sunday suppers. I was able to shoot some pics of this roast chicken before we devoured it accompanied by hot rice and a salad. That pan gravy though. Don’t sleep on this one!
Whole Chicken: This recipe calls for a 3-4 lb whole young chicken, which serves our family of 3 with 2 days of meals. If you use a larger chicken increase the cooking times. We’ve found that a good quality chicken like the whole chickens from Butcher Box produce the best results. I always save the carcass and make chicken stock with it too. The leftover chicken is perfect for making chicken salad or simply sliced for sandwiches or to use as a filling for tacos or quesadillas, a topping for nachos, etc.
Sumac: You may remember me foraging for wild sumac a few weeks ago on my Instagram story. I hadn’t really used sumac before this and I am hooked. It’s so good on chicken, fish, and veggies. If you haven’t had the pleasure of trying it yet, the flavor is very bright and citrusy, akin to lemon juice. Sumac is a standard component in za’atar spice blends and is used frequently in the cuisines of the Eastern Mediterranean region. Here in the northeast region of the USA and Canada, sumac was used historically by Native American cultures as a food and medicine. The bright red berries can be used to make a tangy drink similar to lemonade.
Spices and Herbs: We always add lots of fresh thyme because it goes so well with poultry. I will usually add whatever fresh herbs are growing in our garden too like rosemary, sage and oregano. You can also use dried herbs but go for fresh ones if you can. The other spices we use are usually a mix of ground coriander and cumin seeds and will sometimes add a dash of Hungarian paprika. Another must have seasoning for us is hot pepper like a whole habanero or Scotch bonnet pepper for spicy flavor and heat.
Olive Oil: Rubbing the chicken skin with olive oil helps it to brown and become crispy while adding flavor to the meat. It is also used to cook the accompanying vegetables in the roasting pan.
Salt and Pepper: Seasoning poultry properly is important to produce flavorful results. Liberally season the skin and cavity with kosher salt. Freshly cracked black pepper adds flavor and a little heat to the chicken.
Vegetables: The key here is to use enough vegetables as to not overcrowd the roasting pan. I always do a mix of onion, celery and carrot plus whole unpeeled garlic cloves, which will roast in their skins. These will add tons of flavor to the simple pan sauce created from the pan drippings. From there I will sometimes add potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash slices, quartered apples or pears.
How to Make the Best Roast Chicken
Jake and I developed this cooking method together through trial and error and it never fails to produce a crispy-skinned yet juicy and tender roast chicken every time. The key is starting out at a higher heat in a preheated roaster to get that golden crispy skin. Then turning the oven off completely for the last part of the cooking time to ensure that the meat does not dry out and remains juicy and tender and literally falls off the bone.
The roasting pan is an important part of this method as well. We’ve tried out a bunch, including the disposable tin ones (do not recommend), and the most effective type for holding in and conducting an even heat is made from enameled cast iron. After researching roasters we settled on and purchased this large one from Staub and have been very happy with it. You know I love me some cast iron cookware, but I don’t like cooking with liquids or acidic ingredients (like white wine) on plain cast iron because of the way those ingredients react with the cooking surface. Enameled cast iron, although a bit more pricey, is worth the investment here because it really stands up high and above the rest of the options.
Tips for Perfect Roast Chicken
- Invest in an enameled cast iron roasting pan. After trying out different roasting pans nothing compares to the heat conductivity of cast iron. Once it gets hot it stays hot and ensures an even heat source throughout the cooking time. I like enameled cast iron instead of plain cast iron for this because you can add liquid and acidic ingredients like wine without having to worry about it reacting with the cast iron.
- We prefer not to truss whole chickens when roasting them because we found it to be an unnecessary step. The legs actually cook better when untrussed with the method outlined in the recipe.
- Don’t skimp on salt and seasonings. Bland chicken is the worst. Salt is important for bringing out the best flavor of any meat. Don’t be shy with your seasonings.
- Rub that bird! Don’t be afraid to really get your hands in there and rub the seasoning into the skin and under the skin of the breasts for maximal flavor.
- Starting the cooking process out on a high heat ensures a perfectly crispy skin every time.
- Turn off the heat. Turning the oven off for the last part of the cooking time ensures a supremely juicy and tender chicken every time. No more dry chicken breast!
Yes, sumac has a tart tangy flavor similar to lemon so you can grate the zest of 1 lemon into the spice mix to flavor the chicken.
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- 1 whole chicken 3-4 lbs
- 2 whole limes
- 1 whole habanero pepper
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary torn into smaller pieces
- 1 small bunch fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin seed
- 2 teaspoons sumac
- 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper divided
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil divided
- 1 whole large sweet onion or red onion
- 2 whole medium-large carrots
- 2 stalks celery
- 2 whole yukon gold potatoes
- 6 whole unpeeled garlic cloves
- 2 whole bay leaves
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup water
- Preheat a heavy-bottomed roasting pan at 450˚F/230˚C on the center rack of the oven while you prep the chicken and vegetables. An enameled cast iron roaster is recommended.
- Cut limes in half and have some paper towels ready to go. Place raw chicken in a large bowl and squeeze limes over the chicken. Turn the lime halves inside out and rub them all over the skin and inside the cavity. Pat the chicken dry with the paper towels and transfer to a dry bowl. Discard limes. Wash hands.
- Salt the skin and cavity of the chicken with 2 teaspoons of kosher salt. Then add the whole habanero pepper, rosemary, thyme, coriander, cumin, sumac, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to the bowl. Rub the herbs, spices, and oil all over the chicken skin and under the skin of the breasts. Wash hands.
- Peel the onion and cut it into large wedges. Peel and cut carrots into 1-inch sized pieces. Trim celery stalks and cut into 2-3 inch long pieces. Cut potatoes into 8 long wedges each. Leave the skins on garlic cloves. Add veggies to a separate bowl and toss them with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, and 2 bay leaves.
- Once the roaster is preheated, remove it from the oven and add the prepped veggies to the pan in 1 layer. They will sizzle when they hit the hot pan. Watch out for oil splatter.
- Tuck in the tips of the chicken wings and place the chicken breasts up over the veggies. Place the habanero into the chicken cavity opening.
- Use your hand to scrape out any oil and seasoning left in the bowl over the chicken breasts. Wash hands.
- Place the roaster back in the oven and lower the temperature to 425˚F/220˚C. Roast for 30-45 minutes, turning the pan halfway through, until the skin is browned and the veggies are fork tender.
- Combine 1/2 cup of white wine and 1/2 cup of water in a liquid measuring cup.
- Remove the roaster from the oven and pour the wine-water mixture over the chicken and vegetables. Shake the pan to loosen the vegetables from the bottom.
- Return the roaster to the oven and then turn off the oven. Let the chicken slow-cook for another 30 minutes with the oven turned off.
- After 30 minutes test the temperature of the thigh meat with an instant thermometer. 165˚F/74˚C is the safe minimum cooking temperature for poultry. Another way to check that poultry is cooked through is if the juices run clear and the leg and thigh meat fall off the bone easily.
- Let the chicken rest in the pan for 10 minutes before carving it. Serve hot and spoon the roasted veggies and pan juices over the meat.
- If you can’t source sumac try swapping it with lemon zest or just leave it out. Feel free to add other spices and/or herbs as you like.
- Wrap leftovers and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Reheat to serve.
- Save the chicken carcass to make broth.
- We found it unnecessary to truss the chicken and prefer the way it cooks untrussed.
- The garlic can be squeezed out of its peel like roasted garlic.
- We like to rub the roasted habanero over the chicken meat for some extra heat and flavor. This is totally optional and you can leave it out completely if you don’t like spicy foods.