The elusive, perfectly roasted, crispy-skinned, chicken. It's cooked to absolute perfection; not dry, not undercooked. It's juicy and salty and it takes everything in you not to try and finish the entire thing at once.
but... WHY IS IT SO HARD?!
I remember the best chicken I've ever had. My friend Ruscha was visiting from Colorado, and I let her take over my kitchen to bring us her infamous skillet roasted whole chicken. ("let" being the operative word- more like I begged her until she agreed to cook even though she was on vacation.) She made it look so easy. She is tall, beautiful and elegant, and she whisked effortlessly around my kitchen- dousing the chicken in olive oil, sprinkling a flurried white cloud from far above what seemed like an excessive amount of salt - " just trust", she assured me, when I told her it looked like WAY too much, as she twisted the legs into a neat cross, cracked copious black pepper and plopped it in the oven. It astounded me in it's simplicity and flavor, and somehow still I succeeded in failing at that simple chicken at least 5 times after she left before I perfected my own version.
A former longtime vegetarian, I never cooked meat at home until recently, and I've gone from being pretty bad at it to being a little better than okay about it. So I maintain that if I can cook this chicken perfectly, so can you- and with 5 minutes of prep time! It is idiot-proof, as proven by me.
I don't cook with olive oil, and might I suggest that you don't either! It's important to cook with the right type of oil, and to be mindful of their individual smoke points- when oils get heated above their individual thresholds, they "oxidize" and go rancid- meaning that when you consume them, their now unstable molecular structure is going to wreck havoc in the form of oxidation in your body. Most people who cook with olive oil have no idea that it burns above 320 degrees F- making it suitable for only slow braising and slow roasting, not sauteeing or roasting or frying. I always suggest either avocado oil, coconut oil, or animal fat when cooking anything high heat as they are the most stable. (Yes, these are saturated fats, and no, they aren't actually that bad for you. Don't be afraid!) Choosing the right type of oil is one of the best ways to save your body form unnecessary toxic exposure- we have enough of that already!
Also, the cleaner the chicken, the better this is going to taste. I highly suggest an organic, pasture-roaming chicken of the best quality you can find. Your taste buds, your body, and our environment will thank you for it. It's worth the splurge.
I love to add sweet potatoes to the skillet about halfway through- they soak up the juices and get the perfect brown char, but feel free to use any starchy root vegetable that's in season. Butternut squash, acorn, purple potatoes, even carrots with some herbs. Don't salt them though- the salt from the chicken will run down and provide them all the sodium they need.
1 whole pastured chicken
4 tablespoons melted fat - coconut oil, avocado oil, or animal fat (I used rendered duck fat, but lard and tallow are great as well)
3 tablespoons course sea salt
cracked black pepper
1-2 sweet potatoes; washed, dried and chopped into large equal size chunks
optional: 4 garlic cloves, fresh rosemary sprigs
- preheat oven to 450
- remove anything inside of the chicken (giblets, organs) and save for later- I throw the necks into my stock! or boil and feed to your cat, whatever
- place chicken into a large, oven-safe skillet (I use my lodge cast iron, but you could also use a deep baking sheet)
- being careful not to cross contaminate, rub the chicken down all over with the melted oil, being sure to coat it evenly
- "rain" the salt from high above, getting into the crevices of the wings and legs evenly
- pepper the skin liberally
- cross the legs and tie in a bow with 4 inches of kitchen twine
- tuck the wings underneath the body of the chicken to ensure they don't burn!
- place in oven and bake at 450 for 25 minutes
- 25 minutes into cooking time, turn down heat to 425 and add your starchy vegetables, ensuring to coat them in the chicken juices
- bake another 25-30 minutes, turning the potatoes to ensure they cook evenly and don't burn on the bottom
- your chicken is ready when an internal thermometer reads 160-165, and when inserted the juices run clear
- let rest 10 minutes before carving