Here’s the first thing you have to do: Relax. And here’s the second: Forget all the stupid advice that people give you. There’s so much nonsense out there it will make you crazy, make you scared and make you never want to roast a chicken again. Some people insist that you brine it, others want you to massage and baste it religiously with butter, truss it with twine, turn it every 10 minutes... Stop!
This is what I say: The only thing that really matters is the bird itself. Get a really great chicken and you almost can’t go wrong. Put it in the oven, take it out, let it rest. Eat it with great joy. End of story.
That said, here are a few simple tips to make a fabulous dinner even simpler:
1. Let the chicken come to room temperature, so that it cooks evenly, and pat it really dry, inside and out. You want it to roast, not steam, so you want it to be as dry as possible.
2. Remove all visible fat from the chicken, especially near the cavity. Roughly chop it up if it’s in big pieces. Carefully lift the skin away from the breast and shove the fat underneath, where it will baste the meat and keep it moist.
3. Put the chicken on a rack and put some small, peeled and quartered potatoes, a couple of large onions cut into 6 or 8 wedges and a few whole unpeeled cloves of garlic underneath. Why waste all those lovely chicken juices? (If you roll the vegetables in a bit of olive oil before you throw them in the pan, they will taste even better. But you don’t have to.)
4. Salt the chicken inside and out generously with sea salt. Salt the potatoes and onions too.
5. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees—high heat will make a crisper chicken— and cook the chicken for about 50 minutes for a small (3 pound) chicken.
6. Remove the chicken from the oven. Let it rest for 20 minutes before carving. Serve it with the potatoes, onions and garlic cloves, and the wonderful juices in the bottom of the pan. Dinner is served.
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