Mary Ann's Blog

How to Roast a Chicken

Roasting a chicken seems like a daunting task for some people. There are too many unknowns it seems. In my grandmother’s day, a chicken was fresh killed to order but times have changed. Questions I get for roasting a chicken sound like the hotline for how to cook the Thanksgiving turkey. The most frequent questions are:  how big a bird is best, what brand to buy, what temperature to cook it at, how to season it and most frightening of all, when is it cooked.

Lets answer by using a 5 pound bird since it will serve 4.
First buy a trusted brand. Organic is more expensive, but what is a natural product free of artificial hormones worth to you? Whatever you choose, the bird should look plump and its skin not withered or dark yellow. It should have no smell.

When you are ready to prepare the bird, use a designated plastic meat mat. Get everything you will use to prepare the bird before you handle it. Grab a bunch of paper towels and have them handy near the work area. Wash your hands before and after handling the bird.
Remove the plastic bag in the cavity of the bird. It contains the giblets, heart, liver and neck. These can be used to make sauces if you wish. DO NOT RINSE the chicken in your sink; you will just spread bacteria everywhere. That is the new thinking. Instead wipe the bird with paper towels keeping it on the mat.

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Season the bird in and out with salt and pepper. Poke some holes in a whole lemon with a skewer and place it in the cavity along with a couple springs of rosemary and a couple cloves of whole peeled garlic. Tie the legs together with kitchen string. This will help hold the bird’s shape.

Brush the bird all over with olive oil and place it breast side up on a roasting rack in a roasting pan with a peeled and quartered onion, a couple sprigs of rosemary and ½ cup of white wine added to the base of the pan.

Roast until an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the bird registers 160F. This should take about 1 hour and 15 minutes depending on the poundage. The thermometer is the only true way to know if the bird is cooked. Remember the bird will continue to cook when you remove it from the oven so by the time you carve it the internal reading should be around 165F. Halfway through the cooking process, turn the bird over so it browns evenly on all sides.

Allow the bird to rest loosely covered with foil for about 15 minutes, then cut into serving pieces.

a beautiful roasted chicken on a serving platter


  1. Msaucey's avatar


    this is how I cook my whole chicken but what about soaking the bird in cold water & white vinegar????
  2. Annette's avatar


    this is how I cook my chicken
    1st. soak in cold water & white vinegar-remove whatever chicken hair that was left behind drain & dry w/paper towels. Season & cook.
    My question to you is-why not soak the chicken in cold water.??
  3. Maggie's avatar


    There is no advantage to soaking poultry in either cold water and/or vinegar. If your goal is to remove bacteria, soaking will not do this. Vinegar is an effective housekeeping cleanser, and it isn't a friendly environment for some bacteria, but it's neither a good enough nor broad enough anti-bacterial agent for this use. Cooking light meat to 161 degrees F, and dark meat to 175 degrees will do the job.
  4. mary Ann Esposito's avatar

    mary Ann Esposito

    Soaking the bird in cold water and white vinegar will do nothing to enhance its flavor. BUT buying a good quality chicken will and that is why I recommend organic if possible. Most commercially bred chickens are given standard feed, hormones to fatten them up and are caged so they can hardly move. What you wind up with is bland, dry meat that no amount of pre-soaking will alter.
  5. Gian Banchero's avatar

    Gian Banchero

    I saw the video and I agree with the lady about your recipes being "real" Italian cooking... I too am not impressed by restaurant "squiggle" cooking, that isn't the way Mamma, le nonne or my aunts cooked (plus the prices for a simple plate of pasta at most Italian restaurants are astronomical!!!). Mary Ann I have all your cookbooks (and just ordered you newest one) and have recommended you to many many people, your cookbooks bring the reader to the real Italian kitchen and have prevented our true cucina from being lost forever.

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