How to Cook a Whole Chicken

There's nothing quite like a perfectly roasted whole chicken straight out of the oven, and with the right tips and tricks, cooking a whole chicken is easy! We'll take you through all the steps -- including prepping, seasoning, carving, and serving your beautiful roasted chicken -- and teach you how to bake a whole chicken in no time.


Tips for Cooking a Whole Chicken

+ enlarge image Want to learn how to bake a beautiful chicken like this? It's easy when you follow these steps. Get easy chicken recipes.

Get our helpful tips for how long to cook chicken and how to cut up a chicken.

How to prepare a whole chicken

  • Sometimes the chicken's gizzards or other internal organs are stuffed in the cavity of the chicken; remove this packet before cooking.
  • You don't need to wash the chicken before you cook it, but you can rinse it if desired. If you do, remember to thoroughly dry the chicken inside and out.
  • Chill, uncovered, overnight in the refrigerator to completely dry the chicken before roasting. This will help the chicken become crispy and brown when you bake it.

Basic Chicken Information

+ enlarge image We baked this chicken with rosemary and garlic herbed potatoes to infuse the meat with flavor. Get the recipe!

How to season and truss a chicken

  • Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F, or to the temperature your chicken recipe indicates.
  • While the oven is heating, finish prepping the chicken. Separate the skin by running your fingers between the skin and breast meat very gently (don't worry too much if you break the skin). This helps the skin get crisp.
  • Brush the chicken with olive oil or butter and season with salt, pepper, and desired herbs and spices. You can also stuff the chicken with herbs or veggies.
  • Tie the chicken with kitchen string. This "trussing" makes the whole chicken more compact to allow for even cooking. In a figure-8 pattern, loop string around the drumsticks and pull the legs in, tucking the wings under the chicken breasts. Loop a long piece of kitchen string around the drumsticks in a figure-8 pattern, pulling the string up tightly around the thighs and breasts and tying at the neck.

+ enlarge image Now that you know how to cook chicken, experiment with different flavor combinations. We stuffed this chicken with lemon wedges and a mixture of herbs to give it big flavor inside and out. More chicken recipes!

How to bake a whole chicken

  • Set the chicken in a roasting pan, breast side up. For best results, use a shallow pan, as deep pans will trap steam and make your chicken soggy.
  • Toss vegetables of your choice with butter, and place them in the pan around the chicken.
  • Place the chicken (in the roasting pan) in the preheated oven. Cooking times vary based on the chicken's weight.

    2-1/2 to 3 pounds: Roast 1 to 1-1/4 hours
    3 to 3-1/2 pounds: Roast 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours
    3-1/2 to 4 pounds: Roast 1-1/4 to 1-3/4 hours
    4-1/2 to 5 pounds: Roast 1-1/2 to 2 hours
  • Continue to bake chicken until the juices run clear, the chicken is no longer pink, and the drumsticks move easily in their sockets. Then remove the roasted chicken from the oven. The internal temperature -- measured by inserting a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh (thermometer should not touch bone) -- should be 180 degrees F.
  • Cover and let stand at least 5 minutes while the juices integrate. Transfer chicken and vegetables to serving platter.

Chicken Cooking Charts

How to Carve a Chicken

+ enlarge image Don't be intimidated by the idea of carving a chicken. Simply follow these steps for a perfectly divided bird. More carving tips.

After baking, follow these tips for how to carve a whole chicken:

1. Remove the legs
Holding the chicken firmly with a fork, use a sharp knife to cut through the leg joint and completely remove the leg from the body. Repeat with the other leg.

2. Cut the breast
Turn the knife blade sideways and cut horizontally into the breast half until you hit the breastbone. Repeat on the other breast half.

3. Divide the breast
Carve down through each breast to divide it into serving-size slices. You can also make a cut right next to the breastbone to remove a breast half and keep it in one piece.

4. Clip the wings
Cut off the wing tips with a sharp knife, then cut the wing pieces away from the body of the bird.

5. Cut the legs in two
Cut through the joint between the drumstick and the thigh to separate the two. Repeat with the other leg.

How to Make Chicken Gravy

How to Make Broth

How to Cook a Whole Chicken in Parts

+ enlarge image Learn the basics of cooking each part of a chicken. Tips to skin and bone chicken.

Some recipes call for cutting up a whole chicken into its parts and/or deboning the chicken before cooking. Learn about the best ways to cook each part of the chicken.

Breast: The breast is the most ample part of the bird -- a whole chicken has two breasts, one on each side of its rib cage. Many people prefer its juiciness and mild flavor to other parts. But white meat is also more susceptible to drying out and getting stringy. Skin-on, bone-in breasts are best roasted or baked, while skinless, boneless breasts are best cooked quickly at high heat -- grilled, stir-fried, or pan-fried.
How to Cook Chicken Breast

How to Boil Chicken Breasts

Thigh: The two chicken thighs, at the tail end of the bird, contain large hunks of dark meat -- known for its moist, tender qualities. Skinless, boneless thighs can be cooked in much the same way as skinless, boneless breasts -- grilled or pan-fried. Because dark meat doesn't dry out as easily as white meat, chicken thighs are also good candidates for longer cooking methods, such as baking or stewing.
How to Grill Chicken

How to Saute Chicken

Drumstick: Drumsticks make up the lower part of the chicken legs and are encased in a ball of dark meat. Drumsticks are delicious baked, deep-fried Southern-style, oven-fried, or grilled. The skin and dark meat can withstand the high heat of the grill without drying out.
How to Bake Chicken Legs and Quarters

How Long to Grill Chicken

Wing: The two chicken wings along the top part of the rib cage (near the breasts) don't have much meat, but what's there is dark meat and tender. Wings are best cooked quickly at high heat -- grilled, broiled, roasted, or deep-fried -- to make the skin crispy.
How to Broil Chicken

How to Make Fried Chicken

More About Baking Chicken
Enlarge Image Get delicious recipes for roasting a whole chicken, including this sweet-and-savory apple-glazed roasted chicken. View the Recipe


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