How to Roast Chicken in Five Simple Steps

These step-by-step directions deliver juicy roasted chicken each and every time.

The aroma and crackle of a chicken roasting in the oven is the promise of a delicious meal to come. Sure, it will take a bit of time, but when you follow our step-by-step instructions for roasting chicken, it's an easy way to get dinner on the table with little hands-on time. Once you choose from the wonderful options for seasoning chicken, including herbs and spices, plus sweet and savory marinades, all you have to do is get that chicken into the oven and let it roast to perfection.

Here you'll find our most basic recipe, so you can make a whole roast chicken in five easy steps, with five (or fewer) ingredients.

Roast Chicken in roasting pan to bake
Scott Little

Prepare the Chicken

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure to note how much your bird weighs, as this determines how long it should be in the oven. Set it in a shallow roasting pan, breast side up. Tie the drumsticks together with cooking twine, so the chicken keeps its shape and to ensure even cooking without the limbs over-drying. Since the wings are small and will cook the fastest if they're sticking out, tuck the wing tips under the bird, so they don't burn.

Test Kitchen Tip: Sometimes gizzards or other internal organs are stuffed in the cavity of the chicken; remove this packet before cooking and discard or save for another use.

Why You Should Never Rinse Your Chicken

In the past, recipes recommended rinsing pieces of chicken or turkey (or the entire bird's cavity) with water and patting it dry with paper towels. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has changed its stance on this practice. Research shows rinsing poultry can spread bacteria, as contaminated water splashes onto the surrounding areas, like sinks and countertops. If any moisture is present on your bird when you remove it from the packaging, simply pat it dry with paper towels, and don't forget to throw the paper towels away immediately.

Season the Chicken

While the oven is preheating, brush the chicken with olive oil or butter and season with salt, pepper, and (if desired) crushed dried herbs, such as thyme or oregano.

Test Kitchen Tip: Always wash your hands, countertops, and utensils in hot, soapy water between each step of food preparation. Bacteria on raw poultry, meat, or fish can contaminate other food that's exposed to the same surfaces.

Oven-Roast Your Chicken

Place the chicken in the roasting pan in the preheated oven. Cooking times vary by weight.

How long to roast a chicken at 375 degrees Fahrenheit:

  • 2½- to 3-pound chicken: Roast 1 to 1¼ hours
  • 3½- to 4-pound chicken: Roast 1¼ to 1½ hours
  • 4½- to 5-pound chicken: Roast 1¾ to 2 hours

Make Sure It’s Done

The chicken is done cooking when the juices run clear, the flesh is no longer pink, and the drumsticks move easily in their sockets. However, don't rely on these tests alone. Always check the doneness of roast chicken with a meat thermometer. The internal temperature—measured by inserting the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh—should reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Check the temperature of the thigh in several places.

Let It Stand

Before serving, allow the whole roasted chicken to stand, covered with foil, for 15 minutes. This will help the juices redistribute throughout the bird for moist, tender meat. Then carve and serve.

Test Kitchen Tip: Rather than cooking the whole bird, if you want to make chicken breasts or roast other bone-in chicken pieces, we have a great guide on how to bake chicken. It shows you how to roast breasts and how long to roast legs.

Blaine Moats

Popular Rubs for Roast Chicken

Want to take your roast chicken recipes to the next level? Using a rub is a simple way to infuse your bird with bold flavor. To prepare a rub, process the ingredients until almost smooth, scraping the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary. Loosen the chicken from its skin, then carefully lift and spread the paste under the skin, smoothing it as evenly as possible. Cover the chicken tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight before roasting.

Dilled Honey Mustard

In a food processor, combine ½ cup snipped fresh dill; ½ cup sliced shallots; ¼ cup snipped flat-leaf parsley; three tablespoons Dijon mustard; two tablespoons softened butter; two garlic cloves, peeled and crushed; 1½ teaspoons salt; and ½ teaspoon black pepper.

Barbecue Bacon

In a food processor, combine four slices bacon, crisp-cooked and crumbled; four chopped green onions (white and green parts); ¼ cup ketchup; ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley; one to two canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce; one tablespoon molasses; two teaspoons chili powder; and one teaspoon salt.

Citrus Herb

In a food processor, combine ½ of a Vidalia onion, coarsely chopped; ½ cup chopped fresh basil; ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley; one tablespoon chopped fresh mint; two teaspoons chopped fresh sage; ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper; 1½ teaspoons salt; finely grated zest of ½ of a lemon; and finely grated zest of ¼ of an orange. Pulse to finely chop. With the processor running, add two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a slow, steady stream.

Moroccan Spice

In a food processor, combine ½ of a yellow onion, coarsely chopped; ¼ cup toasted slivered almonds; ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley; three tablespoons fresh-squeezed orange juice; two tablespoons brown sugar; two teaspoons orange zest; two teaspoons ground cumin; 1½ teaspoons salt; 1½ teaspoons ground turmeric; 1 teaspoon ground coriander; ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon; ¼ teaspoon ground cloves; and ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper.

Spiced Apricot

In a small bowl, soak ½ cup chopped dried apricots in two tablespoons bourbon, brandy, or orange juice. In a food processor, combine soaked apricots and bourbon (or other soaking liquid), ¼ cup chopped red onion, two tablespoons softened butter, one tablespoon lemon zest, 1½ teaspoons salt, one teaspoon ground cinnamon, and ½ teaspoon ground allspice.

Fast or Slow Asian-Style Chicken Sliders with Slaw
Blaine Moats

Can I Roast Chicken in the Instant Pot?

Looking for Instant Pot (or pressure cooker) roast chicken? By definition, roasting refers to cooking foods uncovered—usually in the oven. It's a dry-heat method, which means the food cooks without adding any liquid while it's cooking.

Because pressure cooking requires liquid and always calls for covering the pot, it's not technically possible to roast in an Instant Pot. However, if you have your heart set on cooking chicken in the Instant Pot, try making some quick chicken tinga or our Asian-style chicken sliders (pictured above).

Storing Leftover Chicken

If you have leftovers, our Test Kitchen recommends storing chicken in the refrigerator for up to three days in an airtight container. Dress up your leftovers by turning them into a chicken pot pie, chop them up and toss them with a salad, or use them for our creamy chicken noodle soup. If you don't think you'll have time to use the leftovers before they spoil, you can place shredded or chopped chicken in freezer-safe bags and freeze for up to two months.

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