How to Roast Chicken in Five Simple Steps
Roast chicken is one of the most gratifying dishes a home cook can make. These step-by-step directions show you how to make the juiciest whole roasted chicken ever. Once you’ve mastered our simple recipe, step up your game with our irresistible rubs and recipe variations.
The aroma and crackle of a chicken roasting in the oven promise a delicious meal to come. Sure, it will take a bit of wait time until that meal is on the table, 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, you just have to get that chicken in the oven and let it roast to perfection.
Here you'll find our most basic recipe for cooking chicken in the oven. Then you can make a whole roast chicken dinner in five easy steps, with five (or fewer!) ingredients.
Prepare the Chicken
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Make sure to note how much your bird weighs, as this determines how long to roast a chicken in the oven. Set the chicken 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 overdrying the limbs. 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 by splashing contaminated water onto the surrounding areas. 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 is 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°F:
- 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 chicken 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 a meat thermometer (we like this one on Amazon for $16.99) into the thickest part of the thigh—should reach 175°F. Check the temperature of the thigh in several places. Additionally, the temperature of the chicken breast should be 170°F.
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. Carve and serve.
Test Kitchen Tip: Rather than cooking the whole bird, if you want to make roasted chicken breast or roast other bone-in chicken pieces, we also have a great guide on how to bake chicken. It shows you how to roast chicken breast in the oven and how long to roast chicken legs.
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 roast chicken 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 skin-on chicken then carefully lift and spread paste under the skin, smoothing as evenly as possible. Cover chicken tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight before roasting in the oven.
Dilled Honey Mustard
In a food processor combine ½ cup snipped fresh dill; ½ cup sliced shallots; ¼ cup snipped flat-leaf parsley; 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard; 2 tablespoons softened butter; 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed; 1½ teaspoons salt; and ½ teaspoon black pepper.
In a food processor combine 4 slices bacon, crisp-cooked and crumbled; 4 chopped green onions (white and green parts); ¼ cup ketchup; ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley; 1 to 2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce; 1 tablespoon molasses; 2 teaspoons chili powder; and 1 teaspoon salt.
In a food processor combine ½ of a Vidalia onion, coarsely chopped; ½ cup chopped fresh basil; ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley; 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint; 2 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 processor running, add 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a slow, steady stream.
In a food processor combine ½ of a yellow onion, coarsely chopped; ¼ cup toasted slivered almonds; ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley; 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed orange juice; 2 tablespoons brown sugar; 2 teaspoons orange zest; 2 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.
In a small bowl soak ½ cup chopped dried apricots in 2 tablespoons bourbon, brandy, or orange juice. In a food processor combine soaked apricots and bourbon (or other soaking liquid), ¼ cup chopped red onion, 2 tablespoons softened butter, 1 tablespoon lemon zest, 1½ teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and ½ teaspoon ground allspice.
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 to the recipe while it’s cooking.
Because pressure cooking requires liquid and always calls for covering the pot, it’s not technically possible to roast chicken 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 leftover roasted chicken by turning it into a chicken pot pie for a hearty dinner, chop it up and toss it with a salad, or use it to make 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 2 months.