13. Learn to Roast a Whole Chicken

Yes, I am still a vegetarian. Yes, this was really gross. But we discussed this… getting out of the comfort zone! Making things other people thoroughly enjoy, like dead birds!

I will go ahead and tell you, that I did fail you once again in barely taking any photos. I am terribly sorry. Spoiler alert: Food photography is on the resolution list. I’m going to get there, I promise.

My husband and I hosted our family Thanksgiving this past year and cooked our first turkey! I’m told it was deliciously perfect (thanks, Zack!).  However, I had never been up close and personal with such a large, very raw, piece of meat before. It was so gross. I also didn’t know that you are supposed to put it in a thing…for storage purposes.  I just left it wrapped in the butcher paper inside the plastic bag they sold it to me in.  There was a lesson learned here… Large hunks of raw meat have a great deal of juice, and that juice will end up all over your refrigerator if you aren’t careful. Secondary lesson learned: Store the meat on the bottom shelf, just in case said juice finds it’s way out of the storage container, it won’t contaminate your veggies and other vegetarian items! Luckily I had unknowingly done this, and Thanksgiving was not ruined. But my mom, sister, and I did have to spend a significant amount of time cleaning up raw turkey juices from the inside of my fridge.


So I can’t take credit for the deliciously perfect turkey.  That was Zack’s doing for sure. I helped with the research and methodology, though! And it lingered in the back of my mind as this resolution of mine was forming, that I had never cooked a whole chicken. Even before I was a vegetarian, I wasn’t very well versed in the cooking of the meat.  Outside of chicken breast and breakfast meats, I don’t really have a lot of experience there. We just were never much of a meat-eating household.  It’s all coming full circle here, people. COMFORT ZONES!

So, my father-in-law decided to come up for a visit and I got it in my head that I was going to cook a big dinner one night, and part of that dinner was going to be a whole chicken.  As any good vegetarian would do when buying meat, I wandered around puzzled in the meat section and finally asked the butcher man to help me choose my bird. I selected a very fine Martha Stewart recipe for inspiration, bought some twine, and prepared myself for the gross-ness.

I decided that my Pampered Chef Deep Covered Baker was the appropriate vessel for this little bird. So, I followed Martha’s instructions (being sure to double the garlic, duh), whined and groaned as I “seasoned the cavity” (ew) and went on my way. I added some of the Cajun seasoning we had left over from Thanksgiving, too. I was afraid it would be too bland. I also learned that what my people call “tyin’ up the legs” is actually called trussing the chicken. Sophistication achievement unlocked!

This thing took forever to cook. I cooked it for as long as Martha said, took it out, let it sit, tried to carve it (read: micromanaged Zack while he carved it), it was pink. Popped it back in. Repeat something like 3 times. I kept taking it’s temperature and analyzing it’s flesh color. Finally it wasn’t pink and it reached the assigned chicken temperature according to Martha.

Finally it was finished. And it was sooooooo cute. And we had a lovely family dinner!whole-chicken

I’m told that it was enjoyed by all, but feedback was to add more seasoning next time (we like things spicy around here in our household). But, I did it! And I didn’t even throw up.

Lessons learned:

  • Always keep your raw bird in a tray or deep dish in the fridge in case those juices wander
  • Trussing a chicken is a fancy term for tying it’s legs up before cooking it
  • Quit opening the oven door a million times to take the temp of the bird. Be patient!
  • Add more seasoning to the chicken
  • Take more/better pictures of my food!



1 whole chicken (cook time may vary with size, I used a 4# chicken)
2 tablespoons salted butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 medium onions, peeled and sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick
1 lemon
3 large cloves garlic, peeled
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth


  1. Let chicken and 1 tablespoon butter stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove and discard the plastic pop-up timer from chicken if there is one. Remove the giblets and excess fat from the chicken cavity. Rinse chicken inside and out under cold running water. Dry chicken thoroughly with paper towels. Tuck the wing tips under the body. Sprinkle the cavity of the chicken liberally with salt and pepper, and set aside.

  2. In the center of a heavy-duty roasting pan, place onion slices in two rows, touching. Place the palm of your hand on top of lemon and, pressing down, roll lemon back and forth several times. This softens the lemon and allows the juice to flow more freely. Pierce entire surface of lemon with a fork. Using the side of a large knife, gently press on garlic cloves to open slightly. Insert garlic cloves, thyme sprigs, and lemon into cavity. Place chicken in pan, on onion slices. Cut about 18 inches of kitchen twine, bring chicken legs forward, cross them, and tie together.

  3. Spread the softened butter over entire surface of chicken, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Place in the oven, and roast until skin is deep golden brown and crisp and the juices run clear when pierced, about 1 1/2 hours. When chicken seems done, insert an instant-read thermometer into the breast, then the thigh. The breast temperature should read 180 degrees and the thigh 190 degrees.

  4. Remove chicken from oven, and transfer to a cutting board with a well. Let chicken stand 10 to 15 minutes so the juices settle. Meanwhile, pour the pan drippings into a shallow bowl or fat separator, and leave onions in the pan. Leave any brown baked-on bits in the bottom of the roasting pan, and remove and discard any blackened bits. Using a large spoon or fat separator, skim off and discard as much fat as possible. Pour the remaining drippings and the juices that have collected under the resting chicken back into the roasting pan. Place on the stove over medium-high heat to cook, about 1 minute. Add chicken stock, raise heat to high, and, using a wooden spoon, stir up and combine the brown bits with the stock until the liquid is reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Strain the gravy into a small bowl, pressing on onions to extract any liquid. Discard onions, and stir in the remaining tablespoon of cold butter until melted and incorporated. Untie the legs, and remove and discard garlic, thyme, and lemon. Carve, and serve gravy on the side.


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