Roasting a Whole Chicken must be one of the four primary purposes for which a modern electric oven was intended to achieve. The other three being; baking a pie, cooking a casserole and roasting a cut of beef.
Roasting a chicken, yet alone a turkey seems to strike fear in most people. The truth of the matter is that there is no reason to “fear the bird”. Between the oven intended to roast a chicken, most whole birds already being injected with a salt water solution by the poultry processor and the instructions on the packaging being insanely clear, the chances of not presenting a whole roasted chicken that is flavorful, juicy and fully cooked is nearly impossible.
If there is one “unknown” that causes reluctance in roasting a whole chicken for a meal, it is the element of time. I am not talking about how long to actually cook the chicken, but the entire time required from start to finish.
The simplest way to explain how much time is required, let us work our way back to the beginning:
6:00 PM – Sit down to eat dinner
5:50 PM – Carve / Slice the Whole Chicken
5:30 PM – Check the internal temperature of the Chicken. If ready, remove the Chicken from oven and cover with aluminum foil. Use this time to finish preparing the side dishes for the meal.
5:00 PM – Remove the aluminum foil that is covering the Chicken in the oven. Use this time to prepare the side dishes for the meal.
3:45 PM – Place the Chicken, covered with aluminum foil on the middle rack of the oven
3:30 PM – Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
3:20 PM – Season the outside of Chicken with your desired herbs and spices
3:15 PM – Remove the defrosted chicken from the vacuum sealed bag (remove giblets, set aside for gravy) / pot of brine, wash and pat dry.
Defrosting / Preparing the Whole Chicken:
These steps assume that you have taken the necessary steps prior to the 3:15PM for the whole chicken to be properly defrosted if previously frozen. I have found that 24 hours is enough time in the refrigerator to defrost a whole chicken (4 1/2 – 5 1/2 Pounds). To provide enough time to defrost a whole chicken in the refrigerator, place the vacuumed bag sealed bird in the refrigerator the prior day’s morning (30 hours of defrost time). If you are planning to brine the chicken, then additional preparation time prior to cooking is required.
Roasting Time (How long to cook a whole chicken)?
The rule of thumb is 20 minutes per pound of whole chicken. There is a lot of variability in roasting a whole bird, but this rule is a good one to follow.
Example: 5 pound bird will require 100 minutes in the oven.
When the chicken is planned to be done, check the internal temperature with an oven thermometer if you have not inserted a thermometer probe prior to cooking. The chicken is ready when the internal temperature is 165 degrees Fahrenheit (USDA recommends and internal temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit). However, through the process of equilibration the internal temperature will rise to that recommended temperature as the bird rests covered aluminum foil for 20 minutes while you prepare the remainder of the meal.
There will always be an element of variability, but following these instructions will provide you with the basic guideline of how to plan the time required so that you are sitting down to eat the meal within 10 – 20 minutes of the original plan.