How to roast a whole chicken including roasting times

roast chicken
A roast chicken dinner is a hugely popular meal worldwide. The method used to prepare and roast the chicken will vary from country to country, yet a perfectly roasted chicken will always go down well at the dinner table.

Chicken is a lean white meat that is low in saturated fats and generally a much healthier option than red meats such as beef or lamb.

Due to intensive farming methods, chickens are now widely available in most food stores at a relatively inexpensive price compared to other meats.


Chickens that have been raised in confined conditions are usually smaller in size and less flavoursome. They are also reared on feed that could contain chemicals, artificial substances and pesticides.

"Free-range" and Organic chickens may be slightly more expensive, nevertheless they have been reared in a much more natural environment.

Moreover, Organic chickens are only fed grain that has been cultivated in the ground without the aid of fertilisers, pesticides or any other chemicals.

Chicken is an extremely versatile food that can be cooked in a number of ways.

Roasting a chicken is a simple and easy way of cooking the bird and provides an extremely tasty meal, or number of meals.

Leftovers can be turned into salads, soups or sandwiches and even the carcass and bones won't go to waste, as they can be used to prepare a delicious homemade stock or gravy (see section on poultry stock and gravy).

Fresh chickens, as opposed to frozen ones are probably best to prepare, as they will be more flavoursome, but either will do.

Buy a fresh chicken and store it in the fridge, carefully wrapped and away from other produce, for 1 - 2 days at the most.

Safety measures

Before handling the raw poultry, make certain that you have washed your hands with soap and hot water and that you prepare the meat using clean utensils and spotless surfaces.

Raw poultry and the poultry juices can easily contaminate other foods, so it is extremely important that extreme caution is taken in the storage and preparation of the chicken.

Roasting temperatures and times

First of all you will need to preheat the oven to a temperature of 375ºF (190ºC).

Roasting a chicken does not take quite so long as roasting a turkey, however a large chicken could still take over 2 hours to roast.

As a general rule, calculate a cooking time of 20 minutes per pound of meat plus an additional 10 - 20 minutes at a temperature of 375ºF (190ºC).

Therefore, a 5 lb chicken will need to be roasting in the oven for at least 1h 50 mins. A 5 lb bird will serve between 4 - 5 people.

Some people prefer to set the oven temperature to 450ºF (230ºC) and roast the bird at this high temperature for the first 10 - 15 minutes or the last 10 - 15 minutes. The rest of the time the chicken should be roasted at 375ºF (190ºC).

The surge of heat will result in a really crispy and brown skin and deliciously succulent meat.

The table below is a guideline for roasting times for a chicken at 375ºF (190ºC).
Chicken Roasting times (unstuffed)
metric imperial time
1KG - 1½KG 2½ - 3 lbs 1 - 1¾ hrs
1½ - 2KG 3½ - 4 lbs 1½ - 1¾ hrs
2KG - 2½KG 4½ - 5 lbs 1½ - 2 hrs
2½ - 3KG 5 - 6 lbs 1¾ - 2½ hrs
Chicken Roasting times (stuffed)
metric imperial time
1KG - 1½KG 2½ - 3 lbs 1½ - 2 hrs
1½ - 2KG 3½ - 4 lbs 1¾ - 2¼ hrs
2KG - 2½KG 4½ - 5 lbs 2 - 2½ hrs
2½ - 3KG 5 - 6 lbs 2¼ - 2¾ hrs


Skin or no skin?

Even though chicken meat has much fewer calories than some other meats, most of the fat (about 30%) is contained in the skin.

For many of us, the skin is the best part of the chicken, however if you are keeping a watchful eye on your calorie intake, then you should really try to avoid eating the skin.

In saying this, the skin must be kept on throughout roasting, as it is the skin that holds the moisture in the meat and keeps the fat out of the meat. If you remove the skin beforehand, which is a feat in itself, then the meat, when it is cooked, will be very dry and probably quite tough as well.

Remove the giblets

The first thing to do with your chicken after you have removed it from its packaging, is to remove the giblets from the body cavity. The giblets are usually wrapped up and deposited in the abdominal cavity.

Many people reserve the giblets and use them to prepare soups, gravy etc. Chicken livers can be fried or made into a mouth-watering homemade pate.

If you are going to use the giblets later on, once the giblets have been removed, they should immediately be transferred to the refrigerator away from all other foods and used within 1 -2 days.

With a chicken you also need to check to see whether the kidneys have been removed. The kidneys are located in the tail end of the bird, in the abdominal cavity and they are a dark red colour. If the kidneys are still in place, they can easily be removed by using your fingers.

Cleaning the chicken

The chicken should then be thoroughly cleaned and rinsed under a cold running tap and patted dry with a kitchen towel.

Washing the bird will kill not all of the bacteria, but all of it will be destroyed during cooking.

Drying the bird with kitchen towels will ensure a nice brown and crispy skin.

Seasoning the chicken

Place the chicken on a wire rack set in a shallow roasting tin and grease the skin of the chicken with either butter or olive oil.

Using a rack will ensure that the fat drips out of the bird and away from the meat.

Then, season the bird with loads of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Salt and pepper can also be rubbed into the body cavity for additional flavour.

For a really simple roast chicken, the bird would now be ready to place inside the oven. However, for that extra taste and something slightly different, try any of the following:
  • Season the bird inside and out with a selection of herbs such as rosemary, thyme, sage or Tarragon.
  • Stuff some herbs under the skin of the bird for even more flavour.
  • Place half and onion and some garlic into the body cavity.
  • Or if you prefer, fill the cavity with orange or lemon wedges.
Any of the above will give the meat a delicious and aromatic flavour.

Note that the above are not the same as stuffing a bird (see the section on stuffing poultry).

To truss or not to truss?

After seasoning the chicken, you may want to truss it before placing it in the oven. Trussing is not necessary, especially for smaller birds, yet a trussed bird does keep its shape during cooking and is also easier to carve. Untrussed birds will cook faster and more evenly. (see our article on trussing)

Use a meat thermometer

To guarantee that all the bacteria is destroyed and that the chicken is properly cooked, it is advisable to use a meat thermometer to certify that the correct temperatures have been reached during cooking.

Insert the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken's thigh, without touching the bone. When the chicken is done, the meat thermometer will have recorded a temperature of 180ºF (83ºC).

Basting the chicken

Every 20 minutes you should remove the chicken from the oven and close the oven door to keep the heat in. With a spoon or a brush, pour or brush the fat and juices that have accumulated in the roasting tin, over the bird.

Basting will keep the meat moist, stop the skin from burning and give the chicken a really crispy skin.

Roasting the chicken

If you find that the chicken is browning too quickly during cooking, then loosely cover the breast of the bird with a large piece of aluminium foil until it is done. Covering the breast of the chicken will also keep the meat from drying out.

Roast the chicken for the correct amount of time and then remove it from the oven when done.

Is the chicken properly cooked?

If you do not possess a meat thermometer, then you can check that the meat has been properly cooked in two ways:
  • The drumstick should move about freely when wiggled.
  • The juices of the chicken run clear upon inserting a skewer into the leg.

Resting time

When properly cooked, remove the chicken from the oven and leave it to rest for 15 - 20 minutes on a carving board. This will allow the juices to settle.

The juices from the roasting tray can be used to make a delicious gravy.

Once the chicken has rested, it will then be ready to carve and serve.

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