Wednesday, January 27, 2010


It seems there are two schools of thought when it comes to baking a whole chicken. Either you are an "old hand" at it...... OR you have completely avoided it because touching the raw carcass freaks you out. If the "freaking out" part sounds familiar, this post is for you!! It really is easy to do and opens up a whole world of recipes.

I buy whole chickens (when they are on super sale) and freeze them. Just remember, it can take 2-3 days to thaw a big chicken (in the refrigerator) so make sure you plan ahead.

I used to bake chickens whole (like you would a turkey), but I was GROSSED OUT by the unappetizing gray-ish colored juices that pooled inside of the empty chicken cavity when it baked (shudder).

To remedy that, I started splitting the raw chicken open by removing the backbone, then I laid it out flat to bake. Not only did this eliminate the gray-ish juices, but it reduced the baking time and gave me lots of crispy skin.

Start off with a whole, thawed, 3 to 4 pound chicken. For me, this first step is easiest to do in my kitchen sink for some reason. Working with the backbone side facing you, use sharp kitchen shears to cut down along one side of the chicken backbone, then do the same to the other side of the backbone. You can also do this step with a sharp knife, but it is safer and easier with kitchen shears. Remove the backbone and discard or save for stock.

Once the backbone is removed, rinse the chicken under cold running water, then blot dry with paper towels.

At this stage, the chicken will not want to "lay flat" like in the photo  below. To get it to do that, turn the chicken over so you can see the bones; make a SMALL cut at the top-center of the breast bone and flex that bone with your hands, now it will easily lay out flat. Sounds complicated (but it isn't) and it just takes a second to do.

Lay the chicken (skin side up) in a roasting pan and rotate the thigh-leg portion so that they lay out flat and to either side of the chicken breast, (click on this photo to get a better look).

Ready for the Oven

Brush the chicken skin lightly with butter and sprinkle with a little onion powder and dried (and crushed) rosemary (see note below) then generously sprinkle everything with salt and pepper.

Surround the chicken with your favorite veggies if you like (but not necessary). I use potatoes, carrots, chopped celery and onions.

TIP: If you have a nice big roasting pan, leave out the veggies and bake TWO of these fat hens at the same time. You'll have enough chicken for dinner AND sandwiches, salads, quick dinners, etc. for the whole week, not to mention lots of broth for gravy!!

Bake, uncovered, in pre-heated 400° oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, reduce the oven to 375° and bake for one more hour.

Remove chicken from oven and spoon pan juices over the chicken. Cover loosely with foil and let the meat rest for 5-10 minutes. This "rest time" assures your chicken meat will be very tender and juicy.


NOTE: The backbone that you removed makes GREAT chicken stock. Save them in the freezer and when you have several, throw them into a crockpot with 2 quarts of water, some chopped onion, celery, and a few peppercorns. Let it cook on low all night. The next morning, strain the bones and bits out of the stock and let it chill so you can skim off any fat. You can either use this stock right away or freeze it. It is worlds better than canned chicken broth.

NOTE: Rosemary goes wonderfully with baked chicken, it sort of tastes like stuffing to me. It looks like hard pine needles, so I crush mine up before I sprinkle it on the raw chicken.
ANYTHING that touches raw chicken (from your hands, to utensils, to cutting boards, to dish towels and sinks) needs to be washed thoroughly with warm soapy water before you touch ANYTHING else. This is VERY important.


Heidi said...

Looks really good Coleen! I've never cut the backbone out of a chicken. I have a raw chicken phobia and try to handle it the least amount possible (and then disinfect everything with in a 5 feet radius!).
Thanks for sharing :)

Ingrid said...

That's so funny that you should post this. I just mentioned to Katy that I was intimidated by roasting whole chickens.

I'll be honest I think its the whole chicken looks more like an animal. I've also never been fond of messing with meat.

Be My Chickadee said...

Hi Coleen. What a great idea to roast a couple of chickens at one time and stock up on chunks of meat. I love it when there's a bit of shredded chicken for quesadillas or tortilla soup. I totally agree about taking the backbone out (I think the term is spatchcock). Sometimes the spatchcocked chicken is cooked in a skillet with a smaller pan on top of the meat & weighed down. No, I've never tried that but Alton Brown makes it look easy & it comes out with a flat presentation.

Barbara Bakes said...

I bet this smells fabulous while it is baking! I'd really love to try this sometime. I wonder if a butcher would cut it open for you.

the domestic mama said...

Great idea! I don't like that cavity, either! EWWWW!

Debbie said...

Looks delicious Coleen. I've never baked a chicken that way before. I have to give this a try!

Foodie with Little Thyme! said...

I'm not a fan of touching uncooked chicken?? I bake whole chicken often but never remove the backbone. Thanks for making it looks so simple!

Monica H said...

I've never done it this way but I'll have to give it a try!

heartnsoulcooking said...

I alway cook two chickens, one for dinner and the other to freeze. You can do so many things with the leftovers. THANKS!!! for the recipe.
Come by and visit so you can enter my GREAT!!! waffle maker giveaway.

Leslie said...

I used to be so freaky about raw chicken, I used to use gloves when I touched it!

CC said...

Oooo,this looks good. I'll try roasting this way for a change..looks wonderful.

Katy ~ said...

Coleen, I had to laugh at "mystery juices." That even roiled my stomach! I try not to think too deeply about the cavity thing, too, grins. Great idea about splitting it down the back and roasting flat. I'm going to give that a try. LUV it with the veggies you've shown. After a loooong hiatus of not roasting chicken, I finally made one. We'll be having it more frequently as it is an economical meal. Love the leftovers.

teresa said...

great tips, that is a tasty looking chicken!

Krista said...

This chicken looks wonderful. Thanks for the "101". I do the same as you. After I'm finished dealing with the chicken, everything gets spritzed with a bleach-based kitchen cleaner. Better safe than sorry, right?

Kathleen said...

This like a great way to bake a chicken! I bet it smelled delicious as well!

A Gracious Home said...

I love baked chicken. The peanut butter cake in the picture is beautiful. I love peanut butter. Doylene

Jeff said...

Spatchcock chicken is also one of my favorite ways to grill especially with herb butter under the skin. Great way to ensure everything gets done at the same time. Plus the back can be saved for stock.

Awesome job!

betty r said...

Great tip Coleen..I have never baked a chicken this way but I sure will next time!

Sonya said...

Coleen I LOVED this chicken! I have made it twice now and will not make it anyother way now! I love how the juices from the chicken mixes with the veggies..they taste so good like that. Thank you for a fantastic way to roast a chicken!