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 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.