The rotisserie chicken is a fantastic dinner staple. It’s easy to pick up from the grocery store among other errands and everyone likes a good rotisserie chicken. However, the flavorings used in your supermarket rotisserie chicken aren’t always clean. For example, if you’re purchasing a Costco rotisserie chicken, you’ll be eating
- carrageenan – a controversial additive used to aid in moisture retention. There is evidence that carrageenan promotes inflammation and bloating, irritable bowels, and can increase the likelihood of arthritis and gallbladder inflammation. Personally, my own gut gets upset if I consume foods containing this additive.
- dextrose – a corn sugar
- potato dextrin – used as a thickener and preservative. The high GI index of potato dextrin can induce blood sugar spikes, and a 2012 study showed potato dextrin suppresses the growth of probiotics and can increase the growth of E. Coli in the gut.
While (in the United States) Costco has the “least bad” rotisserie chicken, the above list doesn’t look great under closer inspection. Other grocery store chains use MSG or other artificial flavors in their rotisserie chickens. Herculean Strength readers work far too hard on themselves to settle for marred roast chicken. However, cooking them at home can be a challenge. A good roast chicken should have crisp skin and moist meat, and preferably not take too long if the recipe is to free you from the siren call of convenience at the grocery store.
This week, I’ll provide a fool-proof recipe for a weeknight roast chicken. It takes only 1.5 hours total (with almost none of that as active time), can be modified to fit any flavor profile you like, and doesn’t require hours of brining or salting to get delicious results. My household swears by this over any grocery store chicken.
Weeknight Roast Chicken (Serves 4-6)
- 1.5 tsp salt (See notes for variations)
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 (3.5-4 lb) whole chicken, giblets discarded or reserved for another use
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 12 in. oven safe skillet (I recommend cast iron very strongly here.)
- butcher’s twine (Optional, but it helps keep the legs compact and under control)
- meat thermometer
- Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and place the skillet on the rack. Preheat the oven to 450F. (Leave the skillet in there. You want it to get nice and hot with the oven.)
- Combine salt and pepper (or other seasonings; see note) in a small bowl.
- Pat the chicken dry inside and out with paper towels. This is the only really important step here. You really want to get it nice and dry all over, including the inside.
- Rub the olive oil all over the outside of the chicken. Give it a nice massage.
- Sprinkle your salt or seasoning mixture on the surface and rub it in with your hands to evenly coat the bird. If using twine tie the legs together.
- When the oven has preheated, pull the skillet out of the oven using a hot pad. (It will be very, very hot.) Place the chicken into the skillet breast side up and return the skillet to the oven.
- Roast until the breast is 120F and the thighs are at 135F, 25-35 minutes. I set the timer for 30 minutes and then check.
- Turn off the oven (do not open the oven!) and leave the skillet and chicken in the oven another 30-35 minutes, when the breast registers 160F. I recommend not checking until at least 30 minutes have passed.
- Remove the chicken from the skillet and transfer to a carving board. Let it rest (uncovered) for about 20 minutes. Carve and serve.
- This method yields beautifully moist chicken by residual cooking — turning the oven off halfway through. When you shut the oven off, the exterior of the chicken will cool rapidly, which slows moisture evaporation. The heat in the flesh of the chicken will conduct deeper inside, finishing the cooking. (Resting your steaks accomplishes the same thing.)
- For other seasonings, let your imagination roam. Mix in some garlic powder (about 0.5-1 tbsp depending on your personal taste) with the salt and pepper. Use a smoked salt for a gourmet feel. For a lemon pepper chicken, find a high quality dried lemon peel and mix a 1:1 lemon and pepper ratio. Add a dash of cayenne or chili powder for some heat.
- I recommend dried spices ground very finely for this recipe if you’re going to use them. Fresh herbs will just burn here. If you want an herbed chicken, I recommend making a pan sauce or butter with the herbs to pour over the chicken when serving.
- Any side dish works well, but I’m personally partial to sauteed green beans or Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, biscuits, or even macaroni and cheese if you’re splurging (or for the kids).
- America’s Test Kitchen. The Chicken Bible(2021). ISBN: 978-194-870-3543
- The Cornucopia Institute. Carrageenan. (2016) Link
- Nikerson, K. and McDonald, C. Crohn’s Disease-Associated Adherent-Invasive Escherichia coli Adhesion Is Enhanced by Exposure to the Ubiquitous Dietary Polysaccharide Maltodextrin (2012). PLOS One.