How to Make a Whole Chicken Fly

Tasty takes on what you can do with a whole chicken, from roasting to grilling and more.
Published March 7, 2017

You're sold. You know that whole chicken is a Most Valuable Ingredient and there's a bird sitting in your fridge right now. So what do you do with it? We've cooked up some easy, flexible recipes, each one sure to liven up a simple bird.

Basic method for roasting a chicken

Pro tip: The larger the bird, the tastier the results generally will be. The breast of a smaller bird may dry out before the thigh meat is fully cooked.

Ready to roast your chicken? Let's do it.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Remove giblets and pat chicken dry, inside and out, with paper towels, then add salt and pepper both inside and out. Place chicken on a rack inside a roasting pan. Roast for 18 to 25 minutes per pound; chicken is done when a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh (without touching the bone) registers 165°F, or when the drumstick wiggles freely and juices run clear. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Variations on whole chicken

Fresh herbs, flavorful spices, and the fiery kiss of the grill can help ensure your chicken meals are never boring. Check out these tasty ideas to try with a whole chicken.

Herb butter chicken

In a food processor or with a fork, combine 3 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of finely chopped herbs (try parsley, tarragon, dill, or any combination). Loosen the chicken's skin and slide the mixture underneath, in the cavity and on top of the breast.

Rosemary-lemon chicken

Combine olive oil, butter, 1 clove of minced garlic and 1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh rosemary. Using your fingers, work mixture under the skin of the chicken. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the top, and squeeze the other half inside the cavity. Put one squeezed half inside the cavity. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Asian-style chicken

Mix together 4 tablespoons of reduced-sodium soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of dark sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of Chinese five-spice powder. Work mixture underneath the skin and brush on top of the bird.

Mexican-style chicken 

In a food processor, combine 3 tablespoons of olive oil, butter, or reduced-calorie margarine, 3 cloves of garlic, 1/2 cup of cilantro leaves, 1 teaspoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of cumin. Rub all over chicken, including under the skin.

Grilled whole chicken

Here are two easy ways to grill a whole bird. Both do best over indirect heat:

  • Butterfly method: Place chicken breast-side down on a cutting board, with drumsticks pointing toward you. Using kitchen shears, cut along one side of the backbone, through the thin rib bones. Repeat on the other side of the backbone and remove the entire thing. Trim off excess fat and skin. Turn the chicken breast-side up and use the palms of your hands to flatten it. Tuck wing tips underneath to prevent them from burning. Add your chosen seasoning and you're good to go.
  • Beer-can method: Rub the bird with olive oil and your favorite barbecue spice mixture. Open a can of beer and pour out about half. Using a church-key can opener, punch several more holes in the can, and add some spice rub through the holes. Holding the chicken upright with the cavity pointing down, place it over the beer can until the can is fully inside the cavity. Carefully place the entire thing upright on the center of the grill (put a drip pan underneath first), and spread the chicken's legs until it forms a tripod of sorts. Cover and grill.

Side dishes to round out your meal

While you're firing up the oven or grill, why not make a complete meal? Fill your plate with these ideas for simple sides:

To accompany herb butter or rosemary-lemon chicken

Scatter unpeeled garlic cloves, chunks of potatoes and carrots, and whole, peeled shallots in the roasting pan. For a lower-fat option, try tossing them with a tablespoon or two of olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast in their own dish. Toss some chopped herbs into the pan for the last 5 minutes.

To accompany Asian-style chicken

Make sesame roasted green beans: Toss fresh green beans with olive oil and roast on a rimmed baking sheet for 20 to 25 minutes. Add a sprinkling of both dark sesame oil and reduced-sodium soy sauce and a handful of sesame seeds, and roast for 5 minutes more.

To accompany Mexican-style chicken

Peel and slice 1 large onion into rings; cut 2 red and 2 green bell peppers into strips. Toss with olive oil, salt and a sprinkling of chili powder, and put in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring halfway through.

And try roasted fruit for dessert!

Heat caramelizes fruit's natural sugars, turning a sweet treat even sweeter. Try any of the following, halved, pitted and brushed lightly with a neutral-flavored oil (like canola): apples (peeled, if you like), peaches, nectarines, apricots, mangoes, even thickly sliced pineapple.