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.
The Basic Method
(Note: The larger the bird, the better the results. The breast of a smaller bird may dry out before the thigh meat is fully cooked.) Heat 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.
As long as you're turning on the oven...
Why not make a whole dinner!
With herb butter or rosemary-lemon 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.
Combine olive oil, butter, or reduced-calorie margarine, 1 clove of minced garlic and 1 tablespoon of finely chopped 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.
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.
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.
On the grill
Here are two easy ways to grill a whole bird (both do best over indirect heat):
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.
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.