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Recipe: How to Make the Best, Crispy-Skinned Roast Chicken This Easter

Preparing your Easter lunch is similar to Christmas, so show off your skills with a juicy, crispy chicken

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By Bon Appetit US | March 24, 2024 | Recipes

It's time to nail the perfect bird every time, including limitless possibilities for riffing on it.

People tend to be intimidated by roast chicken. They think it's easy to overcook, or to have inconsistencies between dry white meat and under-done dark meat. They're afraid the skin will turn out flabby instead of crisped and brown. But here's the honest to goodness truth: Whether it's Wednesday or Sunday night, whether you're cooking for two or 12, there's nothing simpler, more delicious, or more comforting than a proper roast chicken (or two, or three). Below we give you the most basic step-by-step for doing that bird justice (and break down why it's so foolproof). Then we suggest riffs to take things up a notch, including some dry rubs, built-in vegetable sides, and 2.0 recipes to make with all the extra chicken-y juices that are pure liquid gold.

First up, that basic step-by-step.

Pat a 3½-4-lb. whole chicken dry with paper towels and season generously with kosher salt inside and out. Use 1 tsp. Diamond Crystal or ½ tsp. Morton kosher salt per lb.

Tie legs together with kitchen twin. Let sit 1 hour. Salting the chicken ahead of time allows the seasoning to really penetrate the meat. An hour is great, but longer is even better. Chill the salted bird, uncovered, up to 1 day.

Place a rack in upper third of oven and set a 12" cast-iron skillet or a 3-qt. enameled cast-iron baking dish on rack.

When the chicken’s breasts are roasted to perfection, all that dark meat is on-the-nose-done too. Image via Pexels

Preheat oven to 425°. Once oven reaches temperature, pat chicken dry with paper towels again and lightly coat with olive oil. Now's the time to sprinkle a flavor-packed dry rub over the bird if you're so inclined. Read on for some of our favorite combinations.

Drizzle a bit more oil into hot skillet. This prevents the chicken from sticking to the pan.

Place chicken in the center of the skillet. You can also arrange some veggies around the bird for a built-in side dish, as in the recipes below.

Roast for 50-60 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast should register 155°; it'll climb to 165° as the chicken rests.

Let chicken rest in skillet at least 20 minutes, and up to 45 minutes.

Transfer to a cutting board and carve.

Got it? Good.

So why does this recipe actually work?

Does the world really need another roast chicken recipe? Well, if you ask us, it absolutely does need this one, but the rest of them can hit the bricks. That's because our Cast-Iron Roast Chicken has been tirelessly tested and optimized to cut out all of those annoying steps that people swear are crucial (brining it; flipping it every 15 seconds; basting it fastidiously) and still produce the best possible bird. Every. Single. Time. It's simple, it's memorizable, and it's here to stay. Here's what's special about it.

Buy the Biggest Chicken You Can Find

Size matters. This isn't the time for a mammoth Oven Stuffer, nor do we want some petite poussin–a 3½-4-lb. bird has the proportions we're after. When the breasts are roasted to perfection, all that dark meat is on-the-nose-done too. We won't lecture you about how pasture-raised birds taste better (they do!), but we will advocate for "air-chilled" chickens–their flavor isn't diluted by an ice water bath.

Be Generous With the Seasoning

There are lot of theories out there about how to season a chicken. Submerge it in brine. Salt it 24 hours ahead and let it air dry. Wrap it in seaweed. But we found that the only truly nonnegotiables are (a) being generous with the kosher salt inside and out and (b) letting the chicken sit out for at least an hour, which gives the seasoning time to work its way deep into the meat, meaning every bite is delicious through and through.

Cast Iron is Your Best Vessel

Nothing compares to cast iron. Whether you're using a standard skillet or an enameled baking dish, the material's heat-retention qualities can't be matched by any tempered glass or even stainless-steel vessels. And heating it in the oven first means that the bottom of the bird starts to sizzle and brown as soon as it goes in–no flipping required and no unappealingly pale, blabby underside.

Rest Your Chicken

Any recipe worth its wing tip will tell you that a chicken needs to rest post-roast and pre-carving. But we found that waiting a full 20 minutes (compared to a measly five to 15) yields the best results. The juices in the bird need that much time be reabsorbed by the meat, period. No, it won't get cold. It will just be the juiciest chicken you've ever tasted. And you won't burn your fingers carving the thing, either.

Or add veggies for a built-in side dish.

Why wouldn't you throw some veggies around your bird while it roasts? You've got a hot pan that's about to be full of sizzling schmaltz just begging to bathe a mosaic of sliced potatoes, or fat chunks of fennel, or wedges of squash with tons of chicken-y flavor. And, with our preheated cast-iron technique, whatever goes into the pan gets crisp and caramelized to perfection. Put the chicken in the hot pan, arrange your veggies around it, and you've got an irresistibly delicious roast-along side. Carve that bird, set out a leafy green salad with a punchy vinaigrette, and dinner is served.

All of the fat and juice that renders out of a roasting chicken is liquid gold. Whether it's perfumed by a dry rub or au naturel chicken-y goodness, what's left behind in the pan has the potential to become That Thing that which transforms a simple dinner into something memorable. A creamy, French-inspired sauce. A bright, tangy vinaigrette. The Croutons to End All Croutons. Look, you've got to do something to distract yourself during those 20 minutes of resting-chicken agony–make yourself useful.

Now it's time to carve that bird.

This recipe originally appeared on Bon Appetit US