Luke and I love roast chicken. It's the perfect comfort food, it's inexpensive and satisfying to the soul. Okay, so that last bit was a little cheesy, but you know what I'm talking about.
But. Overcooked roast chicken is one of the worst things known to man. And unfortunately, it's all too easy to do. It gets dry and stringy and is definitely NOT on my list of "top things to eat."
I'm going to give you a recipe that will help you avoid that. Forever. And it is so good - juicy, tender, moist, citrusy. This was originally a recipe from Bon Appetit for Turkey (Nov. 09), but I've tweaked it a little, made it simpler and obviously, used chicken not turkey. I use the 3-4 pound chickens, not ones that verge on the size of a Butterball turkey, but use whatever you like and remember you'll have to cook it longer.
Perfect Citrus-Roasted Chicken
Whole chicken (I pick ones about 4 pounds), inside giblet stuff removed
1/4 c. kosher salt
1 large onion, quartered
Zest the oranges and mix the zest with the salt. Place the chicken in a large roasting pan and rub down the chicken with the zest/salt mixture. Cut the oranges into quarters and stuff the inside of the chicken, and toss the rest into the roasting pan. Toss the onion it the pan too, and fill the pan about 2 inches deep with water. Place uncovered in a 350 degree oven for a couple of hours, usually it takes 2 1/2 hours in my oven, but it will vary based on your oven and the size of the chicken.
To test doneness, either:
1) use an instant-read thermometer, stuck through the chicken breast sideways so it doesn't touch the breast bone or ribs. It should register 160 degrees. Official "doneness" is 165 degrees but REST YOUR CHICKEN for 5 minutes before cutting it and it will rise the last 5 degrees on its own and therefore not be dry.
2) wiggle the leg. If it's wiggly in the socket (not looking for falling out of the socket here) it's done. This requires a little more knowing-when-a-chicken's-done intuition, and if you're worried about it not being done, play it safe and use a thermometer.
This chicken is so juicy that you can be fooled into thinking it's not done. The oranges also tend to tint the juice pinkish-orange, therefore making you think it's still bloody. When in doubt, use a thermometer and if it's past 160 (resting for 5 minutes) it's done.
*Always always always rest the chicken (meaning don't even think about cutting it) for 5 minutes. It makes all those yummy juices seal into the chicken. Worth the wait.