How To Make a Really Delicious Roast Chicken (E-A-S-Y!) – Movement Labs

How To Make a Really Delicious Roast Chicken (E-A-S-Y!)

So after having a little plantar fasciitis pity party here and here, I think it’s time for something a bit lighter.  So I’ll write about one of my (new) favorite pastimes: Roasting a chicken.  [This is also healthier than the ice cream habit mentioned in the above posts.]

My Dad jumped on this bandwagon a few years ago, and I distinctly remember my mother noting, “I love that he cooks.  And the chicken is good.  But we’ve had roasted chicken for dinner every single week this winter!”  I think KMN might lodge the same complaint soon.  [Not really. He’s amazing about eating anything I cook, pretty much without complaint, and pretty much always with gratitude and compliments. And I’m probably on the “roasting every-other-week” schedule these days.]

I would occasionally roast a chicken while living alone during grad school, but that always felt like a production, and a race to use all the meat before it went bad.  But now, I’m cooking for two people – so once we settled in Singapore, I decided it was time to get really good at chicken roasting.  Why?  Well, I don’t really like to cook meat all that much.  But a roast chicken is a foundation for a healthy meal.  And if I cook it early in the week, then the leftover meat can make its way into dinner for another night or two with any extra handling of raw meat.  Plus, I can boil the carcass to make chicken broth for soup at the end of the week.  With a little planning, one roast chicken is actually more like three meals, for us.  WIN.

So, in order to raost a chicken, we must first buy a chicken.  And in a new country, everything is an adventure: Even buying a chicken.  In a US supermarket, my choices are (basically) Butterball versus Perdue (or the farmer’s market).  At our local Fairprice in Singapore, I can choose from Fresh Pasar Chickens, Halal Chickens, Spring Chickens, Jumbo Chickens, Black Chickens, and Halal Fresh Pasar Chickens.  The first few times, I randomly grabbed whichever one looked good at the moment off the shelf.   Eventually, I remembered to ask my mother-in-law for help.  Here’s a quick translation of the local lingo (since this won’t matter for…well, for pretty much any of you, but just in case…):

Pasar Fresh: “Regular” chicken
Halal: Killed and processed in a way that is Halal, but otherwise exactly the same as Pasar
Kampong: The local version of “free range” – usually scrawnier, but some people think it tastes better.  Keep in mind that “kampong” isn’t especially standardized, so I’m not exactly convinced that I’m getting a more ethically raised chicken.
Spring: Young chicken. Some people think these more tender.
Jumbo: Duh.  If the name didn’t give it away, one look at them would’ve.
Black: Yep, they’re black: Skin, flesh, bones.  Interestingly, their plumage is white.  Black chicken is popular in Chinese medicine and especially herbal soups.  In my experience, the taste is basically the same as any other chicken – although some people claim it’s tougher.

I usually go for a Pasar or Kampong chicken, but not every option is available every time I go to the supermarket, so I’m flexible.  And although I’m not 100% clear on the regulations and origins of the chicken we eat (sorry, clean eating folks, sorry…I’m trying, but in a new place, this is a real challenge) – I suspect these chickens aren’t quite as bred/injected/modified as their US counterparts.  For one thing, they are smaller.  For another, they look more properly proportioned, if you know what I mean. I’m still learning about the food supply chains out here, but I’m already inclined to trust the standard supermarket chicken out here to be somewhat less chemical-filled, food-stuffed, and breast-heavy.

Furthermore, the chickens are slaughtered locally, and are offered “fresh”.  However, I should note that the day I actually took these photos was the third or fourth day of Chinese New Year – and all the chickens were labeled “Fresh”, with a second label slapped on that said, “Previously frozen.  Thawed on (date).”  Apparently use of the word “Fresh” isn’t strictly regulated, at least not over the holiday period.

Now, don’t expect that your chicken will come in a hermetically sealed package.  These small birds are plopped onto a styrofoam tray, covered in a thin sheet of plastic wrap, and put onto the shelf.  It’s pretty common that the wings poke through the plastic, or the plastic on top tears a bit, or the plastic simply starts to come unwrapped.  Hint: Remember to grab a plastic bag from the fresh fish section.  You can put your chicken in this bag, to keep the rest of your groceries clean.  And watch out – because there’s always a chance that your chicken will drip bloody raw chicken liquid on your list, shoes, and floor – if you aren’t careful:

Yes, I'm a spoiled American. Yes, I think this is rather yucky.  Yes, I smile, bag that chicken, and keep on moving.

Look closely and you’ll see the dark spots on my sneakers, too.  Yes, I’m a spoiled American. Yes, I think this is rather yucky. Yes, I smile anyway, get the chicken into the bag, pretend everything is normal, and keep on moving.

Doing this is exactly as hard as it looks, even for a biologist.

Doing this is exactly as hard as it looks, even for a biologist.

And don’t forget (friends from the USA) that once you bring your little Spring/Kampong/Fresh/Halal chicken home, you still have to remove the feet and head.  These parts are tucked into the bird’s body cavity for “display”, but they’re definitely still attached.  I debated whether or not to include this picture, but it’s part of my real-life experience.  So I included it, but I made it nice and small.  Don’t look if you’re squeamish.  If you’re curious, click for a nice big version.  😉  Regardless on your feelings about the chicken photo, I will share with you two truths:

1. This experience will bring you closer to your food.

2. A cleaver is a valuable tool.

But enough talk.  Let’s get this bird into the oven.  Speaking of ovens, pre-heat yours to 400°F (200°C).  Line your baking pan with foil (this saves much clean-up effort).  Then, rinse the chicken thoroughly  (remove the giblets, if included) and pat her dry, inside and out.  This is pretty important: If there’s too much excess water around, the bird will actually steam in the oven, rather than roast.

All right.  Are you ready for the hard part?  This preparation is really complex.  So complex, in fact, that these days, I do the chicken-touching parts with just one hand, so I have one “clean” hand to touch/move other things, and one “contaminated” hand for the chicken. (<– Paranoid biologist)

1. Mix ~1 Tbsp salt + pepper to taste [I use a lot of pepper; you can use less – remember that not a lot gets onto/into the meat, so no worries about spice.]
2. Rub mixture into body cavity.
3. Squeeze half a lemon into body cavity.  Stuff lemon half in there for good measure. (Don’t ask me why this doesn’t cause a “steaming” problem. It just doesn’t.)
4. Encrust the outside with salt or salt/pepper mix.  Be generous.  You should actually be able to see the salt.  This helps keep the bird moist.  Magic!

5. Roast for ~50-60 minutes, depending on the size of the bird. If the breast starts getting brown, fold some foil into a triangle and make a small shield to cover the breast (sounds very medieval, no?).  This helps keep the meat moist.  When I think it’s just about done, I use a meat thermometer in the thigh (should read 165°F) to confirm.
6. Remove from oven and let rest 15 minutes.
7. Carve: Remove legs and slice all the breast meat off in one slice per side (you can sub-slice these after removal).  Pick remaining meat off by hand.
8. Enjoy.  Trust me, it’s delicious.

Chicken breast slice, potatoes, and salad.  An unusually "meat and potatoes" meal for this household!

Chicken breast slice, potatoes, and salad. An unusually “meat and potatoes” meal for this household!

Another iteration: Chicken, stuffing, and carrots.  Also very "Meat and Starch".

Another iteration: Chicken, stuffing, and carrots. Also very “meat and potatoes”, but with stuffing, instead of potatoes. If that even makes sense.

These photos were compiled from several recent chicken-cooking escapades – including last night! Tonight, I’m on my own for dinner, so will certainly be enjoying some leftovers.  And I already have a nice container of stock sitting in the refrigerator.  Oh…the possibilities!

Do you have any special chicken-roasting secrets?

I’m still resting my foot, so I have to live vicariously through your running workout today.  Tell me allllllll about it!

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  1. Kim March 6, 2013 at 10:38 pm - Reply

    We’ve already discussed my culture shock moment about getting a WHOLE chicken, I’m glad someone else can share that experience. I think I would still go to the butcher and ask him/her to randomly choose a chicken and behead/de-leg(?)/un-leg(?)/”fix” the chicken so I don’t have to see its face before I cook it. The only time I’ve ever roasted a chicken, it was pre-marinated. You remove the outer wrap and stick the chicken + roasting bag in the oven. No chicken handling required. When/if I cook chicken now, it’s only breast and I keep a clean hand and a chicken hand as well. I often get pre-cooked chicken, though. Only because when I get chicken from anywhere but Whole Foods its rancid. (I hate Publix Grocery Stores and Whole Foods is seriously expensive). I’ve heard that “Beer Can Chicken” is awesome. You empty out most of a can of beer, stick it in the cavity, and roast it “standing.” I’m sure the logistics are google-able. Either way, a lot of people swear by roasting that way. I’d have to try it.

    • Holly KN March 7, 2013 at 9:38 am - Reply

      Kim, I was thinking about you while I was writing this section. 🙂 I’m glad a fellow biologist shares my raw meat creepies. But for me, the independent, “do it myself” wins out over the raw meat touching. But believe me, afterward everything goes right into the dishwasher! And that red cutting board? It’s red because it’s the RAW MEAT cutting board. =)

  2. Sarrilly March 6, 2013 at 11:33 pm - Reply

    Yummy! Will try 🙂 Though I must say you are super brave to lop off the feet and head. (I’d expect nothing less from a scientist)… 🙂 I was squeamish at the thought but still clicked on the larger image, cursing my curiosity.. haha

    • Holly KN March 7, 2013 at 9:40 am - Reply

      You’re hilarious, my dear. 🙂 You know, I didn’t think it would bother me, until I untucked them the first time. But at that point…what was I to do? I wanted chicken. And I couldn’t cook it with the … well, yeah. So…out came the cleaver! And I always remember to say a little thank you to her for providing the meat we’re going to eat. 🙂

  3. Kristen L March 7, 2013 at 12:56 am - Reply

    Looks delicious. Thanks for the recipe!

    Today’s a cross training day for me. But yesterday I did a ladder for my speed workout. It was so tough to do a half mile interval after a mile! First time I did one like that. Keep that foot resting and healing up!

    • Holly KN March 7, 2013 at 9:41 am - Reply

      Oooof. Ladders! I like the psychology of hitting the max in the middle, then (yay!) going down (yay!) – but sometimes, it’s harder in practice than in principle!!! 🙂

  4. Jean March 7, 2013 at 11:08 am - Reply

    Eek! I thought that was a chicken head!

    I LOVE roasting chickens. So easy, so delicious, reasonably healthy, and lasts for days!

  5. Winnie March 7, 2013 at 6:04 pm - Reply

    Hahaha. Sometimes I read your blog and the American side of me totally understands and the Asian side understands in a different way. My American side totally understands your feelings about the difficulty of having to chop off certain sections of the whole chicken. My Asian side would just roast the whole thing head to toe and eat it all! Beer can chicken is what I love to make. I think I put a photo of it on FB a while ago. But I don’t use a beer can. Instead I use a glass canning bottle.

    • Holly KN March 7, 2013 at 11:38 pm - Reply

      I have two sides sometimes, too – like when the bloody chicken juice drips out all over me. My American side is grossed out. My Asian side knows that my American side is too sensitive, and Americans are too obsessed with everyone looking sterile.

      While I do rather adore the method I’ve detailed here – I probably should test out this beer can method Several people have suggested it, now…

  6. Jules March 7, 2013 at 11:10 pm - Reply

    I quite like kampung chickens, though they’re slightly smaller and tougher. Thanks for the recipe! I’ve never tried roasting but would love to know how to as I love my roast chickies! Hope the foot injuries get better soon! I’ve been sitting my training sessions out this week too due to a bad cough so feeling your pain!

    • Holly KN March 7, 2013 at 11:39 pm - Reply

      You should try it: Seriously, VERY easy.

      Hope you’re drinking tea (<---My Asian Auntie side emerges), and not eating anything too...uh..."heatie"? Hope you're feeling better soon! [PS A few days off after that half probably won't hurt much. Enjoy it!]

  7. Silas March 8, 2013 at 4:58 am - Reply

    I love roasting chicken. Megan… less so. Usually, I can only get away with it with promises to take care of getting all of the meat off myself, and making lots of chicken soup later on. My only real variation from this method is to add turmeric to the rub to give the chicken a nice golden color.

  8. Amy @ Writing While Running March 9, 2013 at 8:45 am - Reply

    I roasted a chicken once for Thanksgiving in China and made the boys cut off the head and feet. I was disturbed and also happy they were on there. Americans are so wasteful, right?

    • Holly KN March 9, 2013 at 11:07 am - Reply

      So funny! When we did Thanksgiving here, I ALSO roasted a chicken…or two! And I might have made someone else do the chopping…but I was the only one home!

      Yes, we can be wasteful. But I was talking to my husband about this today – he said, “You know, you could save the head and feet for when you make stock!” I said…”I think my stock is pretty OK as it is, I’m not sure how much the feet would add. Plus…FEET! In FOOD! Do you KNOW where those chicken feet were running?” 🙂

  9. eien kisu January 14, 2014 at 3:11 pm - Reply

    Singapore government does not allow chickens with growth hormones. 🙂

    ANXIN chicken is the best chicken you can get in Singapore.. but you have to search for it. It’s rare.

    • Holly @ Run With Holly January 14, 2014 at 6:38 pm - Reply

      Eien – Thanks for stopping by, and DOUBLE thanks for the info. I didn’t know that was the case – I only knew that the chicken looked normal-sized, and tasters GOOD. Will have to keep an eye out for the special one you mention, for a comparison test!

      • DJ January 23, 2014 at 9:31 am - Reply

        Got a reply from Toh Thye San Farm:

        I would like to inform you that you may go to NTUC to buy.
        You must see under Pasar Brand Kampong Chicken.
        There’s a yellow ring on its feet, printed GG.
        Moreover, there’s a label stated Packed by Toh Thye San Farm.

        Alternately, you may go to my customer website They have different chicken parts like wing and drumstick and they do delivery too.
        The Barbie Girls
        Block 22 Havelock Road #01-683 S. 160022 Contact Person: Jen Anderson
        Mobile: 8613 1104

        Thanks for your support.

        Best regards,

        Jenista Ng
        Toh Thye San Farm
        Tel: 6283 3800
        Fax: 6282 2100

        Alternatively, we can buy sakura chickens from fairprice. It’s the closest to “free range” we can get in Singapore.

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