This is the first in a series of basic recipes anyone can easily make. They have existed for centuries because 1) they are simple, and 2) they taste good. Once you master their preparation, you’re free to improvise…or not. I usually don’t because I know what I’m getting, and I don’t have to think twice about how to make it.
Sometimes extra steps and unusual ingredients will improve a recipe. Guests may ooh and aah over them. Sometimes they won’t. Possibly, more steps and ingredients will add extra minutes or even hours to the preparation time, not to mention extra cost.
Occasionally I will go that extra mile because I like to cook, I like variety and I like to eat at home. But I’ve made enough errors of judgment—or maybe the recipe was just ill-conceived—that I tend to fall back on straight-forward dishes like Roast Chicken.
Mom’s Basic Bootcamp: Roast Chicken – serves 4
1 whole chicken (2 1/2 – 4 pounds), thawed if frozen1 tablespoon canola or corn oil1/2 teaspoon garlic power1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Remove the chicken from the fridge 30-60 minutes before you plan to cook it, allowing it to get closer to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Remove the giblets and neck (if included) and set aside to make chicken stock, if desired. Or discard. Rinse the chicken inside and out and place on a rack in a roasting pan. Using a paper towel, wipe the chicken skin with the oil. This will help the skin to brown. Sprinkle on the garlic power and oregano.
When the oven is hot, place the chicken inside and roast for 1 hour. A 4-pound chicken may need an extra 10-15 minutes. You can also bake potatoes at the same temperature for 1 hour. To see if the chicken is done, do these things:
* Wiggle a leg to see if it moves easily. It should. If it doesn’t, roast for another 10 minutes.
* Tip the chicken so that some of the juices in the middle of the bird run out into the pan, The juices should be clear, not red. If still red, roast for another 10 minutes and try again.
* Stick a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the leg. It should register at least 170 degrees. If it doesn’t, roast another 10 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the oven, transfer it to a rimmed carving board or platter and let sit for at least 15 minutes before carving or cutting into pieces.