I will freely admit to going to somewhat preposterous lengths for roast chicken before; lengths that betray the things I love most about roasting. I have cleaned out my fridge so I could air-chill my chickens in pursuit of ultra-crisp skin. I’ve wet-brined and dry-brined for moister meat. I’ve cranked up my oven so high that it sets off every smoke alarm in the entire house. Even though 100% of these things were annoying, they were also 100% worth it. (Roast chicken is always worth it.)
Recently, Ina Garten posted a roasted chicken recipe to her Instagram that doesn’t require complicated multi-day prep, no special equipment, no hacks or secret ingredients. The recipe is an old one, from her much-beloved "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook" cookbook, and it's something I've had my eye on for some time. Pretty much, you stick some aromatics in a chicken, stick the chicken in a pan, stick the pan in the oven, then stick the finished chicken in your mouth. It’s so simple that it almost sounds suspicious… but the Barefoot Contessa would never lie to me about roast chicken, would she? I decided to find out.
How to Make Ina Garten’s Roast Chicken
Begin by preheating the oven to 425 F and prepping your chicken (remove the giblets, rinse the chicken, and pat dry). Next, season the chicken with salt and pepper before stuffing lemon halves, garlic, and fresh thyme into the cavity. Then, put the chicken directly into a roasting pan, tie the legs together with kitchen twine and tuck the wings underneath the body, and then brush with melted butter. Cut an onion into thick slices and scatter around the chicken.
Roast the chicken for 1 ½ hours, or until a digital thermometer inserted into the thickest part the bird registers 165 F. Move the chicken to a platter and loosely tent with aluminum foil for about 15-20 minutes. From here, you can either enjoy the chicken right away, or you can make a gravy to serve alongside the chicken (I opted for the gravy).
To make the gravy, you pour all the drippings from the bottom of the pan into a measuring cup. Add two tablespoons of the fat into a small bowl with an equal amount of flour and whisk well to make a paste. Then, put the roasting pan on the stovetop over high heat, add a cup of chicken stock, and cook for about five minutes until reduced, scraping the bottom of the pan. Whisk in the fat/flour paste to thicken, and bring to a boil to cook the flour. Strain the gravy into a small saucepan, season for taste, and keep warm over a low flame while you carve the chicken. Once the chicken is carved, serve immediately with the warm gravy.
My Review of Ina Garten’s Roast Chicken
Well now don’t I feel like a fool for overcomplicating simple roast chicken for all these years. This chicken was practically perfect in every single way: the skin was shatteringly crisp, the meat tender and moist, the gravy rich and flavorful. If you can turn on an oven, cut things in half, and have no problem sticking your hand inside of a raw chicken, you, too, can make this recipe with spectacular success.
Even though we all know that Ina Garten is basically perfect, there are some teeny-tiny tweaks I would suggest making to her simple roast chicken recipe.
- Use a cast iron skillet: Instead of using a traditional roasting pan, I made my chicken in a cast iron skillet, which fits a 5-6 pound bird and can easily be transferred between the oven and the stovetop.
- Double the onions: I recommend doubling (or tripling!) the onions, which turn golden brown and custardy when roasted in bubbling chicken fat.
- Triple the stock: Finally, I’d triple the amount of chicken stock used in the gravy, because people at your table will be fighting over it, and one tiny cup will not be enough.