Sometimes you just need to go back to the basics. Or if you're new to this whole cooking at home, meal prep, making your own food thing, the basics are a great place to start!
Enter: The whole roasted chicken. Master this super simple cooking technique and you'll always have a get-out-of-jail-free card when you need a healthy dinner idea.
I love cooking whole chickens! Let me tell you why:
- They are less expensive than the conveniently processed boneless, skinless chicken breast/thigh/leg.
- They easily feed a family of 4 with leftovers to spare (or a single person or couple for a few days...woo hoo for meal prep!) with little effort.
- They are a blank slate with so many flavor possibilities! With the skin still intact, you can stuff a chicken (inside the cavity and between the skin and meat) full of any combination of herbs, spices, fruits, or vegetables you like. The skin helps keep the meat moist and flavorful. Just remove the skin after cooking if you're watching your waistline or saturated fat intake.
- You end up with a chicken carcass! While this may not seem like an exciting prospect, believe me...it is. With every chicken carcass (or any other form of animal/fish bone, for that matter) comes the opportunity to make a delicious, super nutritious, healing batch of bone broth! Spoiler Alert: More on bone broth next week!
Since the goal with this dish is a simple dinner, I'm sticking to some common, but very delicious, flavors this time around: lemon, garlic and rosemary. It's worth noting that the prep time for this meal is only about 20 minutes, but it does take some time to cook (up to 2 hours depending on the size of your bird), so be sure to consider that when you're thinking about starting dinner at 7pm. This recipe is better for weeknights or weekends when you can get it in the oven a couple hours before you want to eat.
I almost always keep some form of citrus on hand at home because it's such a great flavor addition to most poultry or fish dishes - and it makes a nice snack! It adds a boat load of Vitamin C and some natural sweetness - especially if you're using sweeter citrus like oranges.
Garlic and sea salt are also staples in this kitchen. One of my rules for most recipes is if it calls for garlic, double it. Not so much with the salt. I repeat - do not double the salt in your recipes. ;)
Garlic has so many wonderful health properties. It's great for heart health - studies show garlic can lower blood pressure, total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. It can also boost the function of our immune system, has cancer-fighting properties, and is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, which can aid in keeping our gut and digestion healthy and happy. It's best to chop or crush the cloves to release the beneficial sulfur compounds garlic contains. (NOTE: If you follow a low FODMAPS diet, garlic, sadly, should be left out)
Time saving tip: You can buy chopped, minced or crushed garlic in jars at the grocery store and they have just as many health benefits as the whole clove.
So here's the skinny on how to prepare this nutritious meal.
Lemon Garlic Rosemary Roasted Whole Chicken with Roasted Vegetables
Makes 4+ servings
Prep time: Approximately 20 minutes
Cooking time: Between 90 and 120 minutes depending on the size of your bird.
- 1 whole, raw chicken (about 7 pounds)
- 1 whole lemon
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, finely chopped. Reserve several additional sprigs for stuffing the cavity and garnish if desired.
- 10 cloves of garlic (chopped)
- kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- Melted coconut oil or avocado oil
- Vegetables of your choice (I used brussels sprouts and sweet potato here, but you can choose any hearty vegetable you prefer - mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, broccoli, squash, asparagus, cauliflower or beets are some great options)
- Kitchen twine
For the Chicken:
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees (Fahrenheit).
- Combine the chopped garlic, rosemary and salt in a small bowl.
- Trim the chicken: Remove neck and giblets from the cavity and cut off any excess fat (not the skin!)
- Gently separate the skin from the meat around the breasts and legs (thighs and drumsticks) and spread the rosemary, garlic mixture evenly beneath the skin. You can also stuff the cavity with lemon halves and additional rosemary sprigs for added flavor if you like.
- Tuck the wings under the chicken and tie the drumsticks together with kitchen twine (as pictured above).
- Rub the outside of the bird with just enough oil to lightly coat (about 1-2 Tablespoons) and season with additional salt and ground pepper.
- Place the bird in your roasting pan breast side up. You may place the chicken directly in a roasting pan or on a roasting rack in the pan to keep it elevated above the juices. Either method produces a delicious, juicy bird.
- Roast your bird until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees (F). ***See notes below on checking for doneness
- It's never a bad idea to set a timer to baste the chicken with it's juices every 45 minutes or so to help it lock in the moisture and flavor.
- Once your bird is cooked, remove it from the oven and let sit 10 minutes before removing the skin and carving. Serve with roasted vegetables, fresh or roasted slices of lemon and rosemary for garnish.
For the vegetables:
- Wash and prepare vegetables for roasting. For the brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes, I simply washed them and cut them in half.
- In a large bowl, toss prepared vegetables in about 1 Tablespoon melted coconut or avocado oil. Season with sea salt and pepper as desired. For the sweet potatoes, I wrapped the halved potatoes in a tin foil packet - no oil, salt or pepper needed.
- Spread vegetables in single layer on baking sheet and insert in 400 degree oven with chicken. Cooking times will vary with different vegetables and the size you cut them to. If you're using more delicate vegetables like eggplant or asparagus, check the vegetables for doneness and toss them after about 30 minutes. The brussels sprouts took about 45 minutes to roast. I left the sweet potatoes cooking in the foil packet the entire time the chicken was cooking and they came out SO soft and sweet!
- On cooking the bird thoroughly: To check for doneness, it's best to instert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of a thigh (be sure the thermometer is not touching a bone to avoid an artificially high reading). If you don't have an oven-safe thermometer you can just leave inserted in the thigh, I suggest checking the temperature starting at about 90 minutes and every 15 minutes or so thereafter until the meat is fully cooked. Try to insert the thermometer into the same hole each time to avoid letting too much moisture escape. If you don't have a meat thermometer, make a small cut at the point where the thigh meets the body of the bird - when the juices run clear, not reddish, your bird is done.
That's it! Because of the longer cooking time, I find that recipes like this are an awesome weekend activity. You can take 20 minutes in the late afternoon to prep all the food and get it in the oven, then get lost in whatever Saturday/Sunday fun you have going on until dinner time when you'll have a fabulous meal ready to pull out of the oven and put on the table!
Curious what to do with the leftovers? Cube, shred or slice any leftover meat and use it as a great source of protein for any of the following:
- Add it to salads
- Mix it in with a soup
- Use it as taco filling
- Throw it in an omelette or mix it into a frittata
- Make a wrap or whole grain sandwich
- Combine with greek yogurt, apples, cinnamon and walnuts for a healthy chicken salad.
If you have any questions about this recipe, any of my other recipes or blogs, or would like any personal direction on your nutrition needs, please don't hesitate to reach out any time. The first consultation is always free!