Slow Roasted Whole Chicken

Modern cuisine so often focuses on the latest trends and off-the-grid ingredients. New ideas keep things interesting, but in the process, it’s easy to overlook more unassuming fare.
A new year seemed like a very good time to dig out an old standby–a whole roasted chicken.

Basic as it seems, a brief prep and one unconventional cooking technique is all that’s needed to produce this classic comfort food that’s elegant in its own right. And beyond the juicy, tender meat, you’ll be rewarded with mouthwatering aromas and endless leftover possibilities.

For years, I used high heat and relied on luck or a meat thermometer to prevent an overcooked chicken with dry meat. Eventually, our annual trip to the Greek Food Bazaar made me rethink this frequently used method of cooking.

There, we eat succulent chicken that is literally falling off the bone and utterly delicious. When I learned that the Bazaar method is low and slow, I started experimenting with various oven temperatures and times with the hopes of attaining similarly juicy and tender chicken.

After seeing the idea in a cookbook, I once tried cooking a chicken for 10 hours at 200 degrees F. It tasted good and wasn’t dry, but the chicken was perhaps a little too tender if that’s possible. Even the bones were soft!

After much experimentation, my favorite time and temperature is 275 degrees F for three to four hours. I usually end up setting the oven timer for 3 1/2 hours but, really, you can’t mess up this one.

As a bonus, you can make economical and extremely flavorful stock with the leftover chicken carcass. The bones—along with the pack of giblets that were removed from the chicken–can be refrigerated for several days or even frozen until you have time to make it.

As an extra tip, toss the trimmings from vegetables like carrots, celery, and onions into a zip-top bag and freeze them for later use in stock. As you accumulate more, just add them to the freezer bag. I’ve made some of the richest stock using odds and ends such as mushroom pieces, kale stems, and onion skins. And since the stock veggies get discarded anyway, there’s wisdom in collecting the trimmings. (For my easy method and a few helpful tips, click here.)

Slow Roasted Whole Chicken
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Ingredients
  1. 1 whole chicken (about 5–7 pounds) *
  2. Half a lemon
  3. Half an onion
  4. Dried thyme
  5. Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Instructions
  1. Remove the pack of giblets from the chicken. Save for use in homemade stock, if desired. Place the chicken in a roasting pan. (I often use a 9×13 Pyrex baking dish.) Put the onion and lemon halves in the cavity of the chicken and sprinkle salt, pepper, and thyme all over the inside and outside.
  2. Bake, uncovered, at 275 degrees F for 3-4 hours. If chicken is smaller, cook on the low end of the time frame and vice-versa. But really, if you keep the chicken in a half hour longer than intended, it will still taste great. I’ve done this!
  3. Let the chicken rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.
Notes
  1. *The last time I made this, I used an 8-pound “oven stuffer roaster” and it cooked within the stated timespan as well. A smaller chicken may come to temperature before 3 hours but will not dry out when kept in the oven longer. If you wish to remove from the oven a little early, simply check with a meat thermometer. The thickest part of the thigh should read 180 degrees F.
  2. If desired, you may also add half a head of garlic and a few sprigs of fresh thyme to the chicken cavity prior to cooking.
Tip
  1. Leftovers are perfect served cold, reheated, or in any recipe that calls for the addition of cooked chicken. Additionally, two chickens can easily be baked at the same time. The cooked meat will keep for about a week in the refrigerator and freezes well. Lastly, a whole chicken makes a convenient and welcome meal when you wish to prepare dinner for a friend.
The Fountain Avenue Kitchen http://fountainavenuekitchen.com/
 
Slow Roasted Whole Chicken
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Comments

  1. Pingback: The Fountain Avenue Kitchen – Homemade Chicken Stock

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  3. Pingback: The Fountain Avenue Kitchen – Turkey Tetrazzini with Mushrooms and Kale

    1. Ann

      That is a good question, Jenn. I would probably keep it in for about five hours and then check it. If you try before I do, please report back!
      Update: I cooked an 8-pound chicken in 4 hours! (see comments above)

      Reply
  4. Ron

    I made this the other day following your directions — it turned out EXCELLENT! So moist it litterally fell off the bone!

    Reply
    1. Ann

      Thanks for the comment, Maureen. I noted since that comment that I have used this method for an 8-pound chicken, and it cooked in 4 hours–faster than I would have thought when I first answered Jenn!

      Reply
    2. Lisa Houston

      Me too, trying it at 275 today.. I did my own version of a poultry rub, a mix of sage, salt, pepper, and thyme… No cover. It will make the skin a nice golden color.. I think 3 hours should do it..

      Reply
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  6. Tiffany

    can you add other fruits in the cavity and around the chicken, i want to cook this for thanksgiving instead of turkey for my husband and i.I am thinking apples and pear and instead of water i am thinking apple cider

    Reply
    1. Ann

      It wouldn’t hurt to try, Tiffany. The chicken will be moist and delicious, and you might just hit on something you love! I would use firmer pears and maybe add the fruit during the last hour or so of cooking, depending on how soft you would like it.

      Reply
        1. Ann

          I do not, Lisa. It certainly wouldn’t hurt, but a good amount of liquid does cook out of the chicken, as can be seen in the one photo. I have not tried with cider as one person mentioned….but it could be good!

          Reply
  7. Mike

    The nice part about this method is you can marinade the entire chicken the night before, and the composition of the marinade is not as finicky as it would be for a 350 degree chicken. If you use a marinade with sugar in it it won’t scorch as it would on higher temps. I used coca cola, cumin, paprika, hawaiian smoke seasoning and cayenne pepper. I know coke ain’t all refined and such, but the acid in it breaks down the meat and makes it tender and helps the other spices in the marinade permeate the chicken. Plus if you want to brown it up a little and make it crispy all you have to do is turn it up to 375 at the end and monitor it until it gets to where you want it. The sugar carmelizes nicely and gives a nice color. Make sure you pay attention during this part tho, or you’ll have a black chicken before you know it.

    Reply
    1. Ann

      Thanks for letting me know, Elizabeth. I am so glad it was a success. This is a dinner I often prepare when bringing dinner to a friend, and I cook one for the friend and one for us. In my oven, I tend to always take the chicken(s) out on the early side of the timeframe given. To be sure, you could keep them in on the longer side. As a test, I have continued cooking a chicken for another hour, even when the temperature read as done after 3 or so hours, and the meat was still tender and juicy. It’s hard to mess this one up!

      Reply
  8. Elizabeth

    I thought the same!
    Not too mention, my Polish mother loved this recipe…trust me, that’s impressive!!! From our family to you and yours, our bellies thank you!!

    Reply
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  10. Maija Groenewald

    After 100 years of cooking chicken the same old way, I tried this recipe. I needed the chicken to slow cook for practical reasons (picking up someone late from the airport and we wanted food as soon as we came home!) and I was not really looking for a new culinary experience. I have to tell you that it was absolutely the best chicken that I have ever cooked. We LOVED it! I put butter cubes under the skin, a whole lemon and herbs inside, brushed the outside with olive oil and crumbled chicken stock cube and seasoning on the outside. The final touch was some white wine in the baking tray. What a triumph! Thank you for sharing this. I won’t roast my chicken any other way now!

    Reply
    1. Ann

      You are welcome, Maija, and thank YOU for taking the time to share your terrific feedback. I’m so glad you enjoyed this as much as we do and love your flavorful additions!

      Reply
    1. Ann

      I cut the lemon and onion in half–and put the whole half in the cavity–but you could certainly slice in thinner pieces, Jamillah. Hope you enjoy!

      Reply
  11. Sheila

    I am trying this recipe tonight but I have put 2 chickens in the oven with an onion and 2 round slices of pineapples in the cavity of each bird and put pineapples all on the chicken (trying to make something like a Hawaiian teriyaki (sp?) chicken). I put in at 275 at 1:30pm (hoping it get’s done by 5) but I have it covered until the last hour or two. I hope it turns out! It usually does with one bird but I have never cooked 2 at same time. They each have their own roasting pan and are on same shelf in oven. They are around 3.5 lbs each.

    Reply
    1. Ann

      I think they will be great, Sheila. On several occasions, I have cooked two chickens at a time and they turned out perfectly. I’d love to hear how you make out. Your teriyaki version sounds delightful!

      Reply
    1. Ann

      I think that’s a terrific idea, Robert. The trick is learning the timing. The first time I tried, I might cook them in a separate pan and remove when done, transferring back to the chicken dish to soak up some of the juices and rewarm at the end. Or you could halve the potatoes, in which case they could easily be removed if they are done before the chicken. I hope that helps, and I’d love to know how you make out.

      Reply
  12. Joan B

    The first time I made this it was amazing. I washed and prepared it the night before, put the salt inside and some butter under the skin with herbs, wrapped it and left it in the refrigerator over night. It was so delicious. I was excited to make it again. This time I did not prepare it the night before, just prepared it and put it in the oven. It was no where near as good, I was so disappointed. I used the same brand of chicken. So, from my experience, the recipe is awesome if prepared the night before,

    Reply
    1. Ann

      I have never prepped this the night before yet have never had a problem. I would love to know why it wasn’t good and do appreciate your comment, Joan.

      Reply
  13. Nathan

    Trying recipe now with apple cider vinegar in bottom of pan with oranges and onions stuffed inside. I know it will turn out great…Robert Irvine once mentioned, ‘Slow-cooked chicken is restaurant-style fool-proof cooking.’ I believe him, and you all…

    Reply
    1. Ann

      Hi Kathy,
      Depending on their size, that should be about right, and you may even find they are finished sooner if on the smaller size. To be sure, the internal temperature when taken with a quick-read thermometer should read 165 degrees. The good thing about this recipe is that if you cook the chicken a little longer than necessary, it doesn’t dry out. I hope that helps and that you enjoy!

      Reply
  14. Katherine Byrne

    Chicken has been cooking now for a little over 2 hours and the house smells yummy!!! Can’t wait to carve. I added dried rosemary instead of thyme because I love the flavour marriage of chicken and rosemary. Pairing this meal with garlic mashed potatoes and roasted garlic and rosemary carrots and a Caesar salad. Yeah, we sure love garlic in this house!!

    Thanks so much for posting this recipe.

    Reply
    1. Ann

      I love rosemary, too. I’m sure it will be divine! The whole meal sounds delightful. Enjoy it…and the wonderful aroma as you wait!

      Reply
  15. Beverley

    Interesting take on an old faithful. I love reading recipes and why chefs choose to cook the way they do. So yes I will be trying your method. Thank you and HNY Cheers to 2016 recipes xoxo

    Reply
  16. Harriette

    I used chicken thighs and breasts with bones. Squeezed juice from a Meyer lemon over chicken, put rinds under meat along with chopped onion, added thyme, salt, pepper…275 for 3 hrs. It was moist and delicious.

    Reply
    1. Ann

      Thank you very much for the great feedback, Harriette. I love that you tried this with chicken parts and bet the Meyer lemon tasted especially good!

      Reply
  17. Linda

    I debated whether to set my oven for regular baking or convection roast. My chicken was a little over four pounds. I chose convection roast. Chicken was done at two hours. Delicious! Wonder about your thoughts on convection vs. regular often settings. Thanks.

    Reply
  18. Linda

    Make that ‘Oven’ settings in the above comment. (I know your translated.) We have found that convection roast in our oven is very quick! On the other hand, convection baking often takes the recommended amount of time.

    Reply
    1. Ann

      Hi Linda,
      I really like the convection feature on my oven, but I tend not to use it when I’m testing recipes because many people don’t have the option. Also, because some ovens automatically recalibrate 25 degrees lower when the convection feature is used, it can be hard to give a cooking time that works for all. That said, I’m glad you tried it with this recipe and am so glad it was a success!

      Reply
  19. MIke

    Ann,

    Have you brined the chicken beforehand? Does brining make the chicken more moist or is it redundant because of the slow cooking?

    Reply
    1. Ann

      Hi Mike,
      I do sometimes brine chicken, but I’ve never brined with this recipe as the chicken turns out so well without the extra step. That said, it couldn’t hurt. Realistically, I don’t think you need to, but please report back if you try either way–or both!

      Reply
  20. familyhomerecipes

    Thank you for a wonderful culinary recipe of delicious chicken. I like to cook a chicken and will be sure to cook your dish.

    Reply
  21. Darryl Alder

    This is just what I was looking for, Sunday Chicken. We will be gone to church 3 hours, so I will put this in just as we leave. The Borscht is on a low simmer now, the jello salad is set, the breadmaker is set to start 90 minutes before our return. This will be great. I can hardly wait.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Between the bread and the chicken, I think you’ll be returning to a delicious-smelling kitchen, Darryl. The entire meal sounds fantastic, and I hope the chicken meets all expectations!

      Reply
  22. Charlotte

    This looks fantastic and I bet it tastes delicious! I’ve just discovered your blog and I am amazed by all the goodies. I’ll keep reading and cooking.

    Reply
  23. Carla

    Used your method today, thought I wouldn’t have any juices for gravy cooking it uncovered. But the juices had all stayed under the skin making the chicken unbelievably moist! This will be how I roast a chicken from now on. Thank you so much!

    Reply
  24. Laura

    I want to make this and plan to run home on my lunch hour to start it. That means I’ll put it in the oven by 12:30 but I don’t want it to be done until 6 or a little after. Trying to decide if I should just let it cook a little longer (2 chickens – 1 is 5.3 lbs and the other is 6.3 lbs) OR possibly use the “delay start” feature and have the oven turn on at 2 ….. That means chicken would sit in oven 1.5 hrs before starting to cook. Is that even safe? Alternatively, I could use the “stop cooking” feature and have the oven turn off at 4 hrs and leave then sitting in the oven. Ideas?

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Laura, The rule of thumb I use is to limit the time food sits out of the refrigerator to 2 hours, so I wouldn’t hesitate to do the delayed start. You could also reduce the oven temperature by about 25 degrees and try that way. I haven’t done this exactly, but the oven temperature should be low enough that the chicken will stay tender and juicy when cooked for a couple more hours. I hope this helps, and I’d love to know what you decide to do and how you make out!

      Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      I don’t, Jeannie. A good amount of natural juices cook out of the chicken, so there’s no need to add anything.

      Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      You can really estimate based on the size of the chicken, James, but a 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of each is a good starting point.

      Reply
  25. Ada Napolitano Garcia

    OMGOODNESS!!!! Followed exact directions and it was HEAVENLY! It is currently 64* F in Chicago and what a wonderful way to warm the house and smell this chicken cooking!! FALL IS IN THE AIR!! This is my 4th time cooking it, as my family just thinks it is the most delicious chicken ever!!!
    Warm regards,
    Ada

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      It would likely be fine, but you could also just skip it. The chicken will still be tender and delicious without.

      Reply
  26. Natalie

    I’ve got a chicken in the oven right now… 5 hours 30 minutes at 260 for a 6 pound bird.

    Half a very large onion in the cavity with the remaining arranged around the bird, and MANY garlic cloves as well. Sprinkled with garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, white pepper, black pepper, Himalayan sea salt, a pinch of cayenne and a dusting of thyme over the top once the spices are rubbed in.

    Let it sit in the fridge at least 6 hours or overnight, I throw it in the oven before it preheats to ensure no thermal shock to my baking dish. Starts smelling good after about half an hour, which is torture if you’re in the house the whole time.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      You’re too funny. Before I read your last sentence, I was already imagining how amazing your kitchen must be smelling! YUM!

      Reply
  27. The chef

    That looks really good I am trying this right now. I slow cook mine set at 225 degrees but going to see how your method work.

    Reply
  28. Bertie Brown

    Does the low temperature setting mean that my oven will not need a major cleaning after the chicken is done? Or should I partially cover the chicken with a lid to prevent grease splatter?

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Bertie, I would definitely say the lower temperature helps a lot in that regard. I never cover the chicken and haven’t had a problem. That said, it wouldn’t hurt to partially cover it. If you try, I’d love to know how you make out.

      Reply
  29. Jean

    This is a brilliant method that I also use for turkey breasts. I have been using 250 degrees but will try 275. You can speed up the cooking process a bit by spatchcocking the chicken first. That gives you the back to keep for stock, too.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Absolutely a great idea to use this method for turkey breasts as well. I’ve been tempted to cook a big turkey this way but haven’t tried yet. Thanks for mentioning the spatchcocking idea, too!

      Reply
  30. Scotty

    Yes 275 is the magic temperature. I also brine my chicken for about 6 to 8 hours prior to baking it. Then I cut red potatoes and line my dish with them and rest the bird on them. Add a few cups of chicken stock. The make for killer mashed potatoes.

    Reply
  31. Dana

    I want to cook about 15 chicken breasts slowly in the oven to use later for taco stack up. How long can I safely leave it cooking on a low temperature?

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      It will depend whether they are boneless or bone-in, Dana. To be sure, you can use a quick-read thermometer, which should read 165 degrees F. It’s harder to overcook with this method, but with 15 breasts, you wouldn’t want to risk it!

      Reply
  32. Nessa

    Made this for my family tonight and it was delicious. I stuffed it with green peppers and onions soaked in lemon juice. I covered my bird with olive oil, seasoned, and added butter inside and on top under the skin. I cooked it on 500 for 25 min and continued to base. I then turned it down to 290 and cooked for 4 hours and based. Amazing and juicy. Thank You

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Thank you for the wonderful feedback and for sharing your tweaks, Nessa. I’m thrilled this was a hit with your family!

      Reply
  33. Donna

    I have made this twice now and it turns out perfectly! I too tried every different temperature and roasting time over the years and this method is the best! Thanks for the recipe. I am making your homemade chicken stock again tomorrow with the bones and some additional neck and back bones I got from my local butcher. The stock is great too. Thanks again!

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Thank you for your kind comment, Donna. I’m happy you enjoy this as much as we do…and the stock, too!

      Reply
  34. Janie

    Oh my goodness. Today I used your method for my chicken. Rinsed, slathered with olive oil and the usual spices. I put it in the oven at 420 deg. for 20 mins. (just to make sure any ooglies get zapped) then reduced to 275 for about 3.5 hrs. It was absolutely the best chicken I’ve ever made. Much better than in the Crock Pot, even. At that low temp, no oven spatters! YIPPEE! Your method is now my method. Thank you!

    Reply