Slow Roasted Whole Chicken

By Ann Fulton

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This longtime reader and family favorite effortlessly produces tender, juicy chicken every single time - and never grows old!

 

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 stand-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℉. 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℉ for three to four hours. I usually end up setting the oven timer for 3½ 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.)

This longtime reader and family favorite effortlessly produces tender, juicy chicken every single time - and never grows old!
 
Take a quick glance at the comments beneath this fool-proof recipe, and you'll know why it's an enduring favorite!
 
Slow Roasted Whole Chicken
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 15 minutes
Yield: 4-6 servings
This tried-and-true recipe produces tender, juicy chicken every single time - and it's so easy!
Ingredients
  • 1 whole chicken (about 5–7 pounds)*
  • Half a lemon
  • Half an onion
  • Dried thyme
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Instructions
  1. BEFORE YOU START: An optional step for crisper skin is to pat the chicken dry, sprinkle with the seasonings, as directed below, and then place the chicken on a baking rack that has been set over a baking dish or rimmed baking sheet. Then refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 4 hours or, ideally, overnight. This “dry brine” technique will give the seasoning time to permeate the chicken and help dry out the skin, and dry skin = crispier skin.
  2. Prepare the chicken: Remove the pack of giblets from the chicken. Save for use in homemade stock, if desired. Pat the chicken dry, and place it in a roasting pan. (I often use a 9×13 Pyrex baking dish; you may set the chicken on a rack, but this is not mandatory. The increased airflow will create crisper skin on the bottom, especially if you followed the dry brine step above.) Place the onion and lemon halves in the cavity of the chicken and sprinkle salt, pepper, and thyme all over the inside and outside. (Helpful seasoning hint: I use ½ teaspoon salt, and about ¼ teaspoon each black pepper and dried thyme per pound of chicken.)
  3. Preheat the oven to 275℉ and roast: Let the chicken sit at room temperature while the oven is preheating or for up to an hour before cooking. Roast, uncovered, for 3-4 hours. If the 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!
  4. Let the chicken rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.
Notes

*Larger or smaller chicken? I’ve cooked an 8-pound “oven stuffer roaster” and it was done within the stated timespan as well. A smaller chicken will likely 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 early, simply check with a meat thermometer. The thickest part of the thigh should read 180℉.

Optional extras: You may also add half a head of garlic and a few sprigs of fresh thyme to the chicken cavity prior to cooking. Feel free to mix up the herbs, as well, using dried Italian seasoning, dried or fresh rosemary, oregano, marjoram, chives, etc.

More on crispy skin: Without the optional dry brine step, slow roasting prioritizes tender, juicy meat over fully crisped skin. You can broil briefly at the end to add an extra hint of golden crispiness to the top, if desired. And read on…

Convection option: If your oven has a convection option, using it will cook the chicken about 25% faster and increase the overall crispness of the skin.

Meal prep and storage: 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 up to 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.

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Comments

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Ashley, I haven’t done it, but I think it would work well. You’d just have to keep as eye on the temperature, as I’m not sure how long it would take.

      Reply
  1. Jaime

    I just did a four-pound bird at 250º and it took just about five hours. I brined it overnight in a heavily salted vegetable broth. I stuffed with lemon, onion, a half stick of butter, and a rosemary branch. It was perfection and I got lovely drippings for a pan sauce. Keep it simple. Lovely.

    Reply
  2. LAURA
    (5/5)

    I have to admit that I was skeptical at first that this chicken would not be dry, but after reading many positive comments, I gave it a try! My chicken was slightly over 4 pounds and I roasted it for 3 hours. Turned out beautifully and perfectly tender! Next time I will add some garlic cloves to the lemon and onion mix inside the chicken for additional flavor and will probably cook two chickens at once to take full advantage of my oven being on for 3 hours. Before serving, I squeezed the soft juicy lemon from inside the chicken over the platter of chicken to add a nice finishing touch of flavor. Do you save your pan juices? The next day I used the congealed juices, minus any fat, over some mashed potatoes.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Thank you for your terrific feedback, Laura. I’m delighted you were happy with the results. I’m also a fan of roasting two chickens at once – perfect when needing a meal to take to a friend too – and I do love the pan juices!

      Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      I don’t use a forced fan (convection) for this recipe. You certainly could but would need to check the internal temperature sooner, as this would speed up the cooking process.

      Reply
    2. Christina

      My oven’s a bit wonky, so we have to use convection for everything. I just lower the temp slightly (to 260 degrees) and cook it for the recommended amount of time. This chicken recipe is FABULOUS.

      Reply
  3. Leah
    (5/5)

    My mom taught me long ago that slow & low is the very best method to cooking chicken perfectly! Put it in & leave it alone until it’s time to take it out!

    Reply
  4. Leah
    (5/5)

    My mom taught me long ago that slow & low is the very best method to cooking chicken perfectly! Put it in & leave it alone until it’s ti
    E to take it out!

    Reply
  5. LAURA

    Just came across your slow roasted whole chicken recipe and would like to try it! Should I baste the chicken while it is cooking or is that not necessary? I usually roast a 4–5 pound chicken and would love to have it become super tender as you described.

    Reply
  6. Brian
    (5/5)

    I learned to roast chicken this way (from Ann and this site) a little over a year ago. This was after trying other methods found on the interweb and not liking the results.

    Any way, I made this for the fourth time yesterday following Ann’s recipe. Every time is delicious. The meat is juicy and the bird is easy to carve. I add some rosemary, in addition to the thyme and put two small cloves of garlic under the skin. This page is a hidden gem and if only more people knew. Thank you Ann for sharing. I’m so grateful.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Thank you for your most thoughtful comment, Brian. I am delighted your search for the perfect roasted chicken led you here and that this recipe has served you well.

      Reply
  7. Nanette

    Oh my.. this is the best chicken recipe ever!! I followed your recipe directions & the chicken was perfect! I roasted a 7lb chicken for 4 hours & even the skin was crispy. My go to recipe from now on. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Reply
  8. Betty
    (5/5)

    I’ve been doing this recipe for over a year now. Every time, I used a different spice or herb mix and I also vary whatever I put in the chicken’s cavity (lemon, garlic, onions, fresh herbs,… even a wild mushroom mix as stuffing). I sometimes toss some fingerling potatoes beneath the chicken, no need for oil or seasonings since they end up cooking in the chicken’s juices and soaking up the flavor. I also never pay much attention to the size of the chicken and I usually leave the chicken roasting in the oven for 4 hours. Every time, it comes out perfectly juicy and tender. Thanks for sharing this recipe, I no longer have to worry about dry or undercooked chicken!

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      I love your comment, Betty! Thank you for taking the time to comment and share the many ways you have enjoyed this recipe. I’m delighted it has served you well and appreciate the 5-star review!

      Reply
  9. Des Holland

    I’m trying this but I want it to cook all day so I put my oven on 225 degrees and cooking it 5 hrs so I’m hoping it will come out real good

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Des, I mention in the writeup how the chicken turned out when I cooked it for 10 hours at 200 degrees. I think you will be fine, but feel free to report back!

      Reply
  10. Edward Vaillancourt
    (5/5)

    Absolutely fantastic. I stuffed the cavity with half lemon, thyme, rosemary, and garlic. I also added these ingredients around the bird along with some small whole peppers(red, yellow and jalapeños)…

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      I often double this recipe when I want to take a meal to a friend – so easy to make one to give and one to keep! I’m delighted the chicken was a hit with your group. Thank you for your comment!

      Reply
  11. Ginger Nash

    I found this recipe in October, 1920 when you posted on your page. Oh! Wow! I can truthfully said, I have never bought another Roasted Chicken from Costco after tasting this one. It is so incredibly easy. I love making it. I have cooked and shared this recipe far and wide because everyone who eats it wants the recipe.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Ginger, I’m delighted the chicken has become a welcome staple in your house and that you’ve shared the recipe far and wide. Thank you very much for taking a moment to let me know! ❤️

      Reply
  12. jane

    check out Line 5 on intrduction page …
    Slow Roasted Whole Chicken -The
    Fountain Avenue Chicken

    -Brine the children overnight in
    kosher salt, water, Brown sugar

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Jane, Did you see that on Pinterest by chance? I’m not seeing it from my end (although definitely not the right word!), and this recipe doesn’t call for brining. I’m wondering if someone else may have added that to the recipe when Pinned. I do appreciate being made aware and welcome additional details if you can provide.

      Reply