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
Ingredients
  • 1 whole chicken (about 5–7 pounds) *
  • Half a lemon
  • Half an onion
  • Dried thyme
  • 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
  • *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.
  • 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
  • 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.
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Comments

  1. Brian

    Won’t low and slow give more opportunity for the juices in the chicken to run out and become dry? Also, how are people leaving their ovens on and going out to run errands?! Thank you for this recipe. Will try it. Came across this recipe trying to find out why my turkey thighs were dry and rubbery (roasted them at 325 for 1.5 hours).

    Reply
          1. Brian

            Hi Ann, the chicken turned out fantastic! I followed your directions in late January and the chicken was super juicy and delicious. I’m about to cook another one. Do you think it would dry out the bird if I turned up the heat to brown the skin and melt/render out some more of the fat in the last 30-45 minutes of cooking?

          2. Ann Post author

            Hi Brian, I’m delighted this was a success. I’ve broiled briefly at the end to accomplish what you mention. It won’t get the sides of the chicken unless you go to the effort of turning the chicken (which I don’t) although it reduces the likelihood of drying the meat. You could try what you mentioned, although it might reduce the benefits of the slow roast. If you do try, feel free to report back!

          3. Brian

            Thank you Ann. I rubbed some canola oil mixed with thyme and rosemary on and under the skin which helped with the desired browning effect. I turned up the heat to 400F for the last 20 minutes (not sure if it did anything though). I didn’t want it to go too long at high heat after reading your reply. It still turned out really juicy. This will be the way I roast chicken for the rest of my life. To be honest, I was torn on which way to cook it because I see a ton of videos on You Tube recommending high heat within a shorter period of time. I tried high heat once but the chicken was a bit too firm for me and I didn’t roast another chicken again for years. Thank you for sharing this technique and for your help!

          4. Ann Post author

            My pleasure, Brian, and thanks for the follow up! I think you nailed it when you mentioned that whole chickens cooked at higher heat for shorter periods of time end up firmer. I love that the meat in this slow roasted variation is really tender. So happy it’s a keeper!

  2. Evan Lagana

    This page has been my go-to base strategy for roasting a whole chicken. I found this page a few years ago and always come back to it when I make it again. The comments from other home-chefs, with their input, ideas and add-ons are always great. This is hands down the best way to cook a chicken at home. Been following it for years and adapted it to my own taste. Anyone looking for their first time recipe, stop now, this is it…

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      You are so thoughtful to take a moment to leave this comment, Evan. Thank you… I’m delighted this has been a go-to for you.

      Reply
  3. Cassandra Bachrach

    I just made this recipe. The chicken tasted fantastic. I will roast chicken like this every time. Thank you for the recipe!

    Reply
  4. Linda Swiszcz

    Tried this. It was delicious. I basted my 7 lb chicken every half an hour with garlic butter.
    Yummy, tender, delicious. Didn’t use the lemon or onion, stuffed the chicken, instead. Cooked an extra 45 minutes because of the stuffing.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Garlic butter…yum! Thank you for mentioning your adjustments, Linda. I’m so happy the chicken was a success!

      Reply
  5. Christine

    This has become my FAVORITE roast chicken recipe. I use 300 degrees because my oven seems to be unreliable at the lower temp. The breast cones put perfectly moist, texture is divine, there is an abundance of flavorful “jus” and I love that cleanup is a breeze. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Christine, I’m so happy this chicken recipe has become a favorite. Your feedback is much appreciated!

      Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      I love this technique so would definitely give it a try. Cooking time will vary, so just use a quick-read thermometer to determine doneness.

      Reply
  6. Catherine A. Sears

    Hello Ann!

    I tried this when I first read it. It was the most marvelous chicken I’d ever cooked. Thank you! I’ve since done parts, bone-in, boneless, skinless (with a little oil rubbed on exposed meat. I only cook poultry this way unless I’m under a time constraint.

    I was wondering…Have you ever tried slow roasting root and winter vegetables at these temps? We’re all familiar with the 400F+ screaming hot ovens, but I was curious about low and slow.

    Thanks for your consideration!

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Catherine! Thank you for your wonderful comment. I’m delighted this recipe has been a go-to for you and love the variations you’ve made. For some unknown reason, I have not included vegetable when roasting the chicken, and I really should the next time. It would be easy enough to scoop them out if they are done before the chicken (they could be added back at the end to warm through), although larger pieces of heartier root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and onions may be okay for the duration. If you try, feel free to report back!

      Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      I don’t but you could, Kevin. To be sure it’s cooked to temperature, you can use a quick-read thermometer and look for an internal temp of 165℉.

      Reply
  7. Shannon G.

    This has been my go to chicken recipe for over a year. The chicken comes out perfect. Juicy and tender with lots of flavor. I love a recipe I can pop in the oven and go do other things and it does it thing. Thanks for an awesome recipe!

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Shannon, Thank YOU so much for taking a moment to comment. I’m so happy this has become a go-to recipe for you!

      Reply
  8. Laura

    I think this will be a winner! I’ve been cooking the no moisture added, hight heat recipe and have been less than impressed with the less flavorful, drier meat. I don’t eat the skin, so crispy isn’t important to me. I’ve been buying skinny rotisserie chickens at a high cost because I absolutely love the moist meat, and flavor, but it’s becoming way too expensive. I’m not a fan of putting a whole chicken in a slow cooker either. Most recipes I saw called for a cover on the chicken, but wasn’t sure I wanted to “steam it”. I love the simple seasonings, but don’t hate on me for adding sage, celery leaves, and a little garlic powder under the skin, as well as on top. (and the cavity, to which I added a small stalk of celery) I don’t have lemon, which I wish I did. What interested me most was the cooking method. It’s so easy and I can’t wait to try it. I’ll have to post about texture and flavor when I do! I also never thought about saving giblets for stock, as I didn’t care for it in the gravy my mom used to make. After the initial chicken dinner, I make a huge soup, chicken salad, and save pieces for everything from simple chicken quesadillas to chicken fettuccine Alfredo. You’ve got to love roasted chicken!! Thank you for the recipe!

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Laura, Thanks so much for your comment, and I look forward to hearing how you make out. This recipe is delightful as is, but can absolutely be a blank slate for other herbs, etc. Your additions sound wonderful…as do all the ways you use the leftovers!

      Reply
  9. Captain

    I am bookmarking your article so I can revisit and review more of your content. I agree with many of your thoughts and am impressed with your out-of-the box thinking.

    Reply
  10. Sonja Nolen

    I’m amazed at the number of years that people have been praising this recipe on your website. Am printing it out and will make it very soon. I’ve always slow roasted chicken, but was never quite sure of timing, etc., though it always tasted terrific. It will be nice to have an exact method to follow, and I thank you!!

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      My pleasure, Sonja, and thanks for checking in. This recipe is truly foolproof - with the added benefit of making the kitchen smell heavenly while it cooks!

      Reply
  11. Amin Oteifa

    Outstanding recipe. I used garlic granules instead of Thyme and rubbed EVOO and the spices both over and under the skin of the chicken. I also gave it a turn at the end and broiled the un-browned bottom for a few minutes then let it rest for 30 min before carving. My wife and kids said it was the best chicken ever. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Such great news, Amin. I’m thrilled this was a hit with your family and appreciate the feedback.

      Reply
  12. Susan Ericson

    I love this method for roasting chicken and use it whenever time permits. Juicy and tender every time!

    Reply
  13. Christine

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I use your recipe all the time! It’s foolproof and delicious. I just popped a chicken in the oven and am looking forward to lunch. I will never go back to roasting chicken at higher heat. Here is a Portuguese spice paste that I often use to season the chicken. In a food processor, blender or mortar and pestle, mix up the following into a past: 6 cloves garlic, 1-2 tsp salt, 2 Tbs paprika, 1 bay leaf crumbled, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1 Tbs chopped parsley or cilantro and 2 Tbs olive oil.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Christine, I’m so happy this has become a go-to for you! I appreciate the comment AND the details on the Portuguese spice paste. It looks like it would be so flavorful and a truly wonderful addition to the chicken. I will have to try!

      Reply
  14. Susan Post author

    Last night I made this recipe for Roasted Chicken and it was a huge success. I used lemon pepper seasoning (my husband’s favorite) and the skin was crisp and flavorful. The meat was tender and juicy. Most of the time I make chicken the meat was too dry. Thanks for all your testing to make the perfect recipe.

    Reply
  15. Elaine

    Ann I’ve used this method several times and it always produces a wonderful result. I generally use an 8lb chicken and it cooks within the allotted time – moist and tender. It’s now the only method I use to roast a chicken. Another bonus is my oven doesn’t get all greasy like it does when I used to roast at a higher temp. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      My pleasure, Elaine, and thank you for taking a moment to comment. I’m delighted this has become your go-to method of preparation!

      Reply