How to Cook A Whole Chicken

What’s in those grocery store rotisserie chickens?

You know the ones. They come in a little plastic tray with a clear plastic cover and a cardboard handle, sitting on a metal heating tray in the middle of the grocery store.

A whole chicken, ready and hot and waiting for you?

It seems like a great deal… until you start thinking about how long it’s been sitting there waiting for you and what might be in it.

Luckily, cooking your own whole chicken at home is almost as easy as driving to the grocery store and the end result tastes way better.

Step 1: Brining

The secret to a juicy, flavourful bird? Brine.

Brining a chicken is super easy. All you need to do is take 8 or so cups of water, half a cup of kosher salt (not table salt!), and a few other seasonings. Try things like peppercorns, bay leaves, garlic, lemon, thyme… whatever flavours you want the meat to take on.

Boil your water and dissolve the salt in it, then add whatever seasonings you’d like. Once the water cools, submerge your whole chicken into the cooled brine for anywhere from 4 to 24 hours – the longer the better, but make sure you keep it in the refrigerator.

The salt water helps increase the moisture and tenderness of the meat before you roast it, since it helps the chicken absorb the water as it sits.

Step 2: Seasoning and Fat

If you’ve brined your chicken, you’ve already added some of your seasoning, but you’re still going to want to add more. Seasoning on your chicken should go everywhere: inside the chicken’s cavity (or, if you’re spatchcocking your chicken, on the underside of the chicken), on top of the skin, and under the skin.

Under the skin is also where you’re going to add your fat. This helps keep your chicken juicy and flavourful. The best way to do this is to create a herbed butter: grab some softened butter and add whatever herbs you’d like to season your chicken with (some favourites are sage, thyme, rosemary, and garlic) and mix them together.

Now, it’s going to get a little messy.

Separate the skin from the chicken with your fingers and push your herbed butter between the skin and the meat. Make sure you’re really getting it in there! By trapping the fat under the skin, you’re giving it no choice but to make your meat even more flavourful and delicious.

Step 3: Cooking Your Chicken

There are countless ways to cook a whole chicken, each with their own benefits. If you’re a total grill master, you’ve probably eaten (or made!) your own beer-can chicken or given at-home rotisserie chicken a try. If you’re a traditionalist, a good old-fashioned oven-roasted chicken brings home the sweet taste of Sunday-night dinner nostalgia.

If you want to branch out from the norm, you can also try using an air-fryer to cook your whole chicken, or try out the spatchcock method, where you remove the backbone of the chicken and cook it flat, which helps the chicken cook more evenly and faster.

No matter what method you chose above, you will want to make sure you’re cooking it to an internal temperature of 165°F. There’s other methods to test when your chicken is cooked, but temperature is the safest way to make sure everything is done. Stick a thermometer into your chicken at the thickest part of the thigh to get your reading.

Step 4: Carving The Chicken

Once it’s cooked, make sure you let your chicken rest for at least 15 minutes. Remember what we said earlier about the juices being more delicious inside the chicken? This helps keep them there! If you cut into your chicken too early, the juices will just end up all over your cutting board instead.

Then, it’s time to carve this bad boy.

This is probably the part that intimidates people the most, but it’s easier than you think. Make sure you have the correct tools for the job:

  • A sharpened carving knife
  • A carving fork
  • A cutting board large enough to hold the whole chicken

Then, get to carving! Start by removing the leg and thigh, then moving onto the wings, and finally removing the breast. Slice it up, put it on a platter, and serve.

Step 5: Let The Praise Roll In

No one has to know how incredibly easy it was to make the juicy, flavourful chicken you’ve served up for dinner.

Make sure you’re using the best chicken.

These whole chickens come from certified humane poultry farms, meaning they’re the best way to get tender, juicy, flavourful meat that will impress anyone you serve it to.