How to Roast and Carve a Chicken

So, funny story about learning how to roast chickens… I avoided it like the plague after the unfortunate “Chicken Incident” that Beka and I experience back in our senior year in college. It happened one fateful late spring evening and I was going to roast a chicken for a guy I was dating at the time. He was super cute, legit cowboy, smelled ridic good and had a beard. I was a goner. The night was planned and I was ready to impress, until he called that night as Beka was wrist deep in the chicken trying to teach me how to roast the damn thing and said he wanted to take me out to dinner instead… So what did I do? Went out to dinner, leaving Beka behind to finish the chicken. Don’t worry – my comeuppance was coming… After a dinner at the nicest restaurant in our college town, a perfect date in every way – I got dumped in the parking lot. Yup. At least he took me out to dinner first??? Yeah, no. It was quite possibly the nicest break up ever, bless his heart, but still – it blew. So once I got home, heart broken, Beka was done with the chicken, it was packed away, she was pissed, I was crying and there was no consolation to be found. The night became known as “The Chicken Incident”. It was the sole reason I avoided learning how to roast a chicken for so long. What a waste of time!! Roast chicken is amazing!! Had he come over for dinner instead of taking me out that night, it might have been a very different story. Or I would have ended up dumped in front of my roommate.

But I think it worked out best in the end – I ended up with this hottie. I still win.


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But back to the real point of today – roasting a chicken. 

To Roast

There are a few things I stick to when roasting a bird – all of which help with the end results. I swear.  One is my adjustable roasting rack so I can shove any sized bird into the oven and have it properly supported – you’ll find out why soon. The next is brining my bird. It’s an easy step, and totally worth while. The last is using compound butter to keep the chicken boobs moist during roasting so you don’t end up with dry boobs. Compound butter is an easy thing to keep on hand and has a ton of uses.

When it comes to brining a bird, all you have to do is mix equal parts sugar and salt into a very large bowl of water. For the large bowl I had, I used ½ cup of each and mixed it until the salt and sugar dissolved. The end results of brining is a moist and flavor packed chicken. Brining isn’t just for Thanksgiving turkies…

Once your brine is mixed, remove your bird from the packaging, and get your husband to remove the neck, liver and gizzards from the cavity. Rinse the bird under cold running water and then place him – the bird, not your husband, into the brine. Place the bird and brine into the fridge for about an hour, turning the bird over half way through the process. Salinity in water has a tendency to be higher at the bottom then the top, so turning your bird ensures it gets equal time in the saltiest parts of the solution.

How to Roast and Carve a Chicken -

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Once the hour is up, rinse the bird under cold water and pat dry with several paper towels. The drier the skin, the crispier the skin will be in the end. Next, flip the bird boob-side up and gently slide your fingers under the skin to separate the skin from the meat of the boobs. Be careful not to poke your fingers through the skin. Slide in a couple of table spoons of compound butter onto each book and fold the skin over. Lastly, brush the bird with a little olive oil and place it wing-side up in your adjustable roasting rack.  The reason behind the wing-side-up technique is that the wings will be exposed to the most amount of heat during the first 30 minutes of roasting, helping bring their temperature up quicker. That way you aren’t playing the tedious game of over-cook-the-chicken-boobs-while-waiting-for-the-dark-meat-to-get-done. What a painful and horrible tasting game.

Roast your chicken for 15 minutes with one wing-side up in a 400 degree oven. After that 15 minutes is up, take a couple of tongs and flip the bird to the opposite wing side and roast another 15 minutes. Once that second 15 minutes is up, it’s time to flip the bird boob-side up and roast it for 30 minutes.

Once the boobs reach 160 degrees and your dark meat reaches 170, you’re good to go! Tent the bird with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes. This is important so the juices in the bird redistribute. Always wonder why there is a puddle of juice when you slice into your bird right away? This is why. All of those flavor filled juices are poured out from the bird onto your cutting board, which means they’re not in your bird anymore! Let it rest, it is sacra-saint.

To Carve

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After your purdy bird has sat and rested you’re ready to carve and serve. Once it’s all cooked, the carving part is a cinch. The joints are lose (gross to think about I KNOW), and you can slice right through them with ease. First hold onto the leg of the bird and gently pull it taught so you can start to slice right through, shown above. The bone will likely pop right out and you will keep cutting all the way down following the rib cage of the bird coming to the thigh joint. Place your knife at the joint and wiggle it through until it releases. It should come off all in one large piece.


Repeat with the other leg and thigh section.


To carve the breast next you’re going to follow relatively the same procedure. Start just off from the center line of the breast bone.With long full length slices, use the whole blade of the knife, cut down and along the rib cage of the bird. The same thing will happen as it did with the leg and thigh, the breast and wing section (when you cut all the way through) will come off as one section. To separate the wing and the breast, find the joint that holds the two together and use the blade of the knife to pop them apart.

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Once the wing and breast a separated, you can elegantly slice your chicken boob with crispy skin and plate your bird to serve. This is one of those recipes that is worth every step you put into it. And I can guarantee – it’ll be better than any rotisserie bird you can buy from the grocery store. A bird sitting under a heat lamp for 17.13 hours or a bird straight out of the oven? I think the answer is simple.

Ingredients for Simple Roast Chicken

  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Butter
  • Garlic
  • Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, or other Herbs of your choice
  • Chicken
  • Olive Oil

Need more How-To’s? Check these out right cheer!

How to Poach an Egg

How to Compound Butter – used in today’s recipe!

How to Make Chicken Stock

How to Roast Garlic

How to Infuse Olive Oil


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Overhead view of a roast chicken

Simple Roast Chicken

  • Author: Megan Keno
  • Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Rest Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 2 hours 25 minutes
  • Yield: 1 chicken 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Roasted
  • Cuisine: American


A quick 1-hour brine creates a moist and flavor packed chicken, and compound butter keeps the moisture in while cooking.


Units Scale
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Salt
  • 1 gallon Cold Water
  • 3 Tbsp Butter, softened
  • 1 tsp Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp each of Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, or other herbs of your choice
  • 1 4 pound Chicken
  • 3 Tbsp Olive Oil


  1. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, salt and water until sugar an salt dissolve. Remove chicken neck, liver and gizzards from inside cavity of the chicken. Submerge into the salt water brine solution. Place in fridge for 1 hour, flipping the bird half way through the process.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place an adjustable roasting rack into a large baking sheet or baking dish.
  3. Remove chicken from brine and rinse under cold water. Pat very dry with several paper towels. In a small bowl combine softened butter, garlic and other herbs of your choice, stirring to combine.
  4. Using fingers, separate the skin covering the chicken breasts from the meat of the breasts. Using fingers rub the butter between the skin and the chicken breast meat, evenly over both breasts. Pull skin taught to cover the breasts.
  5. Place chicken onto the roasting rack with the wing side up. Base bird in olive oil. Roast with wing side up for 15 minutes.
  6. Using tongs or wads of paper towels, flip the chicken so it is sitting with the opposite wing up in the roasting rack and roast for another 15 minutes.
  7. Flip once more, so that the breast side is facing up – and roast bird for 30 minutes, or until the breast meat registers 160 degrees and the dark thigh meat registers 175.
  8. Remove from oven and tent chicken with foil. Let rest for 10 minutes.
  9. Carve the bird and serve immediately.


Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Simple Roast Chicken