This technique was inspired by an episode of Jamie Oliver’s 5 Ingredients—Quick and Easy Food in which he plonked his whole chicken right on the rack in the oven. I did a double-take. Was this okay to do? No pan? No intricate arranging of carrots like Lincoln Logs to support the chicken in the roasting dish? Would spattering chicken juices cause my not-so-clean oven to smoke? I thought I was forever on Team Spatchcock for my roasted chicken dinners but I was intrigued. Could this trick could bring me back around to roasting whole chickens?
Here’s how I did it: I patted dry my 3 1/2-pound chicken and rubbed it generously with kosher salt and some pepper. (I usually like to salt my chicken a day ahead of time and let it rest uncovered in the fridge overnight—but even an hour would help). Arrange your oven racks to the middle and bottom positions. Now heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Rub the chicken very sparsely with olive oil and place directly on the oven rack in the middle of the oven. Beneath it, slide a sheet pan of several thickly sliced potatoes and carrots cut in large chunks, tossed in a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast chicken for an hour, flipping vegetables over halfway through. Check to make sure the chicken is fully cooked—you’re looking for 165 degrees Fahrenheit in the thickest part of the thigh on a meat thermometer. Carefully lift chicken onto pan of vegetable (don’t tip the chicken as there are hot juices inside!).
Let it rest for 10-20 minutes before carving. Toss vegetables in any accumulated drippings and serve with the chicken.
So, does cooking right on the rack make a difference? I’d like to think so. There was more even bronzing and crisping of the skin, since the bottom is liberated from the steam released by the roasting veggies. It seemed to taste better too but perhaps that was just the theater of chicken—watching flavorful fat dripping down on your potatoes and veggies, knowing how good that would taste. It’s like those Parisian rotisserie chicken shops, where the whirling chickens spin chicken fat down on the chunky potatoes below. I left the oven light on the whole time, just so I could watch. I think this may just be my new way to roast chicken. Thanks, Jamie.