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Two Ways to Roast the Perfect Chicken

When the temperatures plummet below zero, there’s nothing I crave more than some good old-fashioned comfort food. Whether it’s a skillet full of macaroni and cheese, a steaming bowl of rich and thick chili, or a plate full of buttered noodles, if it’s warm and filling, I want to eat it for dinner.

When I was back home from college, my favorite meal to request was roast chicken with all the fixings – basically, all of the flavors of Thanksgiving, but without all the fuss. Even when I took a break from meat-eating, I would happily fill my plate with mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and stuffing and still be completely satisfied.

As much as I love roast chicken, it wasn’t until recently that I attempted to make my old favorite meal by myself.  Chicken is on our menu in a big way these days. Last summer, we raised three dozen chickens and now have a full freezer to show for it. Although roasting a whole chicken may seem intimidating at first, it’s actually quite simple. And you’ll be greatly rewarded by a kitchen full of mouth-watering aromas as the chicken, herbs, and vegetables roast together in the oven.

My go-to oven-roasted chicken recipe calls for salting and peppering the interior of the bird, then stuffing the cavity with a quartered lemon, a few smashed garlic cloves, and fresh herbs such as rosemary, sage, or thyme. I then brush the exterior of the bird with olive oil or melted butter followed by a generous seasoning of salt and pepper.

The chicken is placed breast-side up on a roasting rack lined with onion slices. It is then roasted in the oven at 425 degrees for an hour to an hour and a half, or until the skin is golden brown, and a thermometer inserted into the meaty part of the thigh registers 165 degrees.  The worst part of this recipe is having the patience to let the chicken rest for 15 minutes after taking the sizzling bird out of the oven. Though you may want to dive right in and grab a forkful of the savory meat, resting time is essential to allow the juices to distribute evenly throughout the bird. Trust me, the wait will be worth it when you bite into the juicy roast chicken, its tender meat lightly flavored with hints of garlic, citrus, and fresh herbs.

My new favorite way to roast a chicken is a more unconventional method – using my slow cooker. The benefit of using a slow cooker is both the set-it-and-forget-it cooking method and the ease of clean-up. And the assurance that your oven won’t be a huge smoking mess from splattering butter or oil as the chicken cooks, something I may have experienced once or twice before. The slow-cooker method is fairly similar to the method I have already described. When making a roast chicken in the slow cooker, I first add a layer of chopped carrots, celery, and onion to the bottom of the slow cooker bowl. Then I add the chicken, again stuffed with lemon, herbs, and garlic, to the slow cooker, breast-side up. I rub the chicken with olive oil, and then season it with a mix of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and smoked paprika. Finally, before placing the lid on the slow cooker, I tuck a piece of parchment paper over the bird to help keep the moisture in.

Then the chicken is cooked on high for 2 hours, or on low for 4 to 6 hours. The downside of the slow cooker method is that you won’t get the crisp skin roasting in the oven affords you. If you prefer a roast chicken with crispy skin, after it has cooked, simply transfer the chicken to an oven safe dish and place it under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the skin is golden brown.

Another thing I love about roasting a whole chicken is that it provides a great beginning for a delicious chicken broth, which you can make either on your stovetop or in your slow cooker. Once made, the chicken broth is easily stored in the freezer. That means the next time I’m craving comfort food, I just have to pull the broth out of my freezer to make a delicious bowl of homemade chicken noodle soup – yet another meal perfect for a cold and snowy winter’s day.

Susan Bronson grew up in southwestern Ohio. After stints in Chicago, Wyoming, and Philadelphia, she moved to the Northwoods with her husband in 2012. She has worked as a science editor for a publishing company since 2005 and has written the food blog A Less Processed Life since 2010. Aside from cooking and eating (which go hand in hand with food blogging), she enjoys spending time in the great outdoors, reading, practicing yoga, and watching way more reality TV than she would like to admit.
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