How to Cook a Whole Chicken

Whether you want to learn how to cook a whole chicken for the first time, or you have cooked many. This blog discusses proper cooking times for various types of chicken. We’ll also include some helpful tips, and some tried and true recipes for the most amazing tasting chicken.

Cooking Times

Proper cooking times are not just about safety. In fact, most Canadians end up overcooking their chicken, which can leave it dry. The cooking times vary drastically depending on what you are cooking. Here is a simple chart to use as a reference when you are cooking anything from chicken breasts to learning how to cook a whole chicken. Make sure you are cooking your chicken to perfection each and every time!

Internal temperatures are measured using an instant-read food thermometer. You need to insert the thermometer in different spots of the meat. Make sure to pay special attention to the chicken breasts and thighs which are the thickest parts of the meat. If you do not have a food thermometer, they are available at most grocery stores in various formats and price ranges.

Cuts of Chicken

The most common form of chicken that is being cooked in family homes are chicken breasts. The versatility of how these can be prepared make them the top choice. There are many forms of how chickens are cut. Other popular cuts are wings, fingers and thighs. Check out this chart to see all the possible cuts of chicken.

How to Cook a Whole Chicken

Once you have chosen your chicken, make sure to always let the bird come to room temperature. Do this by leaving it out of the fridge, covered, for an hour before cooking it. You need to take this first step because the chicken will cook unevenly otherwise. Many recipes for how to cook a whole chicken suggest that you should rinse your bird before roasting it, but for most store-bought chickens this step isn’t necessary. Take a paper towel and pat it dry before you begin seasoning it so the skin is dry. This ensures you will have a nice crispy skin when you remove the bird from the oven.


Once your chicken has reached room temperature you can begin to season it. Begin by rubbing some olive oil on the skin.  A tried and true method is to then simply season it generously with salt and pepper. Make sure to season the bird on the inside and the outside. There are many variations of seasonings. You can use a couple of tablespoons of softened butter and rub in onto the skin instead of olive oil. You can put a halved lemon, halved onion or a halved garlic bulb into the cavity of the chicken for additional flavour. Many people enjoy the crispy skin of the whole chicken and sprinkle fresh or dried herbs on the skin, such as thyme, sage or rosemary.

Another way to have a very flavourful chicken is to stuff herbs under the skin. This will infuse the meat with great the taste of your favourite herbs and still allows for a nice crisp skin. Add a handful of chopped herbs (such as thyme, sage and rosemary) into a bowl and then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. At the top of the opening of the cavity, separate the skin from the breast by gently tugging and inserting your fingers under the skin to form a tunnel on either side. Put the herb and oil mixture directly under the skin. Push it in and as far down as you can go. When you go to cut the bird there will be a nice layer of herbs between the skin and the breast. This tastes great and also looks very nice when served on a platter.

Roasting a Whole Chicken

The simplest way to roast a chicken is to just put it in the oven in a roasting pan. Roast at 350ºF for about 1 hour and 30-40 minutes depending on the size, or until the internal temperature reaches 180ºF. Check out the link to the chart above for cooking times. There are many variety of dishes and pans you can use to roast a whole chicken. A traditional roasting pan with a rack is ideal, as it ensures even cooking and allows for the drippings to be collected in the pan for gravy. Who doesn’t like having the chicken gravy to cover your potatoes! You can also use a cast iron skillet, a casserole dish, a Dutch-oven or any other kind of oven-proof dish that will allow the bird to sit comfortably within it.

Juicy Roasted Whole Chicken

Did your mom or grandma teach you how to cook a whole chicken, but you forget all the steps? This is a recipe that is guaranteed to have everyone around the table silent and in awe of the juiciest chicken they have had.

1 (3 pound) whole chicken, giblets removed
salt and black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 cup margarine, divided
1 stalk celery, leaves removed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the chicken in a roasting pan, and season generously inside and out with salt and pepper. Sprinkle inside and out with onion powder. Place 3 tablespoons of margarine in the chicken cavity. Arrange dollops of the remaining margarine around the chicken’s exterior. Cut the celery into 3 or 4 pieces, and place in the chicken cavity.
Bake uncovered 1 hour and 15 minutes in the preheated oven, to a minimum internal temperature of 180 degrees F. Remove from heat, and baste with melted margarine and drippings. Cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest about 30 minutes before serving.

Quick Chicken Tips

Here are a few tips that will come in very handy when learning how to cook a whole chicken:

  • save the chicken carcass and make stock for gravies and soups
  • use your pan drippings to make a fantastic gravy to serve alongside your chicken
  • always make sure to cook your chicken to an internal temperature of 180ºF
  • invest in a good roasting pan – buy one bigger than you think you will need
  • buy a digital thermometer

Now that you have read about some ideas as to how to cook a whole chicken you are ready to host a dinner. Order your chicken, grab the fresh herbs of your choice, invite your friends and family and enjoy the flavours of a lovely cooked whole chicken.

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