In preparing to cook this chicken I did a little research. I usually cook whole chickens on the smoker, not in the oven, so I needed to refresh myself on some of the logistics, like oven temp and cooking time. In my research I came across a couple of repeated instructions, reading them over and over again, that did not settle well with me. So I decided to do my due diligence and see what the USDA had to say about it. Now, I don’t normally put a lot of stock in the US government when it comes to making decisions about my food, but cooking and handling meat instruction is something I at least respect. In fact, what I found was informative and quite the opposite of what many home cooks are saying all over this great internet.
Here is what I learned.
- Chicken (and other poultry) should not be rinsed as it can lead to cross contamination of bacteria. I can only deduce that people make this suggestion because they like to start with a “clean” bird. My take, just pat it dry with paper towel and go from there.
- Chicken does not need to be cooked to a balmy 180 degrees. Nearly every recipe I read for chicken claimed that the bird, when cooked whole, needed to read 180 on a food thermometer. STOP! You don’t have to cook the darn thing twice. “The USDA recommends cooking whole poultry to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured using a food thermometer.”
The moral of the story is that while it is great that myself and all of the other home cook bloggers out there have an outlet like the internet to share our recipes on, to talk to other home cooks and foodies, and to get ideas for new recipes, you should always take what you read online with a grain of salt. Cooking is a lot like medicine, we practice it! Research your options, build single recipes out of many that you read, create your own masterpiece with the help of others, and for the love of all that is edible, stop over cooking your chicken!
4 lb whole fryer chicken
1 lemon, cut 4 rounds off and leave the rest whole
handful each of fresh rosemary, thyme, and oregano (about 1 oz total)
3 T butter
salt and pepper
kitchen string and a meat thermometer
1 C water (optional)
Preheat oven to 350.
Remove chicken from packaging, place on your meat board and pat dry with paper towels. Dispose of paper towels. Separate the skin from the meat with your fingers, carefully, so as not to tear it. Place one half of the butter, two lemon rounds, and 1/4 of the herbs under the skin of each breast. Place remaining herbs in cavity of the bird. Place in a 9×13 roaster, tuck wings under and squeeze the juice of the remaining lemon over the chicken. Place the lemon into the cavity with the remaining herbs. Tie legs closed. Generously salt and pepper the chicken and place in the oven (I added one cup of water to the roasting pan before putting it in the oven to keep the fat from burning to the bottom, if you are going to make gravy you will want to do this with broth). Roast for 80 minutes or until juices run clear and thermometer placed in the thickest part of the thigh reads 165. Allow to rest 20 minutes before carving.
Serve with your favorite sides and fixins and enjoy!