Everyone needs a whole roast chicken recipe in their dinner repertoire—something that’s easy to adapt to any season and occasion, something you can pull together quickly but that has everyone’s mouths watering when you pull it out of the oven. We’ve rounded up five reader favorites, from a simple classic to a speedy, single-pan meal to an elaborate preparation meant to impress. Whether you find inspiration in Middle Eastern flavors or island fare or your local seasonal produce, you’re sure to find a new favorite here.
While the idealized vision of roast chicken is a whole bird, that takes time you might not always have. Speed up the process by spatchcocking—butterflying the chicken (an easy move that just requires a pair of kitchen shears) so it lays almost flat for more even cooking, which cuts the time in the oven to under an hour. That’s just the right amount to also roast a selection of vegetables in the same pan. Another easy move is to season the bird with za’atar (aka zahatar), an earthy and warming Middle Eastern blend of herbs and spices that adds a lot of flavor with little work. This recipe incorporates root vegetables—thin carrots and small cipollini onions that can be roasted whole, reducing chopping time—but choose your own seasonal favorites. To avoid overpowering the light meat, look for red wines with light to moderate tannins: A Pinot Noir from Oregon's Willamette Valley showed bright red fruit, with a refreshing beam of acidity, details of spice and savory touches that helped it work with all of the vegetables as well. Get the recipe and pairing tips.
Chef Andy Little, of Josephine in Nashville, Tenn., shared his accessible recipe for a classic, oven-roasted whole chicken, plated with a simple side of smashed potatoes. His accompanying kale salad is dressed in a grilled-scallion vinaigrette that’s quick to prepare but feels restaurant-worthy with its combination of herbaceous, smoky and creamy elements. If you’ve ever struggled with soggy skin or dried-out meat, Little is here to help, handing out tips on how to get the perfect combo: a crispy, golden exterior and juicy, tender interior. His wife, Karen Van Guilder Little, who oversees the wine list at the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence–winning restaurant, turns to another vibrant red for the pairing: a cru Beaujolais, with its bright acidity, fresh red fruit flavors and floral notes. Find your perfect chicken.
Take your holiday roast chicken to the next level with Lee Wolen, executive chef of Boka in Chicago, where a whole-roasted bird is a mainstay on the Award of Excellence winner’s winter menus. In this version, the chicken is wet-brined for 24 hours, air-dried for a day or two to achieve that perfect golden-brown color and then accompanied by sautéed celery root, buttery oyster mushrooms and pickled mustard seeds for extra moisture and flavor. The effort of planning ahead for the chicken is compensated for by a quick side dish: a salad of honeynut squash—easy to work with because you don’t have to peel the edible skin—with bitter greens, Honeycrisp apple, goat Gouda and an apple cider vinaigrette. You can go two routes for the wine match. Focusing on the chicken, a fruit-forward Côtes du Rhône red complements the earthy, slightly smoky flavor of the mushrooms. But if you’d rather drink a white, a round, full-flavored Sauvignon Blanc–Sémillion blend with melon notes and a touch of oak pairs well with the squash, apple and Gouda in the salad. Up your game!
When chef Roy Ellamar lived and worked on the Big Island of Hawaii, he used to break up long drives along the coast with roadside stops for spit-roasted “huli-huli” chicken to take to the beach for a picnic feast. Though he is now running Harvest by Roy Ellamar, a Best of Award of Excellence winner at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, he was inspired by those memories of his native cuisine to create his own version that can be made in a home oven. Ellamar’s huli-huli brine includes brown sugar, chile flakes, cinnamon, mustard seed, soy sauce and more. For warm-weather flair, the chef suggests a fresh, fruit-forward Provençal rosé to pair with the saltiness of the brined chicken skin. Give this recipe a spin …
Sometimes a classic needs a twist—or a kick. Roasting your chicken with a coating of harissa paste, a condiment common to North African and Middle Eastern cuisines, will give you a lot of flavor in one easy step. Usually a combination of a variety of chiles, garlic and herbs and spices, harissa packs quite a punch. Dress up a side of couscous with olives and preserved lemons for a tangy, savory version that provides a refreshing counterpoint to the harissa. An off-dry white wine would work well with this dish to mitigate the heat, but if you want to drink red, look for one with a fruity profile, lower alcohol and supple, light to medium tannins. A juicy Rioja crianza with a fresh finish did the trick. Spice up your repertoire!