This pasture raised whole roasted chicken is lemony, juicy and tender. Keep reading, I’ll show you how to roast a pasture raised chicken that is juicy and delicious! Plus, my secret for ensuring the white meat doesn’t dry out.
Do not be daunted by the idea of roasting a whole chicken in the oven. I’m not being glib, I mean that.
For something so versatile, impressive and delicious, roasting a chicken does not require highly precise effort.
Much smaller than a turkey, you can roast a 3 or 4 pound whole chicken with just 30 minutes of prep time and a little over an hour in the oven.
Teaser -> Yes, pasture raised chicken does taste better!
I buy pasture raised chicken from a small farmer near where I live who raises and butchers them on his property. The chickens are free to forage outside on their farm, eating bugs, worms, plants and whatever else looks appetizing. And to a chicken…lots of things looks appetizing! My friends who raise chickens and hens assure me they are not picky eaters. 🙂
Roasting a whole chicken is a great way to use the whole animal and more economical than buying individual cuts. This is important when you’re buying pasture raised meats that come with a higher price tag than the factory-farmed kind. I get four to five meals out of a 3.5 pound chicken.
Then I put the bones in some water, with veggies and herbs, and slow simmer a healthy chicken broth. I use the bone broth in other dishes, getting half a dozen more meals.
My whole roasted chicken recipe includes roasting the potatoes and carrots in the same pan, so you don’t even have to think about what sides to serve with it!
Where can I find a pasture raised whole chicken to roast?
The farmers market is a great resource for buying local pasture raised chicken directly from the farm.
If you don’t see pasture raised chicken at your farmers market, ask around among the other farmers who are there. Is there someone selling beef, but not chicken? They probably know a farmer who has chicken.
If you’re unable to find pasture raised chicken through the farmers market, visit EatWild.com to search for farms near you, or someone a little farther away that offers shipping.
How long does it take to roast a whole pasture raised chicken?
In a conventional oven, a 3 to 4 pound pasture raised chicken will take 20 minutes per pound to roast plus up to 15 minutes of additional time.
You’ll know the chicken is ready when a meat thermometer plunged into the breast or thigh meat (but not touching bone) registers 165 degrees.
Visually the juices will run clear when you remove the thermometer and the meat around the ankle will be starting to pull back from the bone.
Numerous factors, besides the weight, impact exactly how long it takes to roast a whole chicken:
- How often you open the oven door 🙂
- Whether your oven is electric or gas, with gas often cooking faster
- The material of your roaster, a cast iron dutch oven with the lid will cook faster than glass or cast aluminum cookware.
- And then there’s just the fact that every oven is a little different
Is pasture raised chicken dry?
Here’s the deal, chickens that are free to roam and forage all day will have less fat, than their caged brothers and sisters. Exercise and a healthy diet results in a leaner bird, they’re like humans that way.
As a result, one might expect pasture raised chickens to be dry, but this has not been my experience. I have a little trick that I’ve always used for roasting whole chickens (and turkeys) that ensures the white breast meat is juicy and full of flavor. I’ll share that secret next.
Should I roast a whole chicken breast-side down?
Yes! This is the biggest and best advice I have about roasting a whole chicken that will give you that juicy flavorful meat you want.
I’ve been roasting whole turkeys and chickens for years and always put the bird breast side down in the pan. This is effective because it strategically places the fattier dark meat on top, so the juices run down through the breast while it cooks. It’s also effective because, as the chicken releases juices they will collect at the bottom of your pan where the breast meat is resting, which helps it stay moist.
And in the case of this whole roasted chicken with lemon that we’re making today, that breast meat is going to soak up the lemony goodness and taste amazing!
Does roasting it breast side down make the breast meat soggy?
No, roasting a whole chicken breast side down does not make the meat soggy. I’ve read some Reddits recently from people afraid that roasting their bird breast side down will result in soggy meat. I’ve been roasting like this for years and never has it resulted in soggy meat – even when the white meat was sitting in a lot of yummy juices!
What type of pan should I roast a whole chicken in?
I’ve roasted whole chickens in a few different types of cookware, and always with a lid.
I know that some people use a shallow pan and no lid to roast their chicken, but I prefer a deeper dish with a lid. I think that is another reason why my roasted pasture raised chicken is not dry.
Here’s why I roast whole chicken in a deep dish with a lid:
- A deep dish or roaster collects and holds onto the delicious drippings and juices, keeping the chicken moist and imparting yummy flavor into the veggies you’re roasting in the same pan.
- The lid traps moisture inside the roaster and helps keep the chicken from drying out while it roasts.
I have a vintage style Pyrex dish (similar to this) that I’ve used for small chickens. I also have 5.5 quart CorningWare cast aluminum dutch oven that is my favorite.
You can also roast a chicken in a cast iron dutch oven and I’ve done so. Just be aware that cast iron holds heat really well and can cook your chicken faster than other types of roasters. So if you’re using cast iron, start checking your chicken for doneness sooner than what I recommend in this whole roasted chicken recipe.
Should you wash chicken before cooking it?
Short answer: No, you should not wash chicken before cooking it.
Julia Child is known for recommending you give your chicken a good water rinse before cooking. And many home cooks (myself included at one time) wash their chickens before roasting because that’s what their mom did and their grandmother before that.
It was/is thought that washing chicken helps remove harmful bacteria and any slimy, bloody reminders that this was once a living animal.
Today, washing your chicken before cooking it is considered more risky than helpful. All those bacteria splashing around the sink, other dishes, the counter and your clothes. Even the FDA recommends against rinsing your chicken, and I’m certainly not a die-hard follower of the FDA.
Plus, you’re going to be thoroughly cooking this chicken, and that’s a great way to kill bacteria.
Is vegetarian-fed chicken better?
Quick Fact – Chickens are are omnivores, not vegetarians. The packaged chicken in the grocery store that declares it is “100% vegetarian fed” is making a perplexing claim.
A 100% vegetarian diet is a downside for a chicken. This is not natural, chickens want and need the nutrients found in meat.
You can also conclude that these vegetarian-fed chickens have not been allowed outside. Because if they were – they would surely have been eating lots of bugs and worms and such.
Do I need to truss my chicken to roast it?
Trussing refers to tying the chicken legs and wings with twine so they stay close to the body while it roasts. This helps ensure the chicken cooks evenly.
Trussing your chicken when roasting is not necessary if you use a roaster of comparable size to the contents you put in it. By the time I fill my cast aluminum dutch oven with the chicken and nestle all the veggies in around it, the chicken doesn’t have room to flare its legs, so to speak.
If you just want to truss the legs, here’s a simple way to do it. Cut a 12-inch piece of kitchen twine and wrap it around the leg bones twice, then tie a knot. Cut off the remaining twine. Viola!
How to quickly thaw a frozen whole chicken?
If you need to thaw your whole chicken quickly, submerge the shrink-wrapped chicken in a large bowl of water and leave it in your fridge for 12 to 24 hours. Flip it part way through if only part of the chicken is submerged.
To expedite the process, if necessary, I’ll leave the bowl on my counter for a few hours to give it an even bigger kick start.
How to Prepare a Whole Roasted Chicken
Let’s dive into how to roast your chicken! The instructions below assume a 3 to 4 pound chicken. It does not have to be pasture raised, this recipe will work with any whole chicken.
1. Drain the chicken and pat well to dry
Be sure your chicken is fully thawed before you roast it. If the middle of your chicken is still frozen in places, it will cook uneven.
Remove the chicken from its wrapper and tip the cavity over your sink drain carefully to release the red liquid that is likely sitting in there after it thawed.
In case you missed my FAQ above, do not rinse your chicken before roasting it.
Pat the chicken well to dry. This will make it easier for your spices to adhere to the skin.
I then lay my chicken on a clean baking sheet to season it before placing inside my roaster. This gives me easy access to the full chicken and catches any drippings.
Now is a good time to preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Prepare your ingredients
Next you’re going to prepare your ingredients while the chicken enjoys 20 minutes at room temperature.
Prepping a chicken to roast is messy work, involving your hands and raw chicken. Having the rest of your ingredients within grasp will save you a lot of repeated hand washing.
Olive Oil: Measure out a half tablespoon of olive oil into a small dish.
Salt and Pepper: Combine 1 tsp of coarse kosher salt and 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper in a small dish. You can use any salt and pepper you have. I find larger grain salt and pepper easier to work with when I need to spread it evenly over a piece of meat.
Fresh Rosemary: Finely chop a heaping teaspoon of your fresh rosemary and add it to the salt and pepper. Combine well. Save the remaining sprigs to stuff inside the chicken.
Grass Fed Butter: Cut two half tablespoon pieces (for 1 tablespoon total) off a stick of grass fed butter and set that within reach.
Lemon and Onion: Quarter both your lemon and onion.
Carrots: Chop 4 medium carrots into three pieces each. Slice the thick upper two-thirds in half lengthwise so you can count on them cooking in the time in takes to roast your chicken.
Potatoes: Wash and quarter your potatoes. I don’t remove the skin. If you happen to be using large potatoes you may need to cut them into more than four pieces. Use this image of mine for sizing guidance. These are Yukon Gold potatoes and cook perfectly in the roaster with the chicken.
2. Season your chicken
OK, now you’re ready to get your hands dirty again!
Rub the oil over the chicken, be sure to cover all the skin…top, bottom, around those legs and wings. I like to do this with my hands for best coverage.
Squeeze half the lemon over the bird on both sides.
Next stuff the cavity of the bird with the lemon half you just squeezed, all the butter, the rosemary sprigs and as much of the onion as you can fit (shoot for at least half).
If you need to tie those legs together, now is a good time to do that.
Next, take the bowl of salt, pepper and chopped rosemary and spread it all over your chicken with your hands.
3. Add the seasoned chicken and veggies to your pot
Now you’re ready to put the chicken in your roasting pot of choice. Be sure to put the chicken breast side down – this will keep the white meat from getting dry AND lets it soak up all the lemony goodness!
Nestle the potatoes in around the chicken. I like to put the potatoes in before the carrots so they sit on the bottom of the pan and can roast in the juices. Note that the chicken isn’t sitting on the potatoes, you want that breast meat low enough that it will soak in the juices. Then squeeze a quarter of the remaining lemon over your potatoes.
Now fill in the spaces in between and on top of the potatoes with the carrots. Squeeze the rest of the lemon over the veggies and chicken then discard the peel. You can omit this step if you prefer a less intense lemony flavor.
4. Roast the whole chicken
Put the lid on your roaster and place it in the center of your preheated oven.
At 350 degrees, count on 20 minutes of roasting per pound of chicken. Followed by up to 15 additional minutes.
I check my chicken at the 60 minute point regardless of size. I like to get a visual of how close we are and give the veggies and chicken a quick baste. I then put it back in the oven without the lid to let the skin brown a bit.
Your chicken is done when a meat thermometer inserted deep into the meat measures 165 degrees. If the meat is starting to pull back from the ankle bone and the juices are running clear, these are visual signs that your chicken is ready.
Sometimes it’s hard to get that thermometer in the right place, so I’ve learned to trust the visual signs even more than I trust my thermometer.
5. Remove from the oven and let the chicken sit before carving
Remove the chicken and veggies from the oven and let it sit for 20 minutes before you carve it. This will give the chicken’s juices time to retract back into the meat.
Post a comment below if you have any unanswered questions about how to roast your chicken. I’m happy to help!
Whole Roasted Chicken (Pasture Raised)
- 3-4 lb whole chicken
- 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium lemon quartered
- 1 tbsp butter
- 2 large rosemary sprigs finely chop just 1 heaping tsp, reserve the rest of the sprigs in whole
- 1 small onion quartered
- 1 tsp coarse kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp ground pepper
- 4 medium carrots cut in half lengthwise then chopped into 2-inch long pieces
- 4 medium yellow or red potatoes quartered
- Drain the chicken and pat well to dry: Remove the thawed chicken from its wrapper and tip the cavity over your sink drain to carefully drain the red liquid that is likely sitting in there after it thawed. Pat the chicken well to dry. This will make it easier for your spices to adhere to the skin.I then lay my chicken on a clean baking sheet to season it before placing inside my roaster. This gives me easy access to the full chicken and catches any drippings.Preheat a conventional oven to 350 degrees.
- Season your chicken: Rub the olive oil over the chicken, be sure to cover all the skin…top, bottom, around those legs and wings. I like to do this with my hands for best coverage.Squeeze half the lemon over the bird on both sides.Next stuff the cavity of the bird with the lemon half you just squeezed, all the butter, the rosemary sprigs and as much of the onion as you can fit (shoot for at least half).Rub the salt, pepper and teaspoon of chopped rosemary all over your chicken.
- Add the seasoned chicken and veggies to your pot: Put the chicken breast side down in a deep glass or cast aluminum dutch oven that has a lid. Breast side down will ensure the white meat stays juicy and flavorful!Nestle the potatoes in around the chicken. I like to put the potatoes in before the carrots so they sit on the bottom of the pan and can roast in the juices. Then squeeze a quarter of the remaining lemon over your potatoes. Now fill in the spaces in between and on top of the potatoes with the carrots. And squeeze the rest of the lemon over the veggies and chicken (or omit if you prefer just a light flavor of lemon). You can discard the remaining lemon peel, or stuff it inside the chicken if there's room.
- Roast the whole chicken: At 350 degrees, count on about 20 minutes of roasting per pound of chicken, plus up to 15 additional minutes. Put the lid on your roaster and place it in the center of your preheated oven.Twenty minutes before it's expected to be done, remove the lid and give the veggies and chicken a quick baste. Put it back in the oven without the lid to let the skin brown a bit.Your chicken is done when a meat thermometer inserted deep into the meat measures 165 degrees. If the meat is starting to pull back from the ankle bone and the juices are running clear, these are visual signs that your chicken is ready.
- Remove from the oven and let sit for 20 minutes before carving: This will give the chicken's juices some time to retract back into the meat.
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