Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

Easy Oven-Roasted Chicken {with Bonus Health Benefits}

August 12th, 2013 · 21 Comments · Natural Health, Recipes

Healthy Roast Chicken Spices

Before you throw me over the cliff for even suggesting you turn on the oven in August, give me a chance to explain.

First, I live in Michigan. It’s hitting 50F and below here at night, so our A/C hasn’t even been on in weeks.

Second, it’s chicken season. As in, chickens are kind of seasonal if you don’t get them from the store, and if you want to have a bird that is running around during the day and on your plates that evening – because I know that’s SO on your bucket list – you need to do the deed in the summer.

And last, it’s time to get ready for school and lunch packing, and there’s no better way to have leftover cold chicken than to roast the whole bird.

Yes, grilled chicken is yummy, but roasted whole chickens have two benefits over grilled breasts:

  1. Expense. If you’re sourcing organic chicken, especially if you’re lucky enough to have found a local farmer raising pastured birds, your costs are likely pretty intense for boneless, skinless breasts. I didn’t buy any chicken without bones for years after our switch to real food because I couldn’t justify the cost without making homemade chicken stock to stretch our dollar. Which brings me to the second benefit:
  2. Chicken stock. Chicken bones are basically free, and if you save onion, carrot and celery ends for the mirepoix in your stock, you can make quart after quart of practically free, wholly nourishing real food. How can you pass that up? To get the “boneless, skinless” fix, I would occasionally buy split chicken breasts – still expensive – and hack the meat off the bones for stir fry or grilled tenders, then make stock afterward and get another few cups of chicken for soups.

Is Roasting a Whole Chicken Difficult?

Roast chicken is an iconic Sunday afternoon dinner, making it seem like roasted chicken is a difficult and special task, requiring much skill in the kitchen.

I think the moms of the 1950s were just pulling the wool over their husband’s eyes and making it seem like roast chicken was a big deal, when really, they were enjoying a Sabbath of putting their feet up while the oven did all the work.

Roasting a chicken is truly almost as convenient as chicken breasts, and it’s one of the easiest meals I ever plan (get the roasted chicken recipe HERE on Plan to Eat, 30 day free trial if you’re not already a member!). Preparing the bird takes about 5 minutes, and sides like baked potatoes and a quick veggies are so simple. There’s hardly any chopping or collecting of 5 million ingredients, no special blending tools to wash, no dough to roll.

Better than Lunchmeat

No more lunchmeat - choose real food

If you’re convinced that processed lunchmeat, with its carcinogenic preservatives (for starters), is no good for your family – please tell me you are! – then you may be on the hunt for some other sandwich ideas (or non-sandwich main courses?) for lunch.

Roasted chicken (or other meats) is the way to go. The flavor imparted by roasting, on the bone, cannot be compared to a stewed chicken or one in the crock pot, which are very moist and fine for soups and stews and casseroles, but pale and mushy in a wrap, salad or sandwich.

Even baking chicken breasts does not have the flavor you’ll find from putting the whole bird in the oven, bones and all. And if you price compare with quality lunchmeat, nitrate and nitrite free, organic, etc., you’ll find that pound for pound, a pastured roasted chicken costs less, and you get all that stock, too.

Packing healthy lunches when you’re short on time and out of bread is mind-boggling. Is there such a thing as a lunch without a sandwich? Is it possible for it to be healthy too?

The Healthy Lunch Box: Sandwich-free Secrets to Packing a Real Food Lunch is loaded with strategies to streamline your packing process, stock your pantry with emergency backups for your backups, and send healthy, delicious food in the lunch box, no matter how old your eater is. Read more and start packing healthier, processed-free lunches today.

Friends with Benefits: Spices

Roast Chicken and spices (6) (475x317)

I add certain spices to my whole roasted chicken for additional health benefits beyond those of chicken and chicken stock, including:

Turmeric

By far my new favorite spice, turmeric is packed with health benefits, including being highly anti-inflammatory. It also supports and detoxifies the liver, counteracts the carcinogens in grilled/charred meats, inhibits skin and breast cancer, and promotes healthy brain function, potentially reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s. It even may aid in fat metabolism and help in weight management. Always have black pepper in the same dish, as they complement each other, not just in taste, but in health benefits. (sources: 1, 2)

  • Note: “Turmeric should not be used by people with gallstones or bile obstruction. Though turmeric is often used by pregnant women, it is important to consult with a doctor before doing so as turmeric can be a uterine stimulant.” Most sources say eating turmeric in pregnancy should be fine but no supplements.

Paprika

High in Vitamin C, which can help to ward off (or heal from) sunburn. See? I’m not crazy for doing this in August. Winking smile Also a good anti-inflammatory and may improve blood pressure, joint pain, circulation, and stomach acid balance. (source: 1, 2)

Thyme

Has powerful antioxidant properties, as well as antimicrobial/antibacterial properties, good to keep in mind as we head into cold and flu season. Thyme also helps preserve food because of that, so your leftovers might even last longer. Thyme can aid in digestion, fight parasites, Alzheimer’s, stress and arthritis, and has a positive impact on the respiratory system. It’s even a very good source of calcium, iron, manganese, chromium, vitamin K and fiber. (sources: 1, 2, 3) 

Ready to roast some chicken with benefits? Here’s our family’s favorite no-fail method:

Roast Chicken and spices (8) (475x317)

Easy Oven-Roasted Chicken {with Bonus Health Benefits}
Print
Recipe type: main course
Author: Katie Kimball
Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 3 hours
Total time: 3 hours 5 mins
Yield: 4
If you worry about overcooking your chicken and ending up with a $15 hunk of dry, tough mess, you can stop. Believe me, if anyone is going to mess up an expensive meal in a classic way, it’s me, and I haven’t done it yet. Invest the two bucks in a decent meat thermometer and use it. You’ll be fine.
Ingredients
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. Real Salt
  • 1 tsp. dried minced onion + 1 Tbs. more
  • 1 tsp. thyme, ground or dried
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne (red) pepper
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 whole chicken, about 4-5 pounds is good
Instructions
  1. Preheat over to 325F.
  2. Mix spices in a small bowl first (less the 1 Tbs. minced onion).
  3. Place the whole chicken right into a deep covered baking dish. Season the bottom of the chicken, then turn over into your baking dish and season the breast side and inside cavity.
  4. Sprinkle minced onion on top (or use a real onion, but sometimes I don’t want to get a knife and cutting board out).
  5. Cover the baking dish and bake 20-30 minutes per pound or until inner temp is 160F.
  6. Allow a 5-10 minute rest before carving, during which time the internal temperature should raise to 165F.
Notes

* It can be difficult to find a covered, huge baking dish, but Pampered Chef has a stoneware dish and Personal Creations has a huge enameled cast iron dish that fits two chickens. I’ve used both of those with great success, and also in this regular glass dish with a lid, I have more or less made the bird fit. :) These cast iron deep Dutch ovens are gorgeous too…
* How to carve? Beats me…I just hack out what we need for dinner and use my fingers to pick the rest for leftovers.
* Make it a meal by placing cut veggies around the chicken.
* inspired by 100 Days Real Food and Tammy’s Recipes

 Other Roasting Options

The KS community has come through with some other options to roast the chicken without turning the oven on, so I thought I’d make the post more useful by adding them right in:

grill

Snip the backbone out of the chicken (save for stock) and then press the chicken out flat (pressing down on the bird’s sternum until you hear it crack). Grill skin side up over indirect heat with an aluminum water-filled pan, legs pointed toward the coals/gas flame. [Indirect heat means to light one side of the grill and put the chicken on the other.] Monitor and grill to 150 or so [about an hour], then flip the bird, putting it directly over the heat until it reaches 160/165 so the skin crisps. Thanks to Michelle via Facebook!

A lot of people like to brine the chicken first, which entails soaking the whole bird in a salt water solution (Google for ideas). That will keep it moist!

Crock Pot

Kathleen K says in the comments:

I don’t love using the oven. It is after all, August, and we won’t see 50 degrees for at least another 3 months! Instead, mine roast in the less-heat-generating crockpot! My favorite part of the crockpot is that I don’t have to clean it after roasting. I just add more liquid, throw the bones back in and forget it for a few hours (or overnight). (Then, after straining out the yummy broth, OF COURSE I clean it!)

I’ve only ever cooked crockpot chicken covered in water, but I do see now that you can put a whole chicken in for 4  hours on high without any liquid. The finished texture will be a bit different from the oven, but I’m sure it’s wonderfully moist and delicious.

 

Raw Chicken Clean Up?

I know a lot of people get squeamish about raw chicken, and the bigger the chicken pieces, the bigger the mess. That’s why I like to contain the chicken right in the roasting dish.

If you have any raw chicken juices that you had to pour into the sink, you can wash your sink down with very hot, soapy water, then spray with vinegar and hydrogen peroxide, in separate bottles, for extra bacterial precaution. I try to be aware of giving those substances time to kill the germs before doing something with raw veggies sitting in the sink.

Other Recipes to Use the Chicken

Roast Chicken and spices (1) (475x317)

Our family has gotten big enough (and our toddler is a total carnivore) that I often roast two birds at once to make sure our leftovers are sufficient. The picture above is of chicken number two, with very little seasoning so it’s more versatile in other recipes.

I love having cooked chicken (roasted or stewed in a pot) frozen in 2-cup portions for many other meals, like the casseroles I retooled in Better Than a Box for make-from-scratch bliss.

For example:

Spicy Cheese Chicken Chip Dip via Kitchen Stewardship

What’s your favorite way to wrangle a whole chicken onto the table? What’s your biggest lunch packing challenge?

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Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post to Amazon from which I will earn some commission if you make a purchase. Plan to Eat is an August sponsor receiving their complementary mention in a post. See my full disclosure statement here.


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21 Comments so far ↓

  • Amy

    Hi. I read half of this post beforeI decided the pop up button for the healthy lunch box was too annoying to read through. Despite the clever way to add ads… It’s deterring me from reading your blog. I had hoped after I reluctantly caved in and clicked the link it would disappear. But apparently not. I enjoy your blog and it’s info. Hopefully in the future you can find alternative ways to have advertising.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Uh oh! I just added that recently, Amy, and I didn’t realize it was over the text for some people. Are you reading on a mobile device? On my laptop computer, it’s just in white space. I can blow that away immediately…as soon as I remember where the code is. ;)

    Sorry for the aggravation! Thanks for being a reader – :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    Amy Reply:

    Yes, I’m reading on an iPad. :)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Rebecca

    This is one of my standby meals too! My mom discovered way back when that roasting a chicken for Sunday was a very economical way to go…. I make one about every other week and use the leftover meat the next day for chicken salad or in a casserole or soup for supper. I often roast sweet potato “fries” as well! I usually put onion powder, poultry seasoning, salt, pepper and paprika on top, but I am pretty relaxed about my chicken roasting :-)

    The past few years, mom and I have discovered that you can get a juicier chicken by preheating the oven to 425 degrees and baking the chicken for 20 – 25 min first, and then lowering it to 325 for the remainder of the baking time. The skin crisps up so nicely that way… Mmmmm

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Kathleen K

    Oh yes. We love roasted chicken around here. Although honestly, I don’t love using the oven. It is after all, August, and we won’t see 50 degrees for at least another 3 months! Instead, mine roast in the less-heat-generating crockpot! My favorite part of the crockpot is that I don’t have to clean it after roasting. I just add more liquid, throw the bones back in and forget it for a few hours (or overnight). (Then, after straining out the yummy broth, OF COURSE I clean it!)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Katrina

    I roast mine on the grill. I turn half the grill on high and let it preheat. I split the chicken at the theigh up through the ribs and lay it flat (looks like it’s doing a hand stand). I then put the bird on the off part of the grill, legs towards the fire. You can finish it off for 15 min on the fire side for crispness. It takes about an hour. Yum:)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • R G

    So, I haven’t found a source for pastured chicken yet, so I was curious how roasted chicken and rotisserie differ in health benefits. One of the most economical ways I can feed my family is with a $5 rotisserie chicken that I can stretch into 3 meals. I read somewhere this is healthy because it is like a slow roast…?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    RG,
    You know, I don’t know that I’ve really looked into HOW cooking chicken differs in health benefits – my hunch is that any cooking that doesn’t burn it (grilling charred = carcinogens) or coat it in other junk (fried chicken, processed) is all about the same, but I couldn’t say for sure. Also guessing people who say rotisserie chickens are healthy are comparing them to fried chicken and other “ready to eat” options in the freezer aisle – you think? So rot. at the store and doing your own differs mostly in the source of the chicken. :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    caroline Reply:

    If anything I would think rotisserie would be slightly healthier just because all the fat drains off during cooking unlike roasting where the chicken sits in the fat.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Stephanie Reply:

    When I think of the benefits of roasting my own organic chicken v. buying a $5 rotisserie chicken, it’s not so much in the method of preparation, but the chicken itself. Rotisserie chicken at the grocery store is one of those that has led an unfortunate life, penned, (maybe even caged), fed GMO, anti-biotic ridden feed.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • mandy

    I have a wonderful source for pastured chickens. Love my farmers, but I cannot for the life of me figure out to make a roasted, pastured bird taste good. I make an excellent grocery store roasted chicken (Ina’s recipe), but my pastured birds are always tough and dried out. I’ve heard it’s best to go low and slow, but this hasn’t seemed to help me either. Any advice?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Mandy,
    Are they roasting birds or stewing hens? It could just be that the birds are old and better for the pot or slow cooker. Otherwise, if you haven’t tried it with a cover, do that – I’ve heard that adding some water in the bottom, especially if the chicken is on a rack, helps, and also I’d cook it much less – pull it before you think it will be done and do not only the thermometer (to only 160) but a visual check. If there’s no pink in the center, pull it before it gets tough! Good luck! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Mandy,
    Also maybe try brining the chicken and/or do it without liquid in the slow cooker. :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Laura

    Perfect timing! I just got my first monthly delivery of my Meat CSA and it included a pastured chicken. I will definetly try adding some of those spices when I roast it. Roasted Chicken Dinner here we come :)

    Lunchmeat at our house is a Costco roasted turkey breast. We just slice a bit off for each sandwich as needed. It’s a decent price compared to presliced lunch meat. Works well for us and I think(?) it might even be an upgrade healthwise. But lately my head is spinning with conflicting changing health/nutrition info, so who really knows anymore?

    [Reply to this comment]

  • jeri

    It’s still pretty hot in NY, but I can’t go very long without roast chicken. So once a week or so, I fill the oven with a chicken, potatoes, vegetables, muffins, etc. It may be hot for a while, but I get a lot of food cooked.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Corinne

    If you are going through the work of roasting a chicken, you just as well do two. I put them in a 9×13″ pan and cover them with foil. Then you have plenty of meat to freeze and double the bones for broth! So worth it!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Cory

    I like brining my birds – given I have a poultry-hater for a husband, but he almost enjoys roasted chicken prepared this way. I don’t get pastured chickens yet – organic, yes, pastured, no – but I wonder if this wouldn’t help the commenter above having trouble getting the birds to cook up nice?

    I think roast chicken became the Sunday afternoon standby not because it’s expensive, but rather because you can stick one in the oven on low before you go to church and have it ready to eat by the time you get back, no hassle or need to attend it while your away. My grandmother did this with roast beef. But that’s just my theory:)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Dina

    We go through so much chicken because I always do two at once so I have for lunch the next day as well. By the way, love the health benefits you gave with the ingredients

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Rebekah

    I’m just going to have to go find some Tumeric now! I’ve been hearing so much about this spice lately and seeing it in your spice mixture makes me want to try it. :-)
    I am one of those people who ruined my first chicken that I attempted to roast…thankfully I have had success in the crockpot and now that I do have a meat thermometer I’ll have to try it in the oven again with your recipe. :-)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Anne

    Loved your tip about dealing with the raw chicken in your sink because clean up is probably #1 reason that I think of meat as a lot of work to prepare. Can I use vinegar that is mixed with water (what I normally have in my kitchen spray bottle) or does it need to be straight vinegar to mix with the hydrogen peroxide?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Anne,
    The stats are based on straight vinegar – but I have the vinegar water already mixed up, too, so that’s totally what I use. Eh. Has to be close enough! ;) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

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Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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