Preparing your whole chicken isn't much different than preparing a Thanksgiving turkey.
Here are some basics for practicing on your chicken:
Brine: A basic brine is calculated by the dry weight of salt and aromatics as a percentage of the weight of the meat.
At Ohio City Provisions, our basic brines are based on 3% salt, 2% sugar (can be omitted), and 0.5% spices and aromatics.
So if a 5# chicken is 80 ounces you will need is 2.4 ounces of salt (3% of 80), 1.6 ounces of sugar and 0.4 ounces of spice. Sometimes it is easier to convert everything to metric, so with 454 grams per lb, you can start doing the math there. Most digital kitchen scales easily switch to grams.
How to Brine: Take your dry ingredients - salt, sugar, spices - and dissolve them in simmering water. Cool the brine to below 40 degrees.
How much water to use? Good question. First find your brining vessel - maybe a glass bowl, maybe a dutch oven, maybe even a 5 gallon bucket (perfect for turkeys). Second, take your meat and place it in the vessel. Pour 1 quart of water at a time over the meat until it is completely submerged and count how many quarts were used. This water can then be dumped out.
Say you needed 8 quarts of water. Now, bring 8 quarts of fresh water to a simmer and dissolve the dry ingredients.
Chill the brine to below 40 degrees then pour it over your meat. Place brining vessel in the refrigerator.
How long to brine? Our rule of thumb is 1/2 inch per day. That means that the brine penetrates 1/2 inch into the meat per day, from each side. So for a chicken, 1 day is sufficient. For a turkey, 2 days is better.
Will my chicken be salty? No, if your brine is balanced, it will not be salty and you can not overbrine. Instead your chicken will be moist and well seasoned.
How to Roast: Remove your chicken from the brine 1 day before cooking. Place on a plate, uncovered, in the refrigerator to allow the skin to dry out.
Pull your chicken from the fridge an hour or two before roasting. You want it to be closer to room temperature than refrigerator temperature when you roast.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Brush the skin of your chicken with oil or melted butter. Season with salt and pepper. Do not stuff the cavity with anything other than aromatics such as herbs, onion, garlic, etc. You want air flow.
Place chicken in the oven, uncovered, on a roasting rack or a bed of carrots and onions (if you don't have a roasting rack). Cook for approximately 30 minutes or until skin is golden and crispy. Reduce heat to 350 and roast until a thermometer reads 158 degrees in the thigh.
Remove from the oven and allow the chicken to rest for 15 minutes before carving. The internal temperature will continue to rise as it rests.
If you have any questions check out our guide to cooking a whole chicken