The first time I bought a whole chicken to prepare myself, I was terrified. No, that’s not exactly right… the first time I bought a whole chicken, I thought it was hilarious, for there are few things that look as comically naked as a raw chicken, flopped on your kitchen counter in all its wobbly, winged glory. But getting back to the task at hand, once my giggles passed, I was terrified. There was a raw bird in my kitchen! How was I going to turn it into food?
The good news is pretty good: dealing with a whole chicken is actually relatively simple. Also, there are lots of benefits to buying a chicken rather than pre-cut chicken breasts: it’s a bit cheaper, it keeps the meat a bit moister, and there’s more flavor and texture consistency because it all came from the same place. The bad news is that, yes, you do have to touch it. Sorry.
But fear not! Here are the simple preparation rules and an easy recipe for getting your first chicken ready to eat.
Chloe is an expert on how brave off-campus-dwelling souls should cook in their first kitchen. She majored in Religion, Arabic, and Netflix and could eat avocados for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Paprika Chickens with Garlic and Potatoes
2 whole chickens (3-3.5 pounds each)
2 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (separate)
8 heads garlic, halved horizontally
6 creamer potatoes
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Mix the paprika, oregano, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and 1 teaspoon salt.
Clean the chicken. No need to pull out the haz-mat suit, here, but give the guy a good rinse under warm water. Chances are, there will be some goodies (read: organs) hanging out inside the bird. These are there because you can turn them into gravy or sauce, but for now, we’ll just assume you’re keeping it simple and discarding them. Pat the chickens dry with paper towels and place them on a rimmed backing sheet, chest up. If you’re feeling fancy, you can tie the legs of each chicken together with kitchen twine, but if you’re an unfussy twenty-something like me, you’ll probably just leave him there with his wings tucked behind his back like a suspect on “Cops”. (Do remember that you’re going to want to clean everything that comes in contact with the raw chicken before you put the lovely thing in the oven to cook. This means knives, the sink, and anything your hands have touched in the process need to be washed well in warm, soapy water.)
Rub the skin of each chicken with another tablespoon of olive oil. Then, rub the entire thing with the paprika mixture. Stuff two garlic-head halves into each cavity (you know, where the insides once were).
Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F, and put the chickens in to roast for 20 minutes.
Remove them from the oven and baste them in the juices that have dripped off into the pan. This requires the investment in either a basting bulb or basting brush,
but as neither needs to cost more than ten dollars and both will keep your chicken tender and delicious, it’s pretty worth it. Whichever tool you use, use it to take the juices from the pan and pour/brush them back on top of the bird. Congratulations, you’ve just basted something.
Onto the next hurdle: place the garlic halves around the chickens, cut side down. Cut the potatoes into halves and also scatter them in the pan. Drizzle the remaining quarter cup of olive oil over the garlic and potatoes and roast for another 10 minutes.
Loosely tent the birds in foil—which is another way of saying put some tin foil over them (this keeps the texture moist). Roast for another 30 minutes until a thermometer in the thigh reads 165 degrees, or (if you do not have one) until the juices run clear.