What to Do When You Can’t Just Pick up a Rotisserie Chicken on the Way Home From Work

We’ve all done it, right? Something has been nagging you all day, but you’re busy as heck and you can’t figure out what it is. So you shove it to the back of your mind and concentrate on more pressing matters. Customers. Bosses. Coworkers who clip their fingernails at work–which, if you ask me, should be a hanging offense, so it’s probably a good thing that no one did.

It doesn’t come back to you until you’re leaving work: all you have in the fridge is milk, orange juice, and a big jar of Sam’s Club olives. And frankly, not all that much milk.

Help us, rotisserie chicken! You’re our only hope!

Well, now there is no “on the way home from work” for millions of people. Fortunately, you can make your own roast chicken at home with only marginally more effort than it took to stop at the grocery store. Also, it will be better than rotisserie chicken–crispier skin, and not injected with salt water to fool you into thinking it hasn’t been overcooked.

Of course, first you must find your chicken … which in the District of Columbia is no mean feat. Apparently, when my fellow Washingtonians hear of any sort of disaster, they do three things:

  1. Forget what little they ever knew about the traffic laws of the District of Columbia.
  2. Build a 20-foot wall of toilet paper to keep out anything dangerous. (Let’s hope there is a moat of Purell behind it).
  3. Buy all the meat, milk, and eggs. And especially, all of the chicken.

Why chicken? I don’t know. But you simply cannot get milk, eggs or chicken for love or money right now.

We have to assume that the supply chains will return to normal at some point. At that point–or if you are lucky enough to live in a region that has not been picked clean by the roaming hordes of chicken-scavengers–you should make this roast chicken. Prep it in the morning, or the night before, pop it in the oven at 5:00, and you can have dinner on the table at 6:15, stopping only to throw together a simple salad or some steam-in-bag veggies.

I stole this recipe from Thomas Keller. But then I decided that I like having a meal-in-one-dish more than I prize having the absolute crispiest skin possible. If you are an utter fanatic about crispy skin, then don’t put the vegetables in the roasting pan, as they will give off steam that will somewhat mar the shatteringly crisp effect. On the other hand, if you think that vegetables roasted in chicken drippings sound delicious (and oooohhhh, they are), then throw caution to the wind and load them in. Thomas Keller would be livid if he could see this, but somehow, I doubt he’s going to be reading my blog, or poking his head into your oven.

Oven Roasted Chicken


  • 1 roasting chicken
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme, rosemary or marjoram (optional)
  • Mixed vegetables (chef’s choice). My favorites:
    • Frozen artichoke hearts
    • Quartered or sliced mushrooms
    • Frozen pearl onions, defrosted and drained
    • Fingerling potatoes



  1. The night or morning before you plan to cook your bird, wash it in cold water, then pat it very dry with paper towels, inside and out. I mean, really dry. You want it to be practically parched.Yeah, I see you there, thinking that maybe you’ll just skip sticking your hand inside the bird. Reach in there with your paper towels–and if you encounter a bag of giblets, remove them and toss them in the freezer to make chicken stock later. (We’ll get to that someday, and really, it’s not that hard).
  2. Take about a tablespoon of salt in the palm of your hand and hold your hand about 6-8 inches above your bird. Shake your hand from left to right so that the bird gets an even coating of salt. Place in the refrigerator.
  3. Half an hour before you want to start cooking, preheat the oven to 450 F.
  4. Five minutes before zero hour, remove bird from the refrigerator.  Place any vegetables of your choice in the bottom of the pan. Place bird in oven and leave it there for 50-60 minutes.
  5. The bird is done when the meat thermometer tells you it’s done–at least 155 F for the breast. If you don’t really know how to use a meat thermometer, read the handy guide from Serious Eats.
  6. Remove chicken from the rack and place on a platter or cutting board, where it will rest for 15 minutes before serving.
  7. Scoop your veggies out of the pan and taste to see if they need salt or pepper. Mince your fresh herbs, if you’re using them, and toss with the vegetables.
  8. Throw together something green to serve with it and bon apetit.

11 Comments Add yours

  1. ericj says:

    Do you eschew trussing entirely?

    And what’s your opinion on roasting whole vs. spatchcocked?

    1. Bill Woods says:

      Keller trusses. https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/my-favorite-simple-roast-chicken-231348

      Spatchcocking, aka butterflying, is great. Turns a round hollow thing into a flattish one, with skin on the top and bones on the bottom. And gets the dark meat out from under. Which I’d worry about a little if roasted with veggies under the chicken.

      Chicken thighs are also good, and save carving. Jacques Pépin’s stove-top recipe is good — and simple if you prune down the pan sauce ingredients.

      1. mcmeganish says:

        I know. But I’m trying to do a recipe for beginner cooks, and if I start talking about trussing chickens, they will flee.

  2. sflicht says:

    Why would you add something green (and probably not so delicious) when you already included (quite delicious) vegetables roasted in the chicken drippings?

    1. mcmeganish says:

      Because green vegetables are good for you!

      1. sflicht says:

        They could start out green before you roast them. (Brussels sprouts work reasonably well in this application. Probably certain types of kale would hold up. Cabbage, I suppose.) I suppose some of the vitamins may be lost — and certainly the fat content is higher when they’re cooked in drippings.

  3. James Sheufelt says:

    Yeah, What’s with the chicken. There are 5 things missing from our supermarkets here in Alaska: Chicken, Flour, Rice, Ramen, and of course TP. Plenty of all other types of meat and seafood, just no chicken left.

  4. Jane says:

    Thank you! Absolutely delicious! Carrots and haricots verts as veggies with a green salad. A real Sunday dinner.

    1. mcmeganish says:

      So glad you liked it!

  5. berck says:

    I far prefer that the chicken be seriously overcooked, but upside down and brined so it doesn’t dry out. It’s done if a drumstick can be removed with no meat still attached. Try it.

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