Classic Baked Chicken
If there is one recipe that every home cook should know, it’s this baked chicken recipe. All you need is chicken, olive oil, salt, and pepper (and maybe some stock or white wine for gravy). We usually buy whole chickens and either cut them up ourselves or have the butcher do it for us. It’s cheaper that way and we get giblets for gravy. You can do that or just use a package of whatever chicken parts you like—breasts for white meat, thighs and legs for dark.
This way of cooking chicken couldn’t be more straightforward and is especially welcome on days when you’re busy and just want to put good food on the table. My mother made this at least once a month when I was growing up, and still does. It’s terrific with her Spanish rice and a little mango chutney on the side.
Even if you intend to eat the chicken without its skin, leave the skins on for baking. The skins will help keep the chicken pieces from drying out while they bake.
- One 3 to 4 lb chicken, cut into 8 parts (2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 legs, 2 wings) excluding the back
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup of low sodium chicken stock* or white wine for the gravy (optional)
1 Trim the chicken pieces of excess fat. Pat the chicken pieces dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle all sides with salt. Let the chicken pieces sit for 15 to 20 minutes to take the chill off.
2 Preheat your oven to 400°F (205°C). Pat the chicken pieces dry with a paper towel. Rub olive oil over the chicken pieces and on the bottom of the roasting pan. Sprinkle the chicken pieces all over with black pepper and a little more salt. Arrange the chicken pieces in the pan so that all the pieces are skin-side up, and the largest pieces (the breasts) are in the center of the pan. Don't crowd the pan; allow room between the pieces.
3 Bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 400°F (205°C). This initial high heat will help brown the chicken. Then lower the heat to 350°F (175°C) and bake for and additional 10-30 minutes more until the juices run clear (not pink) when poked with a sharp knife or the internal temperature of the chicken breasts is 165°F (74°C) and of the thighs is 170°F (77°C). If the chicken isn't browning well enough, place the chicken under the broiler for the last 5 minutes of cooking, until browned sufficiently.
4 Remove from oven and transfer the chicken to a serving dish. Tent with aluminum foil and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
5 If you would like to make gravy with the drippings from the chicken, place the roasting pan with all its drippings on the stovetop and set the burner to medium heat. Use a metal spatula to scrape up the stuck drippings from the bottom of the pan. When the pan is hot, pour in some white wine or chicken stock to help loosen the drippings from the pan.
Transfer the drippings and stock/wine mixture to a saucepan and heat on medium high until reduced to your desired thickness. If you want the gravy even thicker, you can make a slurry with a little cornstarch (a teaspoon) and water (1/4 cup) and add that to the gravy while it cooks.
*If you bought a whole chicken to start with, the chicken may have come with the neck and gizzards (often in paper in the cavity of the chicken). Use the chicken back and these giblets to make stock for gravy. Chop up the back a little, and put the back, gizzard, and neck into a small saucepan and cover with water by a half inch or so. Bring to a simmer and let simmer while your chicken is baking. Then strain and use the stock for making a richly flavored gravy.