Roast chicken can seem like a daunting dish to make at home. The first time I roasted a chicken, I was nervous that it would turn out either dry and overdone or raw and bloody. There’s also the “ick” factor of working with a whole raw bird and reaching in that gross, slimy cavity. When faced with these drawbacks, many of us opt for a rotisserie roasted chicken picked up at the grocery store. Pre-roasted chickens are a great, fast dinner option that involves little effort. I was actually somewhat reluctant to do this comparison post because those store bought chickens are so easy, I didn’t want to know how they compared when eaten right next to a home roasted chicken. What if the experience made me never want to buy a store roasted chicken again? There goes one of my favorite, fast dinner options! Read on for my favorite home-roasted chicken recipe and to see how it compared to a store bought rotisserie chicken. But before that, I’ll just give you one hint: buy chickens that say “no giblets” on the packaging. That cuts down on the number of times you have to actually reach into that cavity.
- 1 3-4 pound fresh whole chicken
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lemon, halved
- One day before roasting chicken: Remove the chicken from it's packaging and, if there are any, remove giblets from the cavity. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and set it in a shallow glass baking dish. Let chicken sit in the fridge for several hours or overnight to allow the skin to dry. This will help the skin crisp up much better in the oven.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Heat the olive oil and butter in a small skillet over medium-low heat just until melted. Add the sliced garlic cloves and 2 sprigs of thyme. Saute the garlic and thyme just until fragrant, being careful not to let the garlic burn. Remove from heat and strain the oil through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl.
- Brush the chicken all over with the garlic and thyme-infused oil. Squeeze one half of the lemon over the chicken then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Place the other half of the lemon and the 2 chopped garlic cloves into the chicken cavity then tie the legs together with kitchen twine.
- Place the chicken in the oven and roast 1.5 to 2 hours, rotating once or twice. Chicken is done when the skin is golden brown and reaches internal temperature of 170 degrees.
As you can see from the top picture, the home roasted chicken was much plumper and juicier looking than the store bought version. And that pretty much describes how they tasted, too. While the homemade chicken was delicately flavored and tender, the store bought chicken tasted overly salty and dry in comparison. I will say that I have had some store bought chickens that were quite moist, it’s just hard to tell what kind you’re getting on any given day and at any particular store. But no matter how dry or moist the store bought chicken, the flavor was clearly inferior to the one roasted at home.
That being said, I will admit that roasting a chicken at home takes a significant amount of preparation, time and clean-up. It is certainly MUCH easier to just pick up a rotisserie chicken at the store and I am sure that I will continue to do so frequently, no matter how much better the home cooked chicken tastes. Roasting a chicken at home is also not a whole lot cheaper than buying one already cooked. Both chickens cost about $8, with the homemade one costing a bit more once the other ingredients are accounted for. The home roasted chicken was definitely quite a bit bigger than the pre-roasted one, but I’m not sure by how much.
Bottom Line: Roasting a chicken at home is definitely worthwhile. The tender, perfectly seasoned meat is worth the extra time and effort. BUT most of us do not have the time to actually roast a whole chicken very often, especially on week days. The store bought chicken was overcooked and over salted, but it certainly wasn’t inedible and the convenience is undeniable.