Cooking pasture-raised chicken can be a bit intimidating at first because you want to make sure you are getting the most out of the extra cost. The reality is, pasture-raised chicken is different than store-bought chicken and it does require a bit more attention. First and foremost: pasture-raised chicken cooks faster than conventional chicken, making a meat thermometer your best friend.
The reason why lower quality chicken seem to cook “well” no matter what you do is due to how they are processed. Conventional chickens are commonly injected with brine to pump up their weight (which you pay for), enhance the taste of the flavourless meat, and ensure the meat is always juicy – irrespective of the cooking method.
With that, let us share a few tips on how to roast a pasture-raised chicken so that it turns out perfectly every time! Pasture makes perfect, and here’s how to enjoy.
1. Avoid Roasting a Cold Chicken
To ensure even cooking, completely defrost and let the chicken sit at room temperature in the roasting pan for 30-60 min. Don’t be worried about bacteria. This isn’t long enough for pathogens to grow, and pasture-raised chicken is generally very clean.
Roasting cold or frosty chickens will cause uneven cooking, which often leads to overcooking of the parts that cooked faster.
2. Pat the Chicken Dry Before Roasting
Roasted chicken skin is so delicious and pasture-raised fat is liquid gold. To maximize skin crispiness, pat the chicken dry with a clean dishtowel or paper towels before roasting.
3. Salt, pepper (and seasoning if you want)
Salting the chicken inside and out right before you place it in the oven helps with crispiness and flavour, as does basting the chicken with butter (with garlic) as it roasts. To spice it, you can also try a poultry seasoning like our Prairie Pollo!
(Truss with no Fuss, if you want – we rarely do)
While not necessary, trussing the chicken results in more even cooking. Here are instructions for how to truss a chicken in six easy steps with pictures.
4. Temperature and Placement
We’ve found the best temperatures to roast a pasture-raised chicken is 400°F, no higher, or a slow roast at 250°F. Always roast in the middle of the center oven rack. Avoid roasting or baking anything else with the chicken at the same time to avoid uneven cooking. Again, pasture-raised chicken cooks faster than conventional chicken so a meat thermometer your best friend.
5. Use the Juices
The juices (aka “pan gravy”) are full of nutrients and healthy fats, so don’t throw it out!
Make a gravy with it, drink it as rich broth or add it to your stock (#7). To enhance these juices and stock, place chopped onion, celery and carrots and other root veggies in the roasting pan.
6. Let the Roast Chicken Rest
After roasting, let the chicken rest for 15 minutes in the pan before slicing or removing the meat. This allows for the juices to redistribute and stabilize within the meat rather than gush out into the pan if you cut it too quickly.
7. Make a stock with the carcass and picked bones
Enjoy the rich flavours knowing you and your family are eating nutrient-dense food that was raised with care, supports local farmers and is good for the soil.