Breakin’ It Down: The Best Way to Cook a Chicken

This past Thanksgiving my family tried something new with the turkey.

No, we didn’t fry it. I think all of those YouTube videos have permanently scarred my mother. I don’t think that will ever happen.

Instead of the traditional roast, this year we opted to break down the turkey, separating the white and dark meats and roasted them separately. Unfortunately, our turkey’s brine was a bit too strong and the turkey ended up being a bit salty (as it turns out, there’s a way to fix this) but it was cooked perfectly. The breasts, which I made into a roti, were juicy and not the least bit dry. The dark meat was cooked perfectly without even a hint of pink near the joints. (In case you didn’t know, that’s what you want in a roasted bird.)

This past Sunday, I decided to try things again. This time, I used a chicken; I didn’t brine the bird nor did I make the breasts into a roti.

The result? I am never, ever roasting an entire bird again. Why would you when this is more flavorful and much easier to baste and maneuver on the cutting board than an entire roast bird? In addition, this will save you boogaloos of money as you’re the one who’s breaking down the bird yourself instead of your butcher.

Hot Mess’ Perfect Roast Chicken


  • One whole, free range organic chicken (since you’re buying it whole and going to use every last bit of it, you should get the best bird possible)
  • 4-6 tbsp soft unsalted butter
  • kosher salt
  • freshly cracked pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 lemon
  • 4-5 medium carrots
  • 4-5 medium celery ribs


    1. Preheat your oven to 350F.
    2. Carefully rinse your chicken under running cold water. Remove giblets and whatever other “goodies” are hiding in your bird.
    3. Using a VERY sharp kitchen knife, break down your chicken. If you’ve never done this before, the first time feels very “Silence of the Lambs”. Here is my favorite how-to video on breaking down a raw chicken. After you break down the bird, save the ribs to make stock– you might as well, right? Also, salt your chicken liberally with kosher salt and let sit while you prepare the pan.
    4. In the bottom of a deep square baking pan, line up the carrots and celery in such a way that you’re creating a raised “rack” for your chicken to sit upon.  Squeeze the 1/4 lemon over the vegetables and wedge the juiced lemon quarter in amongst the vegetables.
    5. In between the skin and the meat of each piece, apply butter very, very liberally. You should be able to see no meat and see only butter beneath the translucent skin. Most of this will run out during the cooking process, but it creates the perfect basting liquid. Don’t worry, you won’t end up eating all of this butter.
    6. Set your chicken thighs in your roasting pan atop the carrot and celery “rack”; grind course black pepper over the top of each thigh and apply a coating of olive oil. (Olive oil means a crispy skin!) Place in oven for 15 minutes.
    7. After 15 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and add you chicken breasts and wings. Add freshly ground pepper and olive oil. Roast until juices run clear, or your breasts read 165F with a meat thermometer. This took about 1h45. Remove the pan every 30 minutes to baste with the drippings for about 4 minutes each time.
    8. Let rest for 15-20 minutes after removing from the oven.

3 thoughts on “Breakin’ It Down: The Best Way to Cook a Chicken

  1. This is the first year I made an entire turkey, and I LOVED how it turned out. But your way seems so much easier for non-holiday meals. Definitely trying this out soon!

  2. Pingback: It’s Currently Wednesday | Hot Mess

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