Four Ingredients for the perfect bird

A perfect roast chicken rests atop the stove

Story and photos by Katherine Larson
Four ingredients. That’s all you need to make a perfect roast chicken. Just four ingredients, and two of them are salt and pepper. Plus a cast-iron skillet.
Why roast a chicken at all? It’s delicious, sure, but why not just buy a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket?
Tasty though those supermarket chickens can be, they are also filled with…well, with unknowns. Supermarkets roast up chickens which passed their sell-by dates without having been sold. Don’t be spooked—sell-by dates are intended to reflect quality rather than safety, and you can count on the supermarket doing its best to keep you safe—but I myself appreciate quality.
I also appreciate knowing what I’m eating, and I’m leery of chickens that have been injected with 12% or even 15% “seasoning” liquids, which are often just sugary, salty water (which the hapless consumer pays for at the price of meat) but can also include various chemicals—again, likely quite safe—that I neither recognize nor understand and so prefer to avoid.
Besides that, roasting your own chicken is one of those things that is both highly enjoyable and, in its results, intensely gratifying. Rumor has it that Prince Harry proposed to Meghan Markle after she roasted him a chicken. My oldest daughter roasted her first chicken at the age of 12 and hasn’t looked back since; it was the start of a lifetime of skillful joy in the kitchen, uniting her whole family around the table.
Heck, I’m capable of eating most of a smallish roast chicken all by myself in a couple of days. They are that good—or, at least, when well-made they are that good.
Cookbooks abound in recipes for roast chicken, and you may be wondering why I’ve chosen to enter the fray. The reason lies in my own decades of disappointment, munching good-enough chickens that never quite measured up to the Platonic ideal of juicy, flavorful meat combined with crispy crust…

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