When it comes to baking, chicken remains the go-to meat. There’s something about the tender and succulent taste of baked chicken that keeps people coming back for more.
Putting a chicken in the oven and cooking for about an hour sounds easy enough, but ensuring a crispy, golden-brown skin and juicy, flavorful meat baked just right is a bit trickier. Fortunately, this recipe helps ensure you’ll produce a perfectly baked chicken every time.
Whether you’re baking chicken breasts, dark chicken pieces or a whole chicken, you’ll want to choose chicken with a healthy light pink hue. Any chicken that has a dark color or a strong smell should be discarded. The skin should feel somewhat slippery to the touch but not slimey. After ensuring your chicken is healthy, wash it thoroughly with water and pat dry.
Skin on or off, coating your chicken with oil and seasoning will help lock in the flavor and add moisture to the meat. Pour a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil into a medium-sized bowl and place the chicken breasts or other pieces into the oil and press down to cover as much area of the meat as possible. Then, flip the piece over and repeat the process to cover the other side. Rub any uncovered area with your fingers to fully distribute the oil. If you are cooking an entire chicken, dip a basting brush into the oil and brush the top, sides, and bottom with oil.
Choose a shallow baking pan to help ensure your chicken skin bakes crisp. A deep pan will add too much moisture, resulting in chicken with flabby skin. Leave a little space between your chicken pieces. Overlapping chicken will overcook in places and under-cook in others. Bear in mind that chicken pieces that are approximately the same size will cook the most evenly. If cooking a whole chicken, place it in the middle of the pan where the heat concentration is highest.
Line the bottom of your pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil to prevent the chicken's skin from sticking to the pan. Next, place the whole chicken in the center of the pan or space the chicken pieces skin down as evenly apart as possible to help ensure they cook uniformly.
The right blend of seasoning will give your meat amazing taste. Sprinkle on sea salt and ground pepper, followed by a dash of paprika and some onion and garlic powder for a great combination of salty and savory flavor. The oil previously rubbed into your meat will help the seasoning stick. If you're baking a whole chicken, be sure to lift and turn it as needed to cover the top, bottom, and sides with your spices. Go a little heavier with seasoning since the inside of the chicken receives no added seasoning.
Nearly any vegetable works with baked chicken. Wash your selected vegetables thoroughly with water, pat dry and rub with olive oil. Sprinkle on the same medley of spices you used for your chicken pieces to help the veggies' flavor blend with that of the chicken and then place them in the pan beside the chicken pieces or mingle them around the full chicken for a colorful dish. Be sure to check the cooking time of your vegetables, so you know when to add them to the pan. Potatoes can be baked alongside the chicken for the entire cooking duration, while sliced carrots and bell peppers typically finish baking within 30 minutes.
Butter adds moisture and flavor to any meal, and baked chicken is no exception. To get that taste only butter can offer, tuck a stick beneath your whole chicken or slice the stick and place it between the chicken pieces and on any vegetables you've added to the pan.
After preheating your oven to 400 degrees f, place the pan on the bottom rack and bake. As your chicken and vegetables start to cook, their juices will combine with the spices, oil, and butter in the bottom of the pan. Take advantage of all that flavor by dipping a large spoon into the liquid and pouring it over the food every twenty minutes or so. You can also use a turkey baster to squirt the juices onto your meat and veggies.
Baking your chicken at high heat until the skin is crispy but the meat is still tender is key to a perfect finish. Cook boneless pieces of chicken for approximately 30 minutes and bone-in pieces or a whole chicken for about 45 minutes. Check to ensure your chicken is done by inserting a meat thermometer. If the thermometer reads 165 degrees, the meat is safe to eat.
Slicing into a baked chicken when it's fresh out of the oven results in lost juices. Wait at least ten minutes for the chicken to rest and reabsorb any juices lost in the cooking process. That way, all the juice and spices will fully settle into the meat and result in perfectly baked-in flavor.