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Julia's Roast Chicken - Poulet Rôti

This recipe cracks me up, mostly because Julia try to help you create a spit roasted chicken without the use of a spit.  The basic technique for cooking whole poultry is common in most cookbooks, first cook the bird at a high temperature and then lower the temperature to complete the roast.  I do the same thing when I cook turkeys.

In Julia's cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking she states you can always judge the quality of a cook or a restaurant by roasted chicken.  I believe that, I love that.  Julia goes on to explain what makes a good roasted chicken, juicy meat, browned crispy skin, buttery flavor.  She explains that to master cooking a bird you need to learn to listen to it crackle and pop in the oven, and most importantly make sure it continually gets basted. 

Trader Joe's has some really nice roasting chickens and I would recommend them for this recipe.


  • 4-6 lb roasting chicken
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 carrot, cut into thirds
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered
  • 3 feet of kitchen twine
for basting: a small sauce pan containing 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, 1Tbsp olive oil, and a basting brush.


Estimated roasting time for a 5 pound bird is 1 ½ hours

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Sprinkle the inside of the chicken with salt and 1 Tbsp butter.

Truss the chicken, for this I used Thomas Kellers method instead of Julia's.  I did this because I did not have access to a trussing  needle.  Place the chicken on a large plate or tray with the legs pointing toward you.  Wrap the string under the birds neck, pulling the strings over the breast line.  Make a knot under he breasts to plump them up (you can see in the later pictures that I did not knot it there and it popped up).  Then cross the strings and wrap them around the opposite drumstick twice and then bring the drumsticks together and knot them to finish.  Keller normally also tucks the wings under, I started my bird with the wings tucked under but then found with Julia's method of rotating the bird while it cooked would not allow the wings to stay in the tucked position.

Place the chicken breast side up on a roasting rack in a shallow roasting pan.  Strew the carrot and  onion around in the roasting pan. Rub the rest of the butter all over the top of the chicken.

Now this is the tricky part.  Julia's instructions are to brown the chicken at 425 for 15 minutes turning it every 5 minutes.  My oven is an apartment oven and it does not hold heat well.  Her instructions say to open the oven after 5 minutes baste and turn the chicken over on left side, let it cook for 5 more minutes and turn it on the right side.  Basically breast side up for 5, left drumstick up for 5, and then left drum up for 5.  Basting it while you do the flips.  I did this every 10 minutes instead of the instructed 5 minutes.  Mostly because I don't think my oven was holding the temperature properly.

So after you finish flipping the bird around for 15 minutes or a half hour if you have a crappy oven; turn the oven down to 350 degrees- leave the chicken on it's side and baste every 8-10 minutes.  Halfway through the roasting time turn the chicken on it's other side, and salt it with a ¼ tsp of kosher salt.  15 minutes before the estimated roasting time is up turn the chicken breast side up and salt it again with ¼ tsp kosher salt; continue basting.

The chicken is done when a it reaches 165 degrees, or as Julia says you might see a sudden rain of splutters in the oven, a swelling of the breast and slight puff of the skin, the drumstick is tender when pressed and can be moved in its sockets.

Place the done chicken on a carving board and remove the trussing string.  Let the chicken sit for 5 minutes before carving. 

If you care to make a pan sauce remove all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the roasting pan.  Place roasting pan over a burner and heat over medium heat.  Stir in 1 minced shallot and cook for 1 minute.  Add 1 cup chicken stock and boil rapidly over high heat scraping all the bits from the roasting pan.  Transfer the sauce to a sauce pan if you wish or keep it in the roasting pan.  After the sauce has reduced by half and 1 Tbsp of butter and serve immediately.


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