A good roast chicken will never let you down.

Although today's recipe calls for just five ingredients, roasting a chicken to tender, juicy, skin-crisped, perfection can be tricky — it's a matter of cooking two different kinds of meat at once. The lean, white breast cooks faster than the rich, dark legs and thighs.

The best technique originated in Asia and takes a page from rotisserie chicken: the hot air circulates around the bird. This allows the breast to cook gently while the dark meat finishes at the same time; the fats naturally baste the meat and ensures a golden skin. There's no need to truss or turn or baste the chicken — it practically roasts itself.

Vertical roasting took off in the United States with "beer can chicken," a method in which the chicken is inverted onto a can and the beer added flavor and moisture as it roasted. But a better, less messy alternative is a ceramic chicken roaster with a built-in cup to hold the liquid (I prefer white wine).

It's most important to start with the bird at room temperature; a cold chicken takes longer to cook. No need to wash the chicken (it's safe to eat when fully cooked), just pat it dry with a paper towel so the skin crisps up. Season with plenty of salt and pepper, inside and out, and rub a little butter under the skin for added flavor.

Be sure to preheat the oven so the bird goes in hot; the blast of heat will sear the skin. Once it's done, wait about 10 to 15 minutes before carving so the juices settle and soak back into the bird.

The genius of a classic roast chicken is its stripped-down, bare-bones technique.

Vertical Roast Chicken

Serves 4 to 6.

You may need to adjust the oven racks to accommodate a "standing" bird. Be sure to remove the chicken from the refrigerator about 45 minutes before roasting to bring it to room temperature. Once roasted, allow it to stand about 15 minutes before carving so the juices retract into the bird and do not run off onto the cutting board. From Beth Dooley.

• 1 chicken, about 4 lb.

• 2 tbsp. butter, at room temperature

• Several sprigs thyme

• Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 1 c. wine, beer or stock


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pat the chicken dry, inside and out. Gently lift the skin at the opening of the breast and rub some of the butter inside the skin and around the breast meat. Rub the rest of the butter over the whole chicken. Tuck a few thyme sprigs in between the skin and the breast. Generously season the chicken with salt and pepper.

Pour the wine into the cup holder of the vertical roaster. Alternately, fill an empty metal can with the wine, beer or stock. Set the chicken atop the roaster or can. (If using a can, place it onto a deep baking dish).

Roast the chicken until the skin is crisped, the juices run clear, and the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees on an oven thermometer. Remove from the oven and allow the chicken to rest about 10 to 15 minutes before moving to a carving board.

Roast Chicken Salad

Serves 4.

This warm chicken salad is based on a classic French bistro recipe that makes use of rendered chicken fat, but a good olive oil works beautifully, too. It's a great way to use leftover roast chicken, whether you roast it yourself or use a rotisserie chicken from the market. From Beth Dooley.

For the vinaigrette:

• 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• 2 small shallots, finely chopped

• 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

• 1/2 tsp. honey

• 1/4 c. warm, rendered chicken fat or extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad:

• 3 c. shredded or chopped cooked chicken

• 2 c. chopped parsley

• 3 c. torn spinach leaves

• 1/2 c. sliced radishes

• 1 c. toasted croutons

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


To prepare the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, shallots, mustard and honey. Gradually whisk in the fat or oil.

To prepare the salad: Put the chicken, parsley, spinach, radishes and croutons into a large bowl. Toss in enough of the vinaigrette to generously coat the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Beth Dooley is the author of "The Perennial Kitchen." Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.