SOS with Whole Pasture Chicken

For the past two months, I have been purchasing organic, pasture chickens. I sometimes get the dark cuts and sometimes get the whole chickens. I don’t have problems cooking the former, but really need help with the latter. I almost always overcook the birds and make the breasts way too dry.

What can I do to ensure that the bird is cooked through and yet maintain its succulence throughout? I follow recipes found online but they always lead to dry meat. What sort of recipes work better with pasture chickens? Thanks a million!

The best way to assure cooking is to check periodically the internal temperature of the meat by using a probe thermometer.


I always put butter under the skin and when I rest the chicken I turn it upside down. This ensures that the juices flow down to the breasts.

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I cook my turkeys upside (with the breast down) only flipping it for the last few minutes to brown the breast. My turkeys are always juicy. Cooking upside down protects the breast from the heat and the internal juices from the dark meat work their way down into the white meat. Maybe this method would work with your chicken.

An alternative you may want to try is spatchcocking the chicken.


Def recommend this as well as dry brining overnight in the frig. I use olive oil vs butter lately but tenting the breast with foil if your oven it too hot also helps if you don’t spatchcock.

What temp are you roasting at?


Are pasture chickens free range chickens?

We add herbs to the butter - and the resting is important.

Chickens coming in to this house are always free range and prefererably organic. Cooking time obviously depends on how big the bird is. We would usually give it 15 minutes at 220C, then turn the heat down to 180 and cook for an hour, before checking. A bigger bird may need another 15 minutes.

375F in a dutch oven. I don’t try roasting the bird without placing it in a dutch oven, because I am so afraid of drying it out.

I understand your hesitation but I would recommend trying the recipe I linked above the next time. A bird baked full encased in metal or clay could actually be the hiccup. If you can test your oven temp empty with the heat set at 375 to see if its accurate.

I roast all chickens the same way. Salt and pepper shoved under the breast skin along with several sprigs of fresh thyme, surface of bird carefully dried with paper towels. Oven preheated at 500°F. Cast iron frying pan heated almost to smoking stovetop. Untrussed chicken put into pan, be prepared for loud searing noise, then into oven. Reduce temp to 450°. Roast 50 minutes. Test inner thigh for doneness = 165°. Remove to carving platter and let rest 10 minutes during which time you can deglaze pan for juices or sauce… Juicy bird.


That’s pretty complicated.
Chickens must be $20+ or more.
Now I have to peruse my store’s selection.

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My nickname has been Rooster since 1958. Nuff said. :grin:


A hot open frying pan is better than a fully encased dutch oven is my 2 cents.


Because Yardbird was already in use!


You know me too well!


I have never gone wrong using Thomas Keller’s high temperature method, which is quick for a whole chicken at 45-60mins at 450-500F. We had it last night, using an organic, free range chicken.

The Zuni method is also excellent, but a slightly more fussy cook.

And the skin isn’t as good this way, but a low temp roast - 275-300F for 2.5-4h - also yields lovely, moist chicken. (you don’t have to do all the basting in this recipe - I just included it for temp reference).

If you don’t have one yet, a probe thermometer is a good addition so you can stop cooking when the dark meat is just at temp. Visual cues and time are less reliable and can lead to drying out, possibly even more so with a free range bird.


I do it mostly the same as you, but I use Melissa Clark’s splaying technique. Cut the skin along the thigh on each side of the body, then pop the joints on each side, so that the chicken lies flat in the frying pan. This gives the dark meat a head start.


I channel the Zuni method, simplifying it slightly as is my usual wont. I agree with you that these “flash-bang” methods result in juicy flesh, excellent skin.