This method of roasting a chicken reduced cooking time by 15 minutes and the bird didn’t stick to the rack, as the author had feared.

Meghan Markle made roasting chicken much more romantic when she divulged she was doing just that when Prince Harry got down on one knee. But I’ve been pushing the whole bird and the oven as the perfect marriage of deliciousness and sustainable eating for a while now.

Buying the whole bird, instead of skinless, spineless bits and pieces, gives a green-minded cook an affordable way to support local farmers humanely raising pastured chickens. Roasting it once and serving the meat three different ways gives a cook a chance to practice both right-sizing animal protein portions to fit a sustainable diet and using every last bit of the bird to avoid food waste.

I am always on the prowl for new ways to prepare a whole bird that cuts down on the amount of energy it takes to cook it through. In my cookbook, “Green Plate Special,” I espouse the spatchcock method in which you cut the backbone out of the chicken with a pair of kitchen shears so the bird lays flat on a sheet pan and roasts in 30 percent less time than if it were sitting up straight. And in this column, I’ve written about how the Chinese use the residual heat of poaching liquid to pull off White Cut Chicken.

Vegetables roast in their own pan, flavored by chicken drippings from the bird roasting above.

I recently watched a YouTube video of British chef Jamie Oliver slathering a whole chicken with a flavorful, store-bought curry paste and putting the bird directly on a middle rack of a hot oven. He places a roasting pan of thick-cut root vegetables on a rack below it with a couple inches of space separating the bottom of the chicken and the tops of the vegetables to allow the hot air to fully circulate around the bird. The bird’s juices drip onto the vegetables below.

I was skeptical this method would serve up a bird any different from one roasted on a smaller rack sitting in the pan with the vegetables directly under it. And, as a practical matter, I worried about what cooking a bird directly on the oven rack would mean for the state of my oven and conversely, what the rack’s baked-on residue would mean for the bird’s skin.

Et voila!

So, of course, I had to give it a go. I passed on the jarred paste, opting for a butter mix of lemon zest, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes and parsley that I tucked under the chicken’s skin on all sides.


I was pleasantly surprised to find that the roasting time was cut by 15 minutes, the skin was crispy all around (always a bonus) and, despite my fears, it did not stick to the rack it sat on. The vegetables roasted more evenly, and the pan sauce was plentiful enough to make a nice complement to the meal but not so much as to make the bottom of the roast vegetables mushy.

And, because the bird was not in the pan, I’d room to roast extra vegetables to make hash for breakfast the next day.

This one’s a keeper, like Meghan believes her Harry is.


CHRISTINE BURNS RUDALEVIGE is a food writer, recipe developer and tester and cooking teacher in Brunswick, and the author of “Green Plate Special,” a cookbook from Islandport based on these columns. She can be contacted at

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