ingredients for rub (below)
ingredients to stuff the bird (see below)
Buy your bird from a local farm, if you can. Check buyappalachian.org for sources. Any grocery store will carry whole birds, which some call fryers. Take your chicken home, and soak it in brine for at least eight hours.
What's a brine? There are many recipes, but make it easy on yourself: Place bird in pot, cover in cold water, add 1 cup table salt, or 1 1/2 – 2 cups of kosher salt. Refrigerate overnight.
The next day, pull the bird from the brine and truss it (that is, bind the wings and legs close to the body with twine). Some birds come pre-trussed. If you don't know how to truss, look for a video online.
Tbsp black pepper
Tbsp lemon zest
2 tspn garlic powder
Tbsp smoked paprika
Vegetable oil, approximately 1/2-3/4 cup.
(The ingredients above are something I tend to have on-hand. Simple pepper, lemon and garlic salt will do — whatever floats your boat as far as flavor goes. Think about what you like to eat with chicken and go for it. It's hard to screw up.)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine dry ingredients, then add vegetable oil to make a paste. Set aside.
For the stuffing (that's going to fill up your bird and give it flavor), cut the rest of that lemon you zested for the rub into quarters, then quarter half an onion. That's likely all you will need. If you still have room after you stuff that into the chicken cavity, you can always add some garlic cloves. Anything with moisture will do, though — celery, carrots, etc. Stuff chicken cavity.
Place the chicken breast in a roasting pan. Rub with the paste. Don't forget to keep washing your hands and be careful of cross-contamination! I like to sprinkle the garlic salt over the top of the bird last.
Roast chicken in preheated oven until 170 degrees by the thigh bone. You can easily check the temp of your bird as it cooks with any meat thermometer. 170 is the lowest temperature that most cookbooks recommend for a chicken, and I think that 170 is perfect for moist meat, (even though you might spy a tiny bit of pink near the bones, which is nothing to worry about).
Go up to 175-180 if you like your bird a bit dryer around the breast and the dark meat falling off the bone.
Average birds will take an hour to an hour and a half. The Joy of Cooking says to figure one hour for the first four pounds, an extra eight minutes for each additional pound (but I find that time makes for a dry bird).
Once the bird is roasted, let it rest for about 20 minutes so that all of the juice doesn't run out when you slice into it.