How to Cook Chicken in Oven: Juicy and Flavorful Every Time

Cooking chicken in the oven is a healthy and easy way to prepare a delicious meal for yourself and your family. It is less messy than frying, grilling, or using a stovetop, and you can enjoy juicy and flavorful chicken every time with minimal effort. In this article, we will guide you on how to cook chicken in the oven, step by step, and answer some frequently asked questions about this cooking method.

Choosing the Right Chicken

The first step to cooking chicken in the oven is to choose the right chicken. You can use any part of the chicken, such as breasts, thighs, or legs, depending on your preference and recipe. However, you should always buy fresh, high-quality chicken that is free of antibiotics and hormones, and has been raised ethically.

One way to check the freshness of the chicken is to look for the expiration date on the package. Another way is to check for any discoloration, odor, or sliminess, which are signs of spoilage. If you can, buy whole chickens and cut them into individual pieces yourself, as they are often fresher than pre-cut chicken.

Prepping the Chicken

The next step is to prep the chicken for cooking. You should always wash your hands and the chicken with cold water before handling it, and pat it dry with paper towels. You can remove the skin or leave it on, depending on your preference, but if you leave it on, you should pierce the skin in a few places with a fork to allow the fat to escape.

You can season the chicken with any herbs, spices, or marinades you like, such as salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, rosemary, thyme, or lemon juice. You can also use a basting sauce or glaze to add flavor and moisture to the chicken, but be careful not to burn it.

Cooking the Chicken

The third step is to cook the chicken in the oven. You should preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C) and arrange the chicken on a baking dish or a roasting pan, with enough space between each piece. You can also add vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, onions, or bell peppers, around the chicken to make a one-pan meal.

You should cook the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C), which you can check with a meat thermometer. The cooking time depends on the size and type of the chicken, but as a general rule, it takes about 20-25 minutes for chicken breasts, 30-35 minutes for chicken thighs, and 45-50 minutes for whole chickens, per pound.

You should baste the chicken with its own juices or a basting sauce every 10-15 minutes to prevent it from drying out and to enhance its flavor. You can also turn the chicken over halfway through the cooking time to cook it evenly on both sides.

Resting and Serving the Chicken

The fourth step is to let the chicken rest for a few minutes before serving it. You should take it out of the oven and cover it with foil or a lid for 5-10 minutes, which allows the juices to redistribute and the temperature to equalize. This step is crucial to achieving moist and tender chicken, as cutting it too soon can cause the juices to escape and the meat to become dry.

You can serve the chicken with any sides you like, such as rice, pasta, salad, or steamed vegetables. You can also sprinkle some fresh herbs or lemon zest over the chicken for garnish and extra flavor. Leftover chicken can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How long do I cook chicken in the oven?
A: You should cook chicken in the oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C), which takes about 20-25 minutes for chicken breasts, 30-35 minutes for chicken thighs, and 45-50 minutes for whole chickens, per pound.

Q: How do I know when the chicken is done?
A: You can check the internal temperature of the chicken with a meat thermometer. The temperature should be 165°F (74°C) for the chicken to be safe to eat. You can also pierce the chicken with a fork or a knife, and if the juices run clear, not pink, the chicken is done.

Q: Why is my chicken dry?
A: Your chicken can be dry if you overcook it or if you don’t baste it with enough liquid. You can prevent dry chicken by cooking it to the proper temperature, basting it every 10-15 minutes, and letting it rest for a few minutes before serving it.

Q: Can I freeze cooked chicken?
A: Yes, you can freeze cooked chicken for up to 3 months in an airtight container or a freezer bag. To thaw it, you can leave it in the fridge overnight or microwave it on the defrost setting.

Q: Can I use aluminum foil to cover the chicken while it cooks?
A: Yes, you can cover the chicken with aluminum foil to prevent it from burning or drying out. You should remove the foil during the last 10-15 minutes of cooking to allow the chicken to brown and crisp up.