One of the steps that separates a mediocre roast chicken from a memorable one is basting. It is important to use a quality bird and cook it at the right temperature for the right amount of time, but if you don't succeed in the basting department, your efforts may fall short. Basting adds flavor and moisture, and helps create a gravy, so it's important to get it right.
Baste your chicken about every 20 to 30 minutes as it roasts. The exact number of times you end up basting it depends on the size of the chicken, and the estimated cooking time. Usually, you will baste it 3 to 4 times. Take the time to check the temperature toward the end of the roasting time to ensure the chicken is at a safe internal temperature. When it reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit in the thickest part of the breast with a meat thermometer, it's ready to come out.
A standard turkey baster makes an adequate tool for basting a roast chicken, but if you don't have one you can use a large metal spoon for the same effect. As the drippings accumulate in the bottom of the roasting pan, suck them up with the baster or spoon them up and pour them over the chicken. A basting brush will also work, by dipping it in the juices and brushing them over the skin. When you baste, remove the roasting pan from the oven and close the door so the temperature inside the oven remains constant.
Basting the chicken with its own natural juices that have been mixed with chopped vegetables in the roasting pan is a common way to baste, but you may want to add even more flavor. On the stovetop, make a basting liquid with flavors that complement the chicken, such as white wine, chicken stock and fresh herbs like thyme. Each time you remove the chicken for basting, use the liquid from the stovetop. Some other possible basting liquid ingredients to add flavor include beer, butter, dried herbs, soy sauce, mustard and hot peppers.
A Different Approach
If you can't be in the kitchen every half-hour to baste your chicken, try using a different approach. Make a flavored butter by mixing a few cloves of garlic and chopped parsley with about a half-cup of butter. Next, pull the skin away from the breasts of the chicken so you can reach underneath and push the butter mixture under the skin of both breasts. Reserve a small amount of butter to rub on the outside of the skin and then roast it as normal. The butter under the skin helps keep the meat moist. Baste it once about halfway through the cooking time for added flavor, if possible.