Chicken is arguably one of the most common meats that people within the United States will eat for a meal. After all, compared to other meats, chicken tends to be on the cheaper side of things, it is easy to obtain, and it is versatile enough to be used in a number of different meals and dishes.
With that in mind, this naturally means that there is going to be a fair bit more variety in the number of ways that one can cook their chicken. People can fry their chicken, cook it in a pan, bake it in the oven, and countless other ways to prepare the perfect dish of chicken.
Because of this, people may not know the best way to exactly cook their chicken, whether it should just go on a baking tray in the oven and be left as is, or whether the chicken should get its own dedicated surface to cook the chicken on.
Of course, there are going to be a few different ways that you can go about cooking your chicken, with each method bringing its own benefits and disadvantages compared to the others.
There are three main methods that people use to cook their chicken and they are all fairly similar to each other. Some people will use the standard baking tray, with or without foil, to cook their chicken with, while other people may consider using a roasting pan for specific types of chicken in specific dishes.
There are even some people who will add a rack to their roasting pan to allow for the chicken fat to drip down and not soak back into the chicken.
Each method of cooking chicken in the oven has its benefits over the other, meaning that the one that works best for you will depend on what exactly you are making and what you want out of it.
Cooking Chicken on a Baking Tray
When putting chicken into the oven, this is going to be by far the most common way that chicken is cooked. It is the most accessible method, the most straightforward, and the easiest to consider as just about everyone has a baking tray that they can use in their oven.
With this method, you don’t have to do much to the chicken to prepare it. All you really need to do, depending on the recipe, is prepare the chicken pieces as you would normally do, place them onto the baking tray with adequate space between each piece, season them as needed, and then stick the entire thing into the oven.
More often than not, when baking chicken on a baking tray, you do not need to cover it so you do not need to worry about finding something to cover it all with, unless the recipe that you are working from specifically calls for it.
Additionally, you do not need to really consider altering cooking times or anything similar to that as this is often considered the standard method of cooking chicken.
This is where some of the disadvantages of using a baking tray come in. The baking tray is considered standard for a reason; it works and it isn’t complex. Naturally, this doesn’t leave a lot of room for anything unique or special.
There is nothing special that you can do when using a baking tray to cook your chicken, and there is nothing unique that using a baking tray can add to the dish (in the sense of how using a cast iron pan rather than a standard copper one can make a massive difference).
Cooking your chicken in the oven with a baking tray is the most reliable method and it will get you the results that you can count on, but nothing more than that.
Cooking Chicken in a Roasting Pan
The second most common method for cooking and preparing chicken in the oven is by using a roasting pan.
Not everyone is aware that a roasting pan is a separate piece of kitchenware that can be used separately from a baking tray but the truth is that it can benefit you quite a bit when using it to cook chicken.
Roasting pans are similar to baking trays but the “walls” of the tray tend to have more height to them than a standard baking tray would, turning it into something closer to a pan.
The height of the roasting pan’s walls will depend on the pan that you purchase. For cooking chicken, it is generally recommended that you purchase a relatively shallow roasting pan.
These walls work as much the opposite of a baking sheet would. Rather than leaving the chicken open and exposed to the heat of the oven, the walls of the roasting pan allow for heat to get trapped inside of it, creating an even roast for your chicken rather than just a standard bake.
In a sense, the roasting pot was considered to be the original crockpot because this is essentially what it allows you to do with the meats that you cook in it, letting you cook, baste, and braise vegetables while you cook the chicken itself.
The roasting pan is something that is most commonly used around the holiday season as most people are preparing various roasts of meat for Thanksgiving and Christmas, among other holidays, but this shouldn’t stop you from bringing out the roasting pan for a chicken that you want to cook any other time of the year.
If you are looking to make a chicken-based roast specifically, whether you want to include vegetables or not with it, the roasting pan is going to be your best choice.
The downsides of it are that they tend to be expensive and bulky to deal with and not everyone has one in their home, making it a bit of an investment if you do not already have one. However, if you do already have one, then it will be well worth making use out of it.
Using a Rack with the Roasting Pan
The final way that people cook their chicken involves using the roasting pan again, but this time, rather than adding vegetables and starches to your dish to roast with it and add more flavor, you will just be cooking the chicken atop a rack.
The rack will allow for the chicken’s fat and oils to collect underneath it, which can then be used to make gravy or other foods that make use of meat fats.
Again, you will want to use a particularly shallow roasting pan for this, unless you have a spacious oven, so that you will have enough room for the chicken to sit on top of the rack.
The rack can be purchased as an accessory to the roasting pan or you can make do if you have a rack that conveniently fits the size of the roasting pan you currently own.
Using the rack allows for your chicken to be somewhat healthier as the excess oil and fats will cook out of it and collect at the bottom of the pan and you can make use of them, which is one of the biggest benefits of using this method.
The downside to it is that, again, not everyone has a roasting pan in their kitchen arsenal, meaning that it might be a bit of an investment to make for one chicken dish.
These are the most common methods that people rely on for cooking their chicken within the oven, with each method having its own purposes compared to the next method.
The method that works best for you will depend on what you have in your kitchen and what your recipe calls for from your chicken, but you can feel confident knowing that with these methods, you will be able to make a delicious chicken your whole family can enjoy.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.