Prepare a memorable holiday dinner the whole family will love with this roast Christmas chicken with an orange-ginger glaze! After rubbing the whole bird with a medley of warm spices, we cook it to perfection to make the most tender, juicy roast chicken. Best of all, this easy roast chicken requires less than 30 minutes of hands-on preparation time to make holiday entertaining simple as can be.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
Holiday flavor in every bite: No bland chicken here. Between the flavorful dry rub and spiced orange glaze, you won’t find a more flavorful chicken. You'll want to enjoy this chicken all holiday season long.
Makes a beautiful presentation: A whole roasted chicken always looks impressive on a serving platter to elevate your Christmas celebration. A special occasion calls for a meal that turns heads.
Uses a world-renowned chef’s roasting technique: Thomas Keller, the eight-time Michelin-starred chef of Napa’s famous French Laundry, has a simple roasting method that gives perfect results every time with minimal effort. We simply dry brine the bird and then blast the chicken at one high temperature — no basting and alternating temperatures required to make an ultra juicy, moist chicken.
Easier than you’d think: Roasting a whole chicken can seem a bit intimidating the first time, but once you do it, you’ll see it’s truly not a difficult process. We’ll walk through the directions step by step to show you how to master roasting a chicken.
Here, the pictured ingredients are for both the glaze and Christmas chicken. Besides the chicken, the aromatics, olive oil, salt and dry rub are for our roast while the other ingredients are for the glaze. Now for a few notes to set you up for success.
Whole chicken: I like to use a chicken that’s about 3 to 4 pounds. Smaller chickens are known for having more tender meat. That said, sometimes the grocery store may only have a 5 or 6 pound chicken, and that will still work. Just know that a larger chicken size will require additional cooking time.
Aromatics: We use these to stuff the chicken cavity. For this recipe, we use a combination of orange wedges, onion wedges, thyme, rosemary and sage. We’re looking for fresh herb sprigs here, not dried herbs.
Dry rub: This includes a blend of brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, onion powder, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. We’ll also use a touch of that cinnamon for the glaze.
Orange juice: While you can certainly use freshly squeezed orange juice, bottled juice works well here too.
Maple syrup: You’ll love the depth of flavor this gives the glaze. Make sure you use real maple syrup, not pancake syrup.
Ginger: We want to grate the ginger here. If you can plan ahead, I like to first peel the ginger with a spoon and then freeze it. Frozen ginger grates even easier than fresh. In fact, I always keep frozen ginger on hand, so it’s ready to go for any occasion.
I like to start with the glaze first. We can make it ahead of time, so we don't have to fuss with it while hosting. Of course, if you don’t have a chance to take care of it before serving time, you can make it while the chicken cooks.
Step 1: We begin by stirring together the orange juice, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, ginger, garlic, cinnamon and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan over medium heat (photo 1).
Step 2: While the mixture heats, we stir together the cornstarch with a splash of water to make a slurry. Once the orange juice mixture is near a simmer, we stir in the cornstarch slurry and bring it to a simmer until it’s thick enough to coat a wooden spoon like so (photo 2). We turn off the heat and stir in some fresh orange zest.
Step 1: We prepare our chicken by removing any innards from the cavity, patting it dry with paper towels and generously sprinkling it with coarse kosher salt (photo 3). Now we stuff the cavity with the orange and onion wedges and fresh herbs and tie the legs together tightly (photo 4). I find the legs stay together better if we tie them at this stage.
We now place the chicken in the refrigerator uncovered to dry brine. Plan for at least eight hours, but it’s even better if you can give it 24 hours.
Step 2: After the chicken has a chance to dry brine, we remove it from the refrigerator and brush it with olive oil (photo 5).
Step 3: For our next step, we stir together the spices and rub the mixture all over the chicken. Make sure you gently lift the skin and rub some spices on the meat as well (photo 6).
Step 4: To ensure we roast our chicken to perfection, we insert a leave-in meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh like so (photo 7) and place the roasting pan in a 450-degree F oven.
Step 5: When the internal temperature of the chicken reaches about 130-140 degrees F, we brush the sticky glaze on top of the chicken and return it to the oven to finish roasting (photo 8). The chicken is finished when the thigh reaches 165 degrees F.
Tip: Spoon some of the glaze into a small bowl for this first round of brushing. This avoids cross-contamination.
Step 6: Now we remove the chicken from the oven, brush with glaze again and let the chicken rest for 10-15 minutes (photo 9). This resting phase allows the juices to redistribute to the meat and gives the internal temperature time to rise another 10 degrees or so.
While the chicken thighs are safe to eat at 165 degrees F, they’re even better around 175 degrees F. White meat cooks faster than the legs and thighs, so that section should be fine by the time the dark meat finishes.
For a lovely presentation on your Christmas table, I like to surround the chicken with fresh rosemary sprigs, orange slices and whole cranberries. A few cinnamon sticks would also make a cute touch. Feel free to get creative here.
All that’s left is to carve and serve this beautiful roast Christmas chicken! It's truly the perfect meal to spread holiday cheer. If you have extra glaze, you’re more than welcome to spoon some on the side for dipping.
What to Serve on the Side
My absolute favorite side dish is this ultimate smoked mac and cheese. The smoker adds a wonderful depth of flavor to the mac and cheese, and since the smoker does the work, your oven is free for this chicken. If you don’t have a smoker, the recipe includes oven directions, and you can bake it as the chicken rests.
For more side dishes for your holiday menu, you’ll love these family favorites.
- Croissant stuffing
- Smoked mashed potatoes
- Green bean casserole
- Sweet potato soufflé
- Crispy fingerling potatoes
- Brandied cranberry sauce
- Brown butter mashed potatoes
Place the chicken breast-side up with the neck away from you. Then, place a long piece of kitchen twine under the neck area and pull the twine toward you while tucking the wings under the twine. Criss-cross the string on the left side under the right leg, repeat on the other side, and pull tightly.
I like to wrap the twine around the legs a few times to ensure it’s nice and tight. If you’d like a visual reference, here’s a quick guide on how to truss a chicken.
For an even simpler preparation, you can tie the legs together, and then tuck the wing tips under the chicken leg quarters. The wings won't be quite as close to the body, but this method still works if you have trouble with the more traditional method.
I highly recommend brining the chicken for best results. With the dry brining method, the salt first draws the moisture from the skin and meat. Over time, the moisture dissolves the salt back into the chicken to make for tastier, juicier meat. This process also makes for crispier skin.
A wet brine involves boiling together water, salt and desired aromatics and then soaking the chicken. I use a wet brine for my smoked turkey legs, which works beautifully with that recipe, and you can certainly use that method if you prefer. But dry brining is quicker, cleaner and still results in perfect roast chicken. If you do use a wet brine, dry the skin well before roasting.
Expect a 3- to 4-pound chicken to take about 50-60 minutes with the caveat that every piece of meat cooks a bit differently. This is just a guideline. Of course, if you have a larger chicken, you’ll need to add more time — plan for about 15-20 extra minutes per additional pound.
This method from Thomas Keller calls for roasting chicken at 450 degrees F the whole time. While this is hotter than some methods that start with high heat and then finish with a lower temperature, there’s no need to worry about dry meat. Between the dry brining and monitoring our internal temperature, the meat is juicy perfection. Plus, bone-in, skin-on chicken stays moister than boneless chicken breasts.
As long as you keep the cooked chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator, it should last for three to four days. You can also freeze the chicken for up to four months for best quality.
Fully thaw your chicken before brining: If the bird is still frozen, it won’t let the brine work its magic to get that wonderfully flavorful, juicy chicken.
Line the roasting pan with aluminum foil: This makes cleanup quick and easy. After all, you don't want to spend Christmas Eve scrubbing pans.
Only use the orange zest, not the white of the orange peel: The white pith can make the glaze bitter. We just want the fresh orange peel. To get the peel, you can use a zester or microplane grater.
Get extra crispy skin: The glaze will soften the skin a bit. If you want to maintain the crispy skin, only lightly glaze it right before serving and serve extra on the side.
Let the chicken sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes before roasting: This helps take the chill off the chicken to cook more evenly.
If you’d like to pair a beer with your Christmas meal, try a Belgian witbier. This effervescent sipper shows off citrusy orange notes to complement both the chicken and the glaze, and you’ll love how the clove-like yeast matches the warm dry rub spices.
Gewürztraminer is wonderful if you prefer a wine pairing. The floral, honey and ginger undertones of the wine blend beautifully with the cinnamon, allspice and cloves. A dry riesling is also a nice option with its zippy acidity.
Maybe you’d like a cocktail. My French 76 is a vodka-based Champagne cocktail with a touch of fresh lemon juice that’s perfect for sipping with just about anything. Besides, who doesn’t love a little bubbly for the holidays? My cranberry mule is also a festive option and goes well with the glaze.
For a lovely holiday dinner, I hope you try this roast Christmas chicken. With the tender, juicy meat and delightful citrus glaze, you’ll love every bite. Have a very merry Christmas feast.
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Roast Christmas Chicken With Orange-Ginger Glaze
- Kitchen twine
- Roasting pan with rack
- Aluminum foil
- ½ cup orange juice
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 1 garlic clove grated or minced
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch of salt
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- Splash of water
- Pinch of fresh orange zest optional
Roast Christmas Chicken
- 1 whole chicken thawed and innards removed
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- ½ orange cut into wedges
- ½ yellow onion cut into wedges
- Several sprigs fresh rosemary
- Several sprigs fresh sage
- Several sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together orange juice, maple syrup, garlic, ginger, apple cider vinegar, cinnamon and salt. Bring to a near simmer.
- In a small cup, stir together the cornstarch and water to make a slurry. Pour the slurry into the orange juice mixture and cook until it's thicken enough to coat a wooden spoon. Turn off the heat and stir in the orange zest if desired. Set aside.
Roast Christmas Chicken
- Pat chicken dry with paper towels, including the cavity. Sprinkle the chicken all over with salt. Fill the cavity with the orange, onion, rosemary, sage and thyme. Tie the legs together with the kitchen twine. Place in the refrigerator uncovered to dry brine for at least eight hours, preferably up to 24 hours.
- Remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Brush with olive oil.
- Stir together the chili powder, brown sugar, garlic powder, black pepper, paprika, onion powder, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Rub all over the chicken skin as well as the meat underneath. Let the chicken sit in room temperature for 30-60 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oven to 450 degrees F.
- Place chicken on a greased wire rack of a roasting pan lined with aluminum foil. Insert a leave-in thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone to avoid an inaccurate reading. Place roasting pan in the oven uncovered.
- When the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 130-140 degrees F, brush with the glaze. Continue cooking until the internal temperature of the thigh reaches 165 degrees F.
- Remove the chicken from the oven and brush with the glaze again. Allow the chicken to rest for 10-15 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute into the meat. Carve and enjoy!
- Store leftovers in an airtight container for three to four days. The chicken can also be frozen in a freezer-safe container for up to four months for best quality.
- Fully thaw your chicken before brining. If the bird is still frozen, it won’t let the brine work its magic to get that wonderfully flavorful, juicy chicken.
- Only use the orange zest, not the white of the orange peel. The white pith can make the glaze bitter. We just want the fresh orange peel. To get the peel, you can use a zester or microplane grater.
- The glaze will soften the skin a bit. If you want to maintain the crispy skin, only lightly glaze it right before serving and serve extra on the side.
- The cayenne pepper and chili powder give this chicken a light kick that's lovely with the warm spices. However, if you're sensitive to heat, feel free to reduce the amount by half.
- Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.