How Long to Rest a Roast Chicken — A Temperature Investigation
Take a look at a few results online results, and you’ll see recommended resting times for chicken generally come up at around 15-30 minutes. As temperature experts, we like precise results. So, we decided to investigate what happens to the temperature of a roast chicken as it rests to deduce a more accurate answer to this question. There are also conflicting results on the best way to rest a bird: uncovered, tented with foil, or tightly wrapped. So, while we were there, we decided to investigate this too.
Read on to learn the results and discover a thorough answer to the best way to rest your roast chicken.
We cooked three whole chickens to 74 °C, the safe cooked temperature for chicken. After, we monitored the temperature of the chickens as they rested. We rested one uncovered, one tented in foil and one tightly wrapped in foil and a tea towel.
We looked to see how long it took before each chicken reached 60 °C, as we’d recommend this as a minimum serving temperature. But we also analysed the data to see how much the temperature rose during the rest. Meat continues to rise in temperature once out of the oven due to carryover cooking, and we wanted to see if the different resting methods impacted this.
How did we control the test?
We purchased three medium-sized whole chickens from Sainsbury’s supermarket, each weighing 1.6kg. All were cooked using the oven temperature suggested on their packaging: 190 °C / fan 170 °C.
We monitored the chickens as they cooked using the ETI ThermaData Four-Channel Logger. We used three mini needle probes to monitor the thickest parts of each chicken, removing them from the oven once all of the probes had reached 74 °C.
Once the chickens were removed from the oven, we immediately placed each chicken on a plate and left them to rest using one of the three methods. The data logger continued to monitor them for two hours.
We also used a room thermometer to check the air temperature around the chickens as they rested, as this impacts the resting time. It remained at around 21 °C throughout.
Maximum resting time
- The unwrapped chicken took 59 minutes to reach 60 °C
- The tented chicken took 73 minutes to reach 60 °C
- The wrapped chicken took 100 minutes to reach 60 °C
The results showed that the level of covering during the rest has a significant impact on how long a whole roast chicken stays warm. The tented chicken stayed warm for 14 minutes longer than the uncovered chicken, while the tightly wrapped chicken stayed warm for another 27 minutes on top of that. Even if not covering your chicken at all, if being rested in a relatively warm kitchen, it will stay warm for up to an hour before carving.
- The unwrapped chicken took 15 minutes to reach a peak temperature of 80.6 °C
- The tented chicken took 16 minutes to reach a peak temperature of 80.6 °C
- The tightly wrapped chicken took 15 minutes to reach a peak temperature of 80.4 °C
Interestingly, the results showed that the resting type had no impact on the amount the temperature rose, with each chicken rising around 5 °C during the rest. In addition, they all took the same amount of time to reach their peak temperature: around 15 minutes. Many guidelines suggest carving your chicken after 15 minutes of rest, but our experiment shows that chickens are likely to reach their hottest temperature at this point.
A note on carryover cooking
To gain an even better result from your chicken, you can remove it from the oven a little early. If you cook your chicken to around 70 °C, it should rise to a safe and succulent 74 °C as it rests.
In addition, it’s useful to know that safe cooking temperatures actually work as a temperature and time combination. So if your chicken maintains an internal temperature of 70 °C for two minutes, it’s equally as safe as reaching 75 °C for 30 seconds. These are the cooking combinations recommended by the Food Standards Agency.
- 60 °C for 45 minutes
- 65 °C for 10 minutes
- 70 °C for 2 minutes
- 75 °C for 30 seconds
- 80 °C for 6 seconds
How long is the optimum chicken resting time?
Looking at our results, we would suggest waiting at least 30 minutes before carving your chicken. This will allow the meat to surpass its peak temperature and begin its decline, which is when it will relax and become more juicy.
It can be useful to know the maximum time you can leave the chicken before carving so that you can prepare your sides during this time. This time is dependent on your chosen resting method. Our results suggest that you can wait around 59 minutes for an uncovered chicken, one hour and 13 minutes for a tented chicken, or one hour and 40 minutes for a chicken wrapped in foil and covered with a tea towel.
These times are variable depending on the size of your chicken, the temperature it was when removed from the oven, and the temperature of the room it’s resting in. We always recommend using a meat thermometer to check internal temperatures for a more precise result.
Why rest roast chicken?
Resting meat allows the muscle fibres to relax and for the juices to redistribute, producing a more tender, flavoursome and juicy result.
During our experiment, we noticed that the more we covered the chicken during the rest, the juicier the final result was. Just like cooking a chicken covered or inside a bag, covering whilst resting seems to help the meat better retain the juices. However, it does come at a slight price: it reduces or eliminates the crispy skin.
To summarise, the results from our experiment suggest that the following tips will help you rest your chicken in the optimal way for you:
Cook your chicken around 5 °C below your final desired temperature for a juicer result. The temperature will rise as it rests. We recommend cooking a whole roast chicken to around 70 °C so that it reaches 74 °C.
Tightly wrapping and covering your chicken can enable you to wait longer (up to one hour and 40 minutes) before carving so you can cook other elements of your meal. It can also make the meat juicier but with a less crispy skin.
Resting your meat uncovered in a relatively warm room will provide up to an hour before it needs to be carved whilst preserving the crispy skin.
Always wait at least 30 minutes before carving to allow the temperature to finish rising and begin its decline. This will make it a more comfortable temperature for carving. Plus, the muscle fibres will relax, and the juices will redistribute.