Which Oven Rack To Roast A Chicken in an Oven

Cooking chicken is a delightful pastime that allows us to enjoy a variety of delectable dishes. However, attaining the ideal cooking outcome depends not only on the seasoning and preparation but also on where you position the chicken in your oven.

chicken on grill

The right oven rack position can significantly impact the outcome of your chicken, from its texture to its overall flavor.

To ensure consistent cooking, place the chicken in the center of the oven. When using a standard oven, place the chicken on the lowest third rack, which will put it straight in the center. In a typical oven, avoid putting the chicken on the top rack. In a traditional oven, heat rises from the bottom element, therefore the top will be the hottest. Because heat circulates uniformly throughout the oven in a convection oven, the chicken can be placed on any rack, but the center is preferable.

In this article, we will explore the best oven rack position for chicken and how it can elevate your culinary game.

Understanding the Importance of Oven Rack Placement

Before diving into the specifics, let’s understand why oven rack placement matters when cooking chicken.

The position of the oven rack determines how close the chicken is to the heat source, affecting the cooking time and temperature distribution.

Placing chicken in the wrong rack can lead to uneven cooking, leaving some parts undercooked or overcooked. To ensure a succulent and evenly cooked chicken, it’s crucial to place it on the appropriate oven rack.

Best Oven Rack Position for Chicken: Middle Rack

chicken on oven

In most cases, the ideal oven rack position for cooking chicken is the middle rack.

The middle rack provides a balance of heat distribution, allowing the chicken to cook thoroughly without becoming too dry or burnt.

When using the middle rack, the chicken is positioned at a medium distance from both the top and bottom heating elements, ensuring even cooking from all sides.

Cooking Chicken on the Middle Rack

To cook chicken on the middle rack, follow these simple steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to the recommended temperature for the specific chicken dish.
  2. Place the chicken on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan.
  3. Place the baking sheet or pan containing the chicken on the oven’s middle rack.
  4. Allow the chicken to cook for the prescribed time, periodically checking its internal temperature for doneness.

Oven Rack Position for Specific Chicken Dishes

While the middle rack is a safe bet for most chicken dishes, certain recipes may benefit from a different oven rack placement. Let’s explore various chicken dishes and the ideal rack positions for each:

Roasting Whole Chicken: Lower Rack

When roasting an entire chicken, place it on the lower rack. This positioning ensures that the chicken’s skin becomes crispy and the meat remains tender and juicy.

Placing the whole chicken closer to the bottom heating element allows the heat to circulate effectively, resulting in a deliciously roasted bird.

Broiling Chicken: Top Rack

The top rack is ideal for meals that require broiling, such as chicken with a glaze or marinade.

Broiling exposes the chicken to direct heat from the top element, creating a caramelized and flavorful crust on the surface while keeping the meat moist and tender.

Baking Chicken Breasts: Middle Rack

When baking chicken breasts, the middle rack remains the most suitable option.

This ensures that the chicken breasts cook evenly, and the delicate white meat retains its natural juiciness.

Using the middle rack prevents excessive browning or drying out of the chicken breasts.

Grilling Chicken: Lower Rack

When using the oven for “grilling” chicken, opt for the lower rack. This method allows the excess fat and juices to drip down, reducing the risk of flare-ups and creating a delectable grilled-like texture.

Slow-Cooking Chicken: Middle or Lower Rack

For slow-cooking chicken, both the middle and lower racks can be used. Placing the chicken on the middle rack results in gentler and more even cooking, while the lower rack intensifies the flavors through caramelization. Choose based on the desired outcome and cooking time.

Cooking Chicken Wings: Upper or Middle Rack

To achieve crispy chicken wings, the upper or middle rack works wonders. Placing the wings closer to the top heating element promotes even browning, resulting in irresistible and crispy delights.

placement tips in mind and enjoy a delightful and satisfying meal.

Factors Affecting Oven Rack Placement


While the general guidelines are helpful, several factors can influence oven rack placement when cooking chicken:

Thickness of Chicken

Thicker cuts of chicken, such as whole chickens or bone-in pieces, may require lower rack positions to ensure thorough cooking. Thinner cuts, like chicken breasts or wings, are better suited for the middle or upper racks.

Cooking Method

To obtain the desired result, different cooking methods, such as roasting, broiling, baking, grilling, or slow-cooking, demand differing rack positions.

Temperature and Time

Adjusting the oven temperature and cooking time can also impact the oven rack position. Higher temperatures often call for lower rack placements, while lower temperatures work well with middle or upper racks.

How to Roast a Chicken in a Conventional Oven

To roast a chicken in a conventional oven, follow these steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Rinse the chicken inside and out, and pat it dry with paper towels.
  3. Season the chicken with your desired herbs, spices, and salt, ensuring the flavors penetrate the meat.
  4. Place the chicken breast-side up on a roasting pan or baking dish.
  5. Roast the chicken on the lower rack of the oven for about 20 minutes per pound, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C).
  6. Let the roasted chicken rest for a few minutes before carving and serving.

How to Make a Vegetable Side for Chicken

vegetable grill

Cut two large carrots into one-inch pieces, quarter six red potatoes or Yukon gold potatoes, and peel and chop one medium yellow onion into one-inch pieces to add flavor and make a dinner out of the chicken.

A white or red onion can also suffice. Onions will enhance the flavor of the dish. Cut one head of garlic in half and mix half with the other vegetables, saving the other half for inside the chicken.

Place all of the vegetables in a bowl, sprinkle with rosemary, and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss the vegetables together to coat evenly.

Put the chicken on a rack and the vegetables in a roasting pan underneath.

How to Cook a Chicken on a Wire Rack

A wire rack placed over a roasting pan when cooking chicken allows heated air to circulate throughout the entire bird. As a result, the chicken will cook more quickly and develop crispy skin on both sides.

According to Meridith Laurence of Blue Jean Chef, liquids like water or chicken stock should be placed in the bottom of the roasting pan to serve as a gravy basis.

In addition, you can include any other veggies you choose to cook, including potatoes, onions, zucchini, and yellow squash. Chicken juices will drip into the pan and combine with the liquid to form the foundation of the gravy.


Choosing the right oven rack position when cooking chicken is a crucial yet often overlooked aspect of achieving culinary excellence.

The middle rack remains the safest and most versatile option, delivering evenly cooked and succulent chicken.

However, for specific chicken dishes, adjusting the oven rack position can elevate the taste and texture to new heights.

So, the next time you cook chicken, keep these oven rack placement tips in mind and enjoy a delightful and satisfying meal.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I use the top rack for roasting a whole chicken?

While using the top rack for roasting a whole chicken may result in quicker cooking, it can also lead to uneven browning and a less juicy outcome. It’s best to stick with the lower rack for roasting a whole chicken.

Should I place chicken on a baking sheet or directly on the oven rack?

To prevent dripping and mess, it’s recommended to place the chicken on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan. This also allows for better heat circulation around the chicken.

Can I use the middle rack for broiling chicken?

While the middle rack is suitable for various cooking methods, broiling is more effective when done on the top rack, closer to the heating element.

How do I know when the chicken is fully cooked?

Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. For chicken, it should reach at least 165°F (74°C) to be safely consumed.

Can I cook chicken wings on the lower rack for a healthier option?

Yes, cooking chicken wings on the lower rack allows excess fat to drip away, making it a healthier option compared to frying.