The term roaster chicken is a type of chicken distinguished by the time at which chickens are slaughtered and sold. Typically, roaster chickens are slaughtered when they are about 14 weeks old, which means they are usually larger in size than broilers and fryers which are usually butchered when they are 7 weeks old. Due to its larger size, a roaster chicken is usually roasted whole, though they may also be cut up and fried.
Sometimes people identify a roaster chicken by weight rather than its age at butchering. A roaster chicken will weigh between 5-7 pounds (2.27-3.18 kg), whereas broiler and fryer chickens are less than 6 pounds (2.72 kg), at least according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Some other sources define a roaster chicken as between 6-8 pounds (2.72-3.63 kg). Larger chickens like roasters are noted for having a slightly stronger and richer flavor, which develops well when they are roasted.
Despite the name, roaster chickens are not only prepared by roasting. They may be cut up and used in dishes like chicken cacciatore where they are allowed to simmer slowly for hours with tomatoes, mushroom, garlic, and spices until the meat literally falls off the bone. Roaster chickens can also be used as a base for chicken stock, since they do have a little more flavor, which they’ll impart after hours of boiling. Alternately, roasted chicken carcass can be used to create stock.
One of the benefits of a roaster chicken's size is that these chickens can easily be prepared to serve a larger family. An 8-pound (about 3.6 kilograms) roaster is likely to serve a family of four to six people quite easily. These chickens may also be roasted over things like potatoes or mixed vegetables to employ single pot cooking methods that are very easy to prepare.
As with all poultry, it’s important to cook chicken until it's completely done. A meat thermometer is usually the surefire way to achieve this if it is placed in the thickest part of the chicken breast and the inner part of the thigh or wing. Cooked chicken should measure at 165°F (about 74°C). Roaster chickens often go on sale, and can be frozen if it's not going to be used within one to two days.