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get your chick on

Recipe: roast chicken

This past weekend we had roast chicken for dinner in which I finally got off my bum and took pictures. I had a fear of roasting until two or three years ago. That is in large part because I didn’t know what roasting was. One of my favorite cooking magazines is Fine Cooking by Taunton Press. It’s not just the pretty pictures (you can probably tell that I’m a visual person), but I like that they don’t advertise diamonds, luxury cars, cruises, and other things I can’t cook with. They had a lovely spread on how to roast a chicken or two and just like that, I was ready to roast.

Roast chicken is a basic in any cook’s repertoire, and it tastes fantabulous for very little effort. My official taste tester jumps up and down when he sees roast chicken appear on our weekly menu. I just wish I had learned about it earlier, but there is no time for regrets in life! I generally start the day before with a straightforward salt rub of salt, pepper, garlic, and lemon zest.


mix and match as you see fit



This gets rubbed all over the chicken – don’t be shy. And just like the soy sauce chicken, I prefer an organic chicken because it is less fatty and the flavor is superior to conventional. Be sure to gently get under the skin on the breast and rub the salt mix around in there. Next, I take half of the lemon that I zested, and place it in the cavity of the chicken.

rub a dub dub

half a lemon in the cavity



At this point, the chicken should be placed on a rack over a large dish and refrigerated, uncovered for several hours – anywhere from 4 to 24, but I shoot for 24 for maximum flavor. I truss my chicken because my refrigerator is too crowded. Just that the legs wind up kicking the other foods rather unceremoniously if they aren’t tied up.

showing some leg!



After the chicken comes out of the refrigerator, it should rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Brushing melted butter over the chicken helps create a wonderful, crispy skin during roasting. I usually untruss the chicken, brush it over with butter, and retruss it. One chicken is too small for my roaster, so I take the rack from the roaster (the only rack I have), and place it in a baking dish – except one bar always sticks out because it is too big for the dish.

just like the title says: use real butter

this chick is ready for the oven



Roast the chicken for about 40 minutes, breast side up, then flip it and roast another 20 minutes or so. The magazine suggests flipping the bird (ha ha ha, I just realized the funny I made there) with two tongs on either end, one arm of each tong on the inside of the bird. When I first began roasting chicken at our altitude, I always undercooked it. Now, I seem to hit a tad high. That’s okay though, because it’s still juicy and delicious – the way chicken ought to be. I aim between 165-170F in the thigh.

the chicken, she is done



Let the bird rest for five or so minutes before you begin carving it up. And as a side note, I sometimes like to chop up some Yukon gold potatoes, toss them with a touch of olive oil, salt, and pepper and layer the bottom of the baking dish with them. These roast beautifully with the chicken and take on the flavor of those remarkable drippings during the roasting process. Unfortunately, on this round I didn’t feel like roasting potatoes and wound up with a smoking oven because the grease splattered all over the inside. What a pain to clean up… That never happened when I roasted potatoes with the chicken. I love the leftovers even more in sandwiches and salads.

roast chicken for dinner

i know what she’s thinking



Roast Chicken
[print recipe]
Fine Cooking #26

1 whole chicken (about 4 lbs.)
1 lemon
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter
other herbs (optional)

Pat the chicken dry and remove the neck and giblets (reserve for later). Grate zest of lemon into a bowl. Combine with 1 tbsp salt and black pepper (and optional herbs). Rub the mixture over the chicken and inside the cavity. Be sure to get under the skin of the breast and rub some of the seasoning there. Cut the lemon in half and stuff half of it in the cavity. Set chicken on a wire rack on a plate or sheet and refrigerate uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours. A half hour before you are ready to roast, remove the chicken from the refrigerator, set the oven rack to middle, and preheat to 425°F (higher if at elevation). Brush melted butter over the skin and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp of salt. Truss the bird and set it breast side up on a rack in a roasting pan. (If you have vegetables to roast, you can toss them with some salt, pepper, a little olive oil, and chuck them in the bottom of the pan). Roast until breast is nicely browned, about 40 minutes. Then remove from oven and flip the bird over and continue to roast until thickest part of thigh registers 165-170°F (about 20 minutes more). Let rest for 5 minutes before carving.

*Note: If you save the carcass and other bones, you can dump them in a pot of water with the reserved neck and giblets to make chicken broth.

22 nibbles at “get your chick on”

  1. Anh says:

    I love roast chicken. Will do one this weekend if time permits. To too only use organic free-range chicken for roasting. The flavour is soooo different from the normal one.

  2. Cindy says:

    Haha great pictures you got there!
    And good food too of course!

  3. Muffin says:

    …I’m with the dog on this one. You should “accidentally” drop a piece for her.. and while you’re at it, save a piece for me. mmmm…

  4. peabody says:

    Lol- showing some leg!
    Your doggie surely deserves a little chicken…right?

  5. steamy kitchen says:

    that’s one sexy chicken!

  6. holybasil says:

    Jen- This is my husband’s all-time favorite meal. We eat this at least once a week – I’m not kidding. I use a very similar recipe from Marcella Hazan – I think it’s called Chicken with Two Lemons. Anyway, it differs in that it doesn’t call for the lemon zest – which I will have to try now. It’s such a simple step but I’m sure it will add a lot of fragrance and flavor.

  7. Tartelette says:

    I make a similar recipe from Thomas Keller at least once a week. We have a hard time not eating the whole thing. Your dog is irresistible!

  8. Vicki says:

    The last time I roasted a chicken (5-pounder), the thigh joint was still bloody after cooking for an hour and 20 minutes! Had to throw it back in the oven for another 20 minutes – I blame my oven (since replaced because it was 30 years old and the element burned out).

  9. jenyu says:

    Anh – yeah, I can’t believe there are still people who doubt this. I’m really encouraged that here in Colorado, there is enough of a market to make organics profitable so that our grocers are carrying them.

    Cindy – thanks :)

    Muffin – oh trust me, the dog gets her fair share of yummies from the cook… which is why she sits next to me when we eat, and not the guy ;)

    Peabody – yeah, just don’t tell anyone!

    Steamy Kitchen – that chicken was a tad bit immodest if you ask me ;)

    HolyBasil – this is one of my favorite things about food blogging, learning what other variations people try on similar recipes. Some day I’ll get a little daring and move into the realm of adding herbs, but I’m really quite herb-stupid. I shall look to you for guidance ;)

    Tartelette – you must have more mouths to feed than we do – one chicken is far too much for us (although I swear the dog would give it her best shot if allowed).

    Vicki – I too have this problem. It is probably why I have never endeavored to serve this to guests. It’s not a problem for us because we can’t eat that much and when we eat leftovers I will reheat those parts. But yes, isn’t it peculiar? Does it mean it’s safe to eat, just bloody, or does it mean it really needs to be bloody free?

  10. Vicki says:

    Sounds like you and I both need to invest in an instant-read thermometer!

    Immodest maybe, but at least she kept her ankles crossed.

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  12. Nekkutyttoe says:

    I’m a chef-in-training, and have to say, this is the best roast chicken I’ve tried! I actually made this in cooking class, and our teacher liked it.

  13. jenyu says:

    Nekkutyttoe – Ah well, don’t thank me, thank Fine Cooking! :) That’s great that you’re a chef. Best of luck to you!!

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  15. claudinam says:

    I made this yesterday, and it came out PERFECT and delicious. Now, you have to understand, I don’t particularly like to cook (the less work the better, so I always look for easy recipes), I hardly ever cook, and when I do, nothing comes out right. So this is a BIG deal! My husband loved it, too…the only thing he’d like me to do different next time to make it less “lemony”. I am just so inspired by your website! I have the flank steak, right now, as we speak, in my fridge, marinating – it’s what we’ll be grilling tomorrow for Labor Day. Oh – and I’m from Argentina, so I definitely have to try making the empanadas! Thank you!

  16. claudinam says:

    Forgot to say…ADORABLE dog! What a cutie.

  17. jenyu says:

    Claudinam – I’m so glad you found recipes that you like!! I have a hard time believing that you don’t like to cook. It sounds like you are a PRO! Rock on :) And by the way, I *love* Argentina. The food there is amazing!

  18. claudinam says:

    So glad to hear you’re back home…I’m not going to ask you questions as I know your e-mail is piled up as it is…but glad to hear you LOVE Argentina! I haven’t been there in ages, need to go back. I would probably like to cook more if I wasn’t so structured and time-oriented – I am always judging time against what else I could/should be doing that’s more valuable (although eating is pretty valuable haha) – that’s why I look for easy & quick recipes. Plus, it’s not very encouraging that many times when I do decide to cook things don’t come out good!) ANYWAY – stay healthy, and I will be back to try more of your awesome recipes.

  19. Thomas says:

    have you ever tried roasting chicken with a beer can? no basting, comes out moist and tender. Would go good with your mix of seasonings.

  20. jenyu says:

    Thomas – nope. Seen it all over the blogs, but never tried it myself.

  21. Caitlin says:

    I just made this for Christmas and it was the best chicken ever. I’ve started buying local organic free-range chickens and I never really cooked whole chickens before so my boyfriend has been doing intense research on brining vs nonbrining, slow cooking, etc (basically dorking out). But butter, lemon and garlic are – to my mind – the best possible flavorings for pretty much anything. Even better were the potatoes. Oh my god, the potatoes! I peeled a head of garlic and tossed it in with two potatoes cubed (will make more next time, but I didn’t expect them to steal the show) and both crisped up so we had like, garlic fries and crispy potato chicken fat delicious thingies. Thank you so much for a simple yet awesome recipe.

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