Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Roast Chicken with Lemon, Rosemary and Thyme

There are so many schools of thought when it comes to roasting chicken.  Keep it basted, keep it dry, roast it at a low temperature, roast it at a high temperature, let it rest afterwards or not...  I've tried the low and dry method, and the chicken was fine, but not amazing.

Funny how when you start researching chicken recipes you find hundreds, if not thousands, swearing to be the last recipe you'll ever need, but how could so many different techniques yield equally delicious results?

So for dinner the other night, I decided to just do it the way it made sense to me.  And I will tell you, I will not be roasting whole chickens any other way than this from now on.  And I know that now I'm joining the ranks in claiming to have the last recipe you'll ever need, and I won't argue if you have a technique that makes what you consider to be a perfect roast chicken.  Food is so much about individual taste, after all.

But this was that fantastic.  The meat was succulent, flavorful and juicy, even the breast meat, and the golden brown, crispy skin crackled when I took the chicken out of the oven.  That's the moment where you can't help but sneak a little piece.  Tasting the first crackly bite is the cook's privilege.

I always make homemade stock whenever we cook anything on the bone, and our freezer is full of portions of ham, fish, lamb, beef and chicken stock.  So when you pull out the insides of the chicken, don't toss them in the trash; just drop them into your stock pot and set them aside until after dinner.  They'll add wonderful flavor to your homemade stock.  Even the leftover corn cobs went into the stock pot.

After rinsing the chicken, it's important to pat it nice and dry; this will help that golden brown, crispy crust to form on the skin.  Then after stuffing the chicken with lemon, onion and garlic and trussing the legs (I'm not an expert trusser, I just sort of tie it up so that everything is snug and tight), then I rubbed it all over with a mixture of melted butter, salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme and lemon zest.

When Jamie took his first bite, his eyes widened, he looked at me and asked, "How did you make this?"  I like those moments.

Roast Chicken with Lemon, Rosemary and Thyme
printable recipe

  • whole chicken (4-5 pounds)
  • 2 lemons, zested and then quartered
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1/2 sweet yellow onion, cut into chunks
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons coarse Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 cups water

Preheat the oven to 450.  Set a wire rack in a roasting pan so that the chicken is not sitting directly in the pan..

Remove the insides of the chicken and discard, or reserve for making stock (I save everything for stock, even corn cobs).  Rinse the chicken well, then drain and pat completely dry with paper towels.

Stuff the lemon quarters (reserving the zest), garlic and onion in the cavity of the chicken.  Use kitchen twine to truss the chicken so that the legs are snug against the chicken.  Place the chicken on the rack.

In a small bowl, combine the melted butter, salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme and reserved lemon zest.  Rub the mixture all over the chicken, making sure every part is coated.  Position the chicken on the rack, breast side up.

Insert an instant read thermometer into the chicken so that it is not touching bone; near the thigh is a good spot.  Set the thermometer to 165 F.

Place the pan in the middle rack of the oven and roast the chicken until the internal temperature reads 165 F; this may take about 1 1/2 hours, depending on the size of the chicken.  The meat, even the breast meat, will be succulent and juicy, and the skin will be golden brown and crisp.

About halfway through, you will notice that the butter dripping off the chicken onto the pan is starting to smoke - this is because butter has a very low smoke point and will start to smoke as it burns against the bottom of the pan.  This is what the water is for.  When the butter starts to smoke on the pan, just pour the water into the bottom of the pan which will stop the smoking, as well as create some steam which will moisturize the chicken, without softening the crispy brown skin.

After an hour of roasting the chicken, you can start some potatoes or other vegetables, and they'll be done by the time the chicken is ready.

Yields about 4 servings.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen


  1. This looks so yummy! It must be something about the citrus. The holiday that I stuffed my bird with oranges and lemons (at the urging of you and your sister) was the best-tasting and most juicy bird that I ever roasted. I'll try this when my kitchen is set up again!

  2. This looks wonderful and I'll bet it smells heavenly. I've pinned it. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  3. What a lesson in beautiful plating, just stunning!


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