Food

The Best Roast Chicken You’ll Ever Have

Whenever I eat roast chicken, I remember the book A Year in Provence, where Peter Mayle talks about how his friends would invite him to a leisurely outdoor lunch every Sunday, featuring lemony roast chicken and lots of wine. Herbed, moist, almost buttery–roast chicken can be such a treat, as well as a perfect weeknight meal. Here, the genius Caitlin from Roost shares her favorite roast chicken recipe…

The Best Roast Chicken You’ll Ever Have
By Caitlin Van Horn from Roost

If there’s one dish that has faithfully remained on my weekly meal rotation, it’s a roasted chicken. For years I feared making my own, usually resorting to the over-cooked and unfortunately dry store-bought rotisserie chickens. It wasn’t so much the uneasiness of working with a raw chicken that kept me from roasting myself but rather the superfluous task of trussing. I could never figure it out, and, although I understand that it’s aesthetically pleasing, I find that simply tying the legs together is more than efficient. No wrapping, tucking, or twisting; a simple tie around the legs is all you need to keep your bird from “spreading eagle.” Or is it “spreading chicken”?

Moving on. This recipe I share with you today needs to be engrained on your brain. It is so simple, and I find its effortlessness is what makes it such a flavorful and succulent bird. The addition of fresh herbs such as thyme, marjoram, rosemary and lavender lends a beautiful fragrance, while lemon and garlic infuse the meat, leaving it perfectly moist.

Unlike the most beloved Thanksgiving turkey, a small chicken can roast in less than an hour. No brining, basting or flipping required. In addition to this dish being deliciously simple it is a fabulous way to impress your family and friends. They will think you slaved away in the kitchen preparing such a feast, but don’t worry: your secret is safe with me. Enjoy!

Recipe: The Best Roast Chicken You’ll Ever Have

You’ll need:
3-4 lb free range chicken, giblets removed (mine came with the giblets already removed; you can ask the butcher to remove them, if you wish)
1 lemon, cut in half
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
5 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tbsp fresh marjoram, chopped
1 tbsp fresh culinary lavender, chopped (I used Jacobs Farm green lavender which is picked just before it flowers; they sell it at most Whole Foods stores)
Salt and pepper

Rinse chicken under cold water and pat dry. It is very important that you dry it well; any excess water will turn to steam in the oven and prevent the skin from getting nice and crispy.

Insert lemon, garlic, sprigs of thyme and rosemary in the cavity of the bird, and tie the legs together with kitchen twine.

Using your fingers, massage the butter all over the skin of the bird. Any excess can be rubbed under the skin of the breasts.

Sprinkle the chopped herbs all over the bird, and generously dash with salt and a lot of pepper.

Let chicken sit for one hour until it’s about room temperature.

While the bird is coming to room temperature, remove the middle rack in your oven and preheat to 450F. Place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or roasting pan into the oven while it preheats.

When oven is ready carefully remove roasting skillet/pan, and place the chicken, breast side up, into the pan. Return pan to oven and roast for 45 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 165F when inserted into the thickest part of the bird (the breast).

(Note: If you have a larger bird, you may need to increase the ingredients and roasting time.)

Thank you so much, Caitlin!

P.S. More best-of recipes, including chocolate banana bread and a lazy egg sandwich.

(Photos by Caitlin from Roost; thanks to Shoko for help with this series)

  1. this is a delicious recipe but some herbs are not easily available in my country, you may also see my personal blog of lechon business operation in Philippines

  2. Using this recipe for yet another Holiday. Thank you Jo, and Cait

  3. This is a nice thing you have done to the chicken :) I need to have a rice (I’m Asian lol) if I see this on our table. You can see my roasted chicken recipe that became our business on the long run.
    best lechon

    Thanks for sharing your recipe!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Speechless, because when I tried it at my home the test was awesome thanks for the recipes.
    Chickens for sale

  6. Have to say I love this recipe, I would love it if you would be so nice guest post one chicken recipe on my site?

    http://chickenprepare.com/
    It’s only about chicken :)

    With thanks,
    Arni.

  7. I’ve used this recipie twice and you’re right, it is the best I’ve had!

  8. Breast aesthetics, there is a lot I do not know about. There are those from Turkey you recommend Dr. Ali mezdeği. Do you have that information?
    Meme estetiği

  9. I made this chicken for Thanksgiving (just me and my husband, no need for a big ol’ turkey). This recipe is so easy and sooo good! The chicken is juicy on the inside, crispy on the outside, and so flavorful. I would make it again and again!

  10. I truly like to reading your post. Thank you so much for taking the time to share such a nice information.
    the greasy chicken

  11. I made this last night for my boyfriend and it is just as wonderful as described. 450 is perfect, it’s also the temp used by Chef Thomas Keller on his simple roast chicken. Making this recipe made me feel like a Domestic Goddess and I will be making it again and again!

    Some notes on changes necessitated by my grocery store, only five pound birds were availiable, so it had to stay in the oven longer. I also could not find thyme or culinary lavender, so I substituted a very small amount of sage (since it’s powerful) on the top of the bird only. Divine, crispy on the outside and juicey on the inside. I never eat the skin normally, but this was too good! We even had trouble carving it, because every time we tugged on a leg the meat melted off the bone!

    • How long did the 5lb bird take at 450? Did the skin start to burn/did you have to cover it? Mine is in the oven now, thanks!!

  12. Anonymous says...

    Hmmm..I don’t know about this at all. At 450 degrees you are sucking the juice right out of that poor bird so to speak. Less than an hour? You’ll have dry meat that although not pink, is inedible. Try 325 instead at 2 hours, basting like crazy. 1 tbsp of butter is not nearly enough either. Use half a tub if you must! Also, don’t over compensate with too many herbs. Use spices instead. My favorites are a mix of paprika, garlic powder, salt, pepper and yes, the rosemary for the herb. Trust me….mine will be the best you’ve ever eaten.

  13. Made this for the hubby last night and boy did he love it. I’ve only ever attempted to roast a chicken once before and it turned out horribly. This time, it was a dream. I’m so happy to have this recipe.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but my chicken was a little over 3.5 lbs and I had a lot of the herb mixture left over, so I may do a little less than 1 tbsp for each herb next time, but other than that everything turned out perfectly :)

  14. Anonymous says...

    I ran across this recipe and made it this morning. Oh my word-my house smells AMAZING! It is the best yummiest chicken I have ever had! I roasted it at 425 degrees for 55 minutes though. Thanks!

  15. Thank you for sharing this. It’s a wonderful recipe. I recently read A Year In Provence, such a good book!

  16. Jo!

    I tried this recipe spur of the moment and it was AMAZING! SERIOUSLY, my very picky husband loved it. It has an amazing rustic presentation and I felt all smancy! Thanks for the suggestion!

  17. That looks delicious! I am definitely going to make this within the next month. Yum!

  18. When I was a kid, I thought roast chicken was a very fancy dinner. As I’ve grown up, it becomes an absolute staple for us. I love cold roast chicken, the day after it’s been cooked, all by itself. Heavenly.

  19. Anonymous says...

    love your blog! The BEST roasted chicken pieces I have ever made are on the Smitten Kitchen website…buttermilk roasted chicken. This looks awesome too!
    Susan – williamsburg, va

  20. Love Caitlin’s blog! Never seen a food blog this beautiful.

  21. OH MY GOD this looks amazing…You need to get a chicken from the farm so that it’s amazing like this one! I had the best roast chicken in my life when I was like 7, in Portugal…

    http://www.aboutfoood.blogspot.com

  22. Lovely photos and such a simple, perfect recipe. The cauliflower is a great alternative to potatoes!

  23. Thanks Jo.

    I love roast chicken and I loved that book!

    Ronnie xo

  24. AMAZING!

    xoxo,

    colormenana.blogspot.com

  25. Anonymous says...

    toast chicken is my favorite and this looks great!

  26. Caz says...

    Oooh this looks so good!
    I’ve used thyme with chicken before, but never rosemary or lavender – can’t wait to give it a try :)

  27. This series is genius :) I think you need to do other classic how-tos! Something in the field of manners would be great…especially when it comes to helping others through sickness, grief, life changes, etc.

  28. maryfe says...

    Although the Zuni Roast chicken is my go-to recipe for roast chicken this one got me drooling. I might give it a try next week!

  29. Roost is where I go to drool and dream about culinary masterpieces – so glad you invited Caitlin to share! Even better, I’ve been wondering about how to make a delicious roast chicken at my skill level (no trussing, please!) and this looks/sounds perfect! Can’t wait to try it out!

  30. Her photographs are just too beautiful.

    I made a similar roast chicken this week and nothing beats such a classic and effortless meal. I love this Wednesday recipe feature and I have my fingers crossed that it continues!

  31. Drool. And I love the sound of the outdoor lunch from A Year in Provence… So nostalgic. Especially the wine part :)

  32. Anonymous says...

    This sounds like an excellent (and easier, with no flipping involved) version of “Engagement Chicken!” :)

  33. Anonymous says...

    I love your “Best” recipes! I’ve tried many of them and they have certainly met my expectations. Keep them coming!

  34. Brilliant timing…. I just got a chicken to roast for tommoro’s supper with the family. I will certainly try this recipe out. Looks and sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing

  35. Melissa says...

    Looks absolutely delicious!Definitely have to try it! My favorite roast chicken is beer can chicken…stick a can of beer up its butt before you roast it and it ends up being so moist and lovely on the inside!

  36. Are you kidding me? This recipe sounds and looks totally delicious! This is going on my list of recipes to make over the next week. ;-)

  37. I love roasted chicken, I think it’s one of those dishes that are so simple, yet so delicious and comforting. Thank you for sharing the recipe!

  38. Always looking for those great recipes :)

  39. I never know what to do with a whole chicken. I’m kind of intimidated by it! Thanks so much for this. Maybe now I can attempt this!
    Jennifer:)

  40. I adore a Year in Provence. Looks delish! I’ve also found that brining the chicken first makes a world of difference in flavor and juiciness!

  41. I’m quite confident in the kitchen for the most part, but roasting a chicken is so daunting to me! I’ll have to give this a try. I can do this! I know I can!

  42. Mmm, I love roast chicken! Like an above commenter, a free-range roast chicken is one of my few exceptions to a mostly veggie diet… so delicious and so many meals out of one bird!

    I will note though that food safety agencies recommend NOT washing raw poultry (or any meat). All it does is cross-contaminate your surfaces (sink, faucets, dishtowels) when cooking is what will kill any bacteria.

  43. Jo says...

    Oh this is great! I am loving this series.
    When I was younger, my mom, sisters and I would have picnics in the middle of the week sometimes, and we’d pick up a roast chicken at this great local market, but I never thought I could replicate the recipe.
    Definitely going to try this one as soon as I get the chance!

  44. Wow, this looks AMAZING!! I love to do a roast chicken when people come over – you don’t have to stay in the kitchen slaving, it looks elegant on the table, and stays moist and delicious! I have to try this one!

    -Becky

    http://www.cuphalffull-sf.blogspot.com/

  45. AAAnnnd, it’s lunchtime for me! Can’t wait to try it!

  46. Yum! I love roasted chocken… So easy and yummy too!

  47. I really love this series Joanna! The choco chip cookies, the spaghetti and banana bread were all winners! Going to have to try this one next!

  48. Wow this looks so good. I usually buy a rotisserie chicken at the store, shred it up, and eat it throughout the week. This will save me money, and probably be healthier (less salt).

    Thanks for this recipe!

    xoxo,
    mon amy

  49. LK says...

    I cook a lot and this is the one dish (ok one of two. I love mussels but I’m afraid to make them) that has intimidated me. But now I will definitely make this! And I will definitely have the butcher remove the insides. Thanks for sharing!

  50. I cannot wait to try this!! If it tastes as good as it looks, it will probably become a regular for me!! Thank you!

  51. Gorgeous photos! loving these food entries! & love Roost!

  52. This looks very delish! So far my favorite roast chicken recipe was the “Engagement chicken” from Glamour.com. But I´ll give this a try for sure :)
    Thanks for posting!

  53. ooooh, chicken is just one of those feel-good foods! :)

  54. My husband and I do a roast chicken almost every Monday night. It’s a great way to have a few different good lunches.
    The number one tip is stuffing the chicken with a cut-up lemon – so don’t be scared if you don’t have all those fresh herbs! Salt and pepper are fine! Also, I only get Kosher or Organic chickens.

  55. It looks super scrumptious and the photos are amazing:) Kisses. Wish you both a great day. xo

  56. Just made this a few days ago, so good. A Year in Provence is one of my favorite books. I read it a few years ago while living in the north of France wishfully dreaming about living in the south of France/Provence. Now, having lived in the south/Provence for the last 2 years, I can definitely attest to how slow things get done down here. But its a trade off I’ll happily take.

  57. Joanna! Thank you for the Best Food recipes… i have loved all of them!

  58. This is simply beautiful food! Sometimes, even when the recipe in itself sounds just alright, the picture just overwhelms you completely!

    Anna ~Moments of Libra

  59. I live in France and can say that this puts most roast chickens to shame! It is the fresh herbs that does it. Yum. Just made roast chickie the other night otherwise I would go put one in the oven right now…

    I love this “best” series!

  60. I adore her gothic style photography.

    We’re mostly vegetarian chez nous, but an ethically sourced roast chicken once a month is a true pleasure. It also provides enough stock for 3 soups.

  61. yum! will definitely have to try this out. beautiful presentation.

  62. I love your “best of…” series. Makes me drool every time!

  63. Drool!!
    And I totally agree. Roasting a chicken on Sunday night is a great way to have a nice meal then and throughout the week:)

  64. Before my boyfriend (now husband) and I moved into together, my mother pulled out her Martha Stewart cookbook, flipped to the roast chicken recipe and said, “You can’t live with a man until you can roast a perfect chicken”…. Needless to say, I learned quick, and we’ve been happily living together ever since :) I can’t wait to try this recipe!

  65. I’m reading that book right now! Boyfriend bought it for me for Christmas! Thanks for the recipe, too bad I’m a mess in the kitchen. xo

  66. Lauren says...

    The hardest part for me is “carving” or cutting up the chicken after it’s cooked. I basically massacre the thing trying to cut the legs and breasts. Some simple tips on this would be great!

  67. Happy Wednesday morning, Joanna!

    Roast chicken is actually on the menu for next week for us… this post just got me even more excited to make it. Hope that you’re having a great day :)

    Kind regards,
    -Pia

  68. My mainstay is always Mark Bittman’s Basic Roast Chicken from How to Cook Everything. It comes out perfect everytime! :) However, I might have enter this recipe into the line-up because it looks so good! Good thing it’s lunchtime, because I just got hungry.

  69. this looks amazing!
    really the only reason i grow rosemary is for moments like this one:)