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Roast chicken is one recipe every home cook needs to know how to prepare. It’s a simple, affordable dish with minimal prep and maximum flavor. A friend of mine taught me how to make this Roast Chicken with Lemon in 2004 and I’ve been making it ever since! Simply stuff a well-seasoned chicken with two lemons and roast until the skin is golden and crispy and the meat is moist and juicy. Smaller chickens can be cooked in under an hour while bigger birds are done in about an hour and thirty minutes. While the chicken is cooking, take some time to prepare a simple side or two. Brown rice, quinoa, a fresh salad and roasted potatoes are all excellent options. Continue reading for the recipe.
The recipe below will guide you on how to make the perfect roast chicken. Here are some additional tips to keep in mind:
- If your chicken is refrigerated, be sure to take it out of the refrigerator an hour before you are going to roast it. Roasting a cold chicken will result in burnt skin and/or undercooked meat.
- Poultry usually requires a good deal of salt, so be generous when seasoning. I like to use kosher salt. You may want to be a bit more conservative if you are using a fine grain salt.
- Always wash your hands with hot water and soap after handling chicken to avoid cross contamination. Also wash down any surface that may have touched the chicken with hot water and soap. While oiling and seasoning the chicken, I like to use one hand to handle the bird and the other hand to oil and season.
- Cook the chicken in a baking dish or roasting pan that is a similar size. You want the bird to sit snuggly in the dish. If the baking dish is too large, the juices will burn before the bird is done cooking.
- A general guide for roasting times is 20 minutes per pound at 400°F. Pull the bird out 10 minutes before the calculated cooking time is over and test for doneness.
- I always test the doneness of any meat using a thermometer. The bird is done once it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. If you don’t have a thermometer, try piercing the skin in between the thigh and breast. If the juices that come out are clear (not pink or bloody), the bird is done.
- Be sure to let your chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving. This waiting period will allow the juices to redistribute back into the bird resulting in moist meat.
- Save the carcass! When you are done carving the meat from the bone, save the carcass for homemade chicken stock. If you aren’t planning on making stock right away, store the bones in your freezer until ready to use.
- Once you master this basic roast chicken recipe, start experimenting with flavors. You can easily add garlic, onions and/or herbs to the cavity for additional flavor. Butter can be rubbed underneath the skin to amp up the richness of the bird. Variations are almost limitless.
Roast Chicken with Lemon
- 1 (4 to 5 pound) chicken
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 lemons
- If your chicken is refrigerated, let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before cooking.
- Preheat an oven to 400°F.
- Remove and discard the neck and livers from the cavity of the chicken. Give the chicken a quick rinse under cold, running water then thoroughly pat dry with paper towels (inside and out).
- Place the chicken in a baking dish then drizzle a little olive oil into the cavity, using your hands to evenly coat the inside. Season the cavity with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pierce each lemon several times with a fork then place into the cavity of the chicken.
- Lightly drizzle the outside of the chicken with olive oil. Massage the oil into the chicken making sure all parts (top and bottom) are evenly coated and glistening. Season outside of chicken with a generous amount of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Tuck the tips of the wings underneath the chicken. This will keep them from burning before the rest of the chicken is done cooking. Using kitchen twine (or string), tie the legs together (see image above).
- Roast chicken in the preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes per pound. After 1/3 of the total time, carefully flip the bird over and roast breast side down. After the another 1/3, turn the bird breast side up and cook until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. Test for doneness 5 to 10 minutes before calculated time. For example, I estimated the bird shown above would take 1.5 hours to roast based on its weight. After 30 minutes, I flipped it breast side down. After another 30 minutes, I turned the chicken breast side up. I tested for doneness after 1 hour and 20 minutes. The chicken had just reached the correct temperature.
- Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.
To make a quick "gravy", carefully cut the lemons in half and squeeze out the juice into the baking dish. Use a fork or small whisk to mix the lemon juice with the other juices left in pan. Transfer to a fat separator and serve with chicken.