March 3, 2021

Classic Roast Chicken

Perfectly browned roast chicken in a baking dish
Classic Roast Chicken 12

Classic Roast Chicken

Perfectly browned roast chicken in a baking dish

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There is something almost romantic about a roast chicken. The aromas that fill up your home are as delicious as the dish itself. I could talk (and have) about a roast chicken for an hour. It's an exciting dish for many reasons. It seems fancy, but it's surprisingly simple to make. A roast chicken replaces the go-to chicken nuggets. It is healthier, saves money, and you can make one dish the whole family will enjoy. Plus, the serving ideas for leftovers seem endless. I can argue that roasting a chicken should be a weekly routine. This is only the beginning of our conversation on roast chicken, but let’s get to the recipe. I learned this easy version in the south of France, and it is simple enough for anyone to cook.

  • Author: Caterina De Falco
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45-50 minutes
  • Total Time: 0 hours



1 whole chicken- see notes below

1 lemon

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme

5 tablespoons finely minced fresh herbs, preferably a mix of chervil, tarragon, chives, and parsley. Any combination will do. 

Celtic salt

Fresh ground pepper 


1. Preheat the oven to 425° F.

2. Some chickens will have gizzards and livers on the inside. Remove these. You can discard both or sauté the chicken livers in butter with a splash of cognac and sea salt. Serve the chicken livers as an appetizer with toasted bread. It’s divine, and liver is the most nutrient-rich meat, so it’s worth the effort.

3. Rinse the inside of the chicken with cold water. Pat the outside of the chicken dry with a paper towel.

3. Sprinkle sea salt or Celtic salt and fresh ground pepper into the chicken cavity. 

4. Poke the lemon with a knife several times. This will allow the juice to flow out and season the chicken. Place the lemon and several sprigs of thyme inside the chicken.

5. Finely chop the herbs. Add them to a bowl with 4 tbsp of softened butter, sea salt, and pepper. Mash with a fork and blend together.

6. Lift the skin on the chicken breast side of the chicken and place the herbed butter mixture under the skin. Press on the skin lightly, and use your fingers to move the herbed butter around underneath the skin. Aim to evenly distribute the butter and herbs in as many areas as you can. This will help prevent the white meat from drying out.

7. Spread the remaining tablespoon of butter on top of the chicken and sprinkle with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. I’ll warn you this step is a little messy but worth it. It helps if the butter is soft and you dry the chicken with a paper towel before spreading it on the skin. If the butter doesn’t spread well, place the butter on top and baste it one time when the butter melts into the pan.

8. Roast the chicken with one of these two cooking methods:

Method 1. “Lazy” Method

This is my go-to method when I am lazy and want to save a few minutes and avoid cleaning a large roasting pan and rack. Place the chicken in a baking dish. Bake at 425 degrees for about 25 minutes until the skin is nicely browned. Then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and cook for about 35 more minutes or until done. It is done when the internal temperature on a thermometer reaches 165 - 175 degrees. I do not use a thermometer to measure. I find that if I cook it for 50 - 60 minutes, the chicken is always cooked well enough. Also note that after you remove the chicken from the oven, it should rest for 10 - 15 minutes before you slice it. The internal temperature of the chicken will continue to rise about 10 degrees during this resting time.

Method 2. “Fancy” Method

Truss the chicken by wrapping kitchen string around the legs, then looping the string around the neck. Pull the string to close the opening to the cavity and tie a knot. This step helps to keep the moisture in the turkey while cooking. 

Place the chicken on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. Roast at 425 degrees for 25 minutes. Turn the chicken to the other side and roast for 20 minutes more. Turn the chicken again and roast for 15 minutes or until done. 

Note: The advantage of using a roasting pan with a rack is that the heat can circulate around the chicken and cook the entire chicken versus cooking the chicken while the bottom side is directly in the pan. I can assure you that you will be pleased with the result with both methods. You can also turn the chicken in method one. For either method, you can skip the herbs and lemon and just use butter, salt, and pepper to season your chicken. This is a flexible recipe and one that I suggest you experiment with and have fun.

Do not baste the chicken unless you need to do it once to spread the butter. The skin will be crispier. 

9. Let the chicken rest coverekin will be crispier.d with foil for 10-15 minutes, if possible. This resting time allows the juices to settle and be absorbed into the chicken.

10. Separate the thighs and wings from the chicken and slice the chicken breast. Serve the chicken in the roasting dish with the pan juices. 


 A whole roasting chicken is usually about 4 pounds. If you have a smaller or larger chicken, add more or less herbs and butter to adjust.

The leftover pan juice is worth saving as much as the leftover chicken. It is like a bone broth, loaded with collagen and flavor. Save the leftover pan juice and any leftover scraps of chicken and toss with pasta for a quick dinner idea, or pack in a thermos for a school lunch.

Use the Leftover Lamb Pasta recipe and substitute chicken. 

A sautee pan with leftover lamb, cream and fresh rosemary

Serve leftover chicken with cheese- gruyere is excellent in crêpes.

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Make a clafoutis with leftover chicken and a dusting of Parmesan cheese on top. Here is the basic clafoutis recipe, substitute chicken for zucchini and Roquefort. 

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Over the years I have spoken with many people who are intimidated about roasting a chicken, but when they tried, they were amazed at how easy it is. They also agree that this is a valuable recipe to have on their family menu. Please write to me if you have any questions. 

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I often cook "au pif," as we say in France, which means cooking without an exact recipe and by "feel" using your intuition.  You’ll often find guidelines in many recipes versus exact quantities.  Write to me here if you have any questions about the recipes.

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