This recipe eliminates one of the most common complaints about whole roast chickens—that it’s hard to know when they’re cooked all the way through. We’ve made it easier to check for doneness with lots of visual cues that anyone can follow, but if you have an instant-read thermometer, go ahead and use it. Remove chicken from the oven when thickest part of thigh hits 160°, and carryover cooking will bring it up to 165°. See the step-by-step instructions here.
Author: Big Messy Man
- 1 lemon
- 1 head of garlic
- ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 3–4 lb. whole chicken
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Arrange a rack in center of oven; preheat to 425°. Cut 1 lemon in half crosswise and remove any visible seeds.
- Cut 1 head of garlic in half crosswise.
- Melt ½ stick butter in a small saucepan or microwave in a small bowl.
- Place 1 3–4-lb. whole chicken on a cutting board (best to use a plastic one you can sterilize) and pat dry with paper towels.
- With chicken breast facing up and legs pointing toward you, use a sharp knife to slice through loose area of skin draped between leg and breast, making about a 3"-long incision. Continue cutting downward until you hit the joint that connects the thigh to the body, then stop (once you get through the skin, there’s not much there; if you are cutting through flesh, you’re too close to the breast). This exposes the leg joint, making it easy to tell if chicken is cooked. Repeat on second side.
- Season every surface of chicken, including skin along backbone, inside cavity, under wings, and inside part of the leg you just exposed, with lots of salt and pepper. If you’re using kosher salt, it should take you 4–5 generous pinches.
- Transfer chicken breast side up to a large skillet. Arrange lemon and garlic cut sides down in skillet around chicken.
- Drizzle chicken all over with melted butter and transfer to oven.
- Roast until chicken is nicely browned and cooked through, checking for doneness after 45 minutes. To check, carefully remove skillet from oven (the handle is hot!), poke a knife into leg joints, and pierce the meat. If juices run clear, chicken is done. If you see a rosy pink color, it needs more time. Continue to roast, checking every 5 minutes, until juices run clear. (If you’re not sure, you can also use the knife to lightly shred some of the meat along the thigh bone—the meat should look opaque and the fibers should separate easily.)
- Let chicken rest in skillet at least 15 minutes before carving. Transfer chicken to a platter. Top with pan juices and serve with roasted lemon and garlic alongside.