Perfect Roast Chicken
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Perfect Roast Chicken



I've cooked and eaten a good amount of roast chicken in my day. I like to think I've seen it all -- from birds so bland and boring they weren't worth eating to cluckers so juicy and succulent I devoured every last bite.

I've discovered two things that are key to making a perfect roast chicken: 1) cooking at a very high temperature so that the skin becomes crispy and golden and seals the meat inside so it remains moist and 2) buying the best quality chicken possible.

To perfect this recipe I experimented for an entire week, flipping, seasoning, and cooking at different times and temperatures. I roasted the chickens of several different store brands as well as a few from my favorite farmer's market vendors. When it came time to taste test, I found that the quality of the bird had everything to do with the amount of ooh's and ahh's it received.

As you can probably imagine, I wound up serving my family chicken every night that week, but the recipe turned out so well, everyone was as enthusiastic with dinner on day 4 as they were on day 1 -- and my husband insists that this is the best chicken he's ever tasted.

So kick your oven temperature way up, buy the best quality bird you can get your hands on and watch your family devour this chicken. Just make sure to set aside 1/2 cup or so to make Chicken Bean and Cheese Quesadillas for school lunch the next day!

Perfect Roast Chicken  (serves 4-6)

  • Prep Time: 3 hrs,
  • Cook Time: 1 hrs,
  • Rating:
    Rate this recipe
I've cooked and eaten a good amount of roast chicken in my day. I like to think I've seen it all -- from birds so bland and boring they weren't worth eating to cluckers so juicy and succulent I devoured every last bite. I've discovered two things...


  • 1 4-pound chicken
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3-4 sprigs thyme
  • 1 small lemon, cut in half


  1. 1. Wash the chicken and pat dry, removing as much excess liquid as possible.
  2. 2. Rub the salt all over the chicken -- inside and out.
  3. 3. Place chicken in a 9-inch skillet with an oven-proof handle. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 3-24 hours.*
  4. 4. Heat oven to 475°F. **
  5. 5. Place the skillet, without the chicken, in the oven for 15 minutes or on a stovetop burner for 1 minute to heat.
  6. 6. Stuff chicken with thyme and lemon and tie legs together.
  7. 7. Place chicken breast-side up in the pan and bake uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  8. 8. Flip chicken over and place back in the oven for 20 minutes.
  9. 9. Turn the chicken breast-side up again for an additional 10 minutes.
  10. 10. Remove from oven and allow chicken to cool for 10 minutes and serve.
  11. * If you don't have a skillet with an oven-proof handle, use a baking dish just larger than your chicken. Though in step 6, do not heat dish on the stovetop -- only in the oven.
  12. ** Use the convection setting on your oven if you have one, reducing the cooking time in step 7 to 25 minutes.
Perfect Roast Chicken

Nutrition Information

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  3. Alexandra

    January 8, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    This chicken was the best home-cooked chicken I’ve ever had. I couldn’t believe I made it myself! So cool. Now I can join the ranks of those who make a weekly roast chicken. In the past, I never bothered to make roast chicken because the result was always mediocre. Plus, I got to use my stainless steel pan and made a delicious gravy (although it was a bit salty). I’m wondering how to make the pan juices less salty. Maybe clean the salt out of the pan between marinading the chicken and heating the pan in the oven…
    Anyway, thanks a million for this jewel!

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  6. Sarah

    October 9, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    Great roast chicken! The salt was the key, brining it to give it moisture. I will definitely make this again and use the flavorful pan jus to make gravy!

  7. Sarah

    October 9, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    Great roast chicken! The salt was the key. I loved the crisp skin – yum! No smoke in my kitchen either. Will make again and will use the pan jus for gravy!

  8. William

    March 28, 2013 at 7:55 am

    I’m going to try this with two chickens in a cast iron dutch oven.
    how much time should I add?

  9. Ami

    March 1, 2013 at 11:46 am

    I made this two nights ago and it was wonderful. I used a cast iron skillet and it did start to smoke up the house a little bit. Oven vent on and kitchen door opened, the smoke didn’t get to bad. My week old oven was a mess though and I just spent an hour cleaning it. Oh well, it was worth it for that delicious chicken!

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  11. Jenni

    October 31, 2012 at 9:39 am

    I also had a problem with the chicken smoking up my entire house. It tasted great, but I don’t think my family can handle the mass quantities of smoke and watering eyes that it caused! Did anyone ever figure out a solution to this problem, as it sounds like a few others have had it, too? Do you think it would it help to vent the oven like I do when I use the broiler?

  12. Emily

    September 27, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Made this tonight, and after reading the reviews, I was totally prepared to have my kitchen smoked out – but lucky for me, it never did! I didn’t use thyme or lemon (not a favourite in our house) so I just melted butter and poured it over the top, salt and pepper and threw a few garlic cloves inside the chicken. Turned out great. I made a nice pan gravy with the juices and little bits that were leftover from roasting. Thanks for another great recipe!

  13. MA

    April 29, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    This was really great! Easy to make…followed recipe exactly and used a cast iron skillet. Thanks!

  14. Ali

    April 20, 2012 at 10:38 am

    This chicken was AMAZING!! So moist!! My husband said it was the best chicken I have ever made! One question- how would you change the times if you used a 7 or 8 pound bird?

    • catherine

      April 20, 2012 at 3:40 pm

      You’ll probably have to cook it for 2-2 1/2 hours for a 7 pound bird. Flip halfway through and then back to the breast side up for the final 10 minutes just like in the recipe! :)

  15. Emma

    April 12, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Excellent – thanks so much!

  16. Krista

    April 11, 2012 at 7:42 am

    This chicken was sooooo delicious! I remembered reading your recipe awhile back and how you tried it lots of different ways. I decided to cook a chicken last night so I looked back to find the recipe. I am so glad I did. It turned out perfect. Crispy skin, so juicy. I used a cast iron skillet – I thought mine wouldn’t be big enough but the chicken tucked in there just fine. My kids went crazy for it! It was definitely the best roast chicken I’ve ever done – BY FAR! Try it!!!

  17. Jamrock

    April 9, 2012 at 5:05 am

    I made this last night and both my husband an 3 year old son loved it!

    I am vegetarian so I didn’t taste it, so I can only base my comment on their feedback … They would have eaten the whole chicken in 1 sitting if I let them!

    I should also say that I used fresh thyme and used much more thyme than the recipe called for (about 20 branchlets, maybe more…).

    However, like Lori M, I did it in my brand new oven (2nd meal cooked in the oven) and it was like frying a whole chicken on a high flame in the oven. All four surfaces of the oven looks like they have been through a war and lost. It also smoked up the entire apartment so I had to open windows to clear it out.

    Did this happen for others too? Is this how it was supposed to cook/work?

    I used a cast iron skillet and was a little concerned because it was already smoking after the 15 minutes of pre-heating (I had read Lori M’s comment so I was already on the lookout). I took out the skillet and let it stop smoking before I put the chicken in (about 1 or 2 minutes) then I put the chicken in and it started the “frying” sound. I was already committed so I decided to continue, but wow…

    Again, my husband was skeptical when he came in and saw the smoke-filled apartment but when he tasted the chicken he said “the chicken is delicious”. I said it was worth the mess it made, in that case, because I can self-clean the oven.

    Four hours later, he again said how delicious it was so I want to make it again for them – maybe even try it with a turkey to see if it will work for our private Thanksgiving meal – but he also said to find out why it smoked up the apartment so much and made such a mess and I agree… I wouldn’t want to make it if we were having company and also am not sure if it was really worth the mess it made.

    Please help if you have any ideas on why this happened. Except for the extra amount of thyme, I followed the recipe to a tee. The chicken was in the fridge for about 8 hours and I took the chicken out of the oven about 1 hour before I started cooking it because I thought it would be better if I wasn’t too cold.


    • Nydia Robin

      July 28, 2012 at 5:13 pm

      I’m doing this chicken now and yes same thing is happening. My brand new stove is in bad shape with all the oil and our house is so full of smoke, I turned the oven down to 400. It truly is very scary but the chicken looks AMAZING and I know it will taste really nice. I’m doing it along with the roasted yukon gold potatos.

      I don’t want to THINK about the clean up afterward but as usual, weelicious recipes are always delicious.

    • catherine

      April 9, 2012 at 12:00 pm

      Try patting the chicken dry with a paper towel just before placing it in the pan. If your chicken has water, moisture, or condensation on it that could react with the fat in the pan and splatter all over. It should definitely sizzle, though, when you place it in the pan initially! That’s how you know the pan is nice and hot and won’t make the chicken skin stick to it! :)

      • Jamrock

        April 14, 2012 at 6:29 am

        Thanks Catherine. I will definitely try that the next time. There was absolutely no sticking of the chicken to the pan, so the heat was good. Turning the chicken was easy too, using a pair of large tongs. My only issue was the splattering & smoking. I’ll dry the chicken off when I remove it from the fridge next time because I do remember having to dry the pan out before placing the pan to preheat in the oven.

    • Jamrock

      April 9, 2012 at 5:12 am

      Sorry, obviously I took the chicken out of the “fridge” (not the oven) about 1 hour before I started cooking it…

      • jamrock

        November 9, 2012 at 10:19 am

        Hi Catherine.

        Me again. My husband and toddler loves this chicken too much for me to give up on it just yet (I do not eat meat). The second time I made this chicken I tried what you said about drying the chicken off with paper towels after taking it out of the fridge, but it still splattered all over the oven and even with long gloves I had to brace my body away when turning it, as it splatters so much. My husband has compared every chicken I have made since then, to this one. This one, says he, is still the best. He wants me to cook a turkey this way for Thanksgiving! Help! Any more suggestions on reducing the splattering? Could the fact that I use a cast iron skillet (Lodge) be the problem? Maybe it is getting too hot? I must say it does not stick at all, but boy does it splatter and smoke. It’s winter in NY so opening the windows is not an option. Anyone out there found a solution?

        • catherine

          November 9, 2012 at 11:52 am

          Gosh, that is so strange! I don’t understand why that’s happening. I tend to use enameled cast iron or stainless steel. I guess the pan could be the culprit. I’m so sorry that you have this issue, and I wish I knew why this was happening!

  18. Lori M

    March 29, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    I’m cooking this in a brand new oven…in my brand new house. Eyes tearing as I type. It is SO smokey! Doors open/ceiling fan on. oven fan on. When I opened the oven to flip the bird (as it were) it’s frying like a chicken in there splattering on my hands. Does it thrash your oven? I’m going to have to clean mine from all the splattering. I used a pyrex oblong pan.

    • Nydia Robin

      July 28, 2012 at 5:16 pm

      Same thing here. I used a pyrex dish too. I even switched dishes because I thought it was the butter that I used to prevent the chicken from sticking and same thing. Tons of splashing and tons of smoke.

      You live and you learn :)

  19. Sarah

    March 23, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    I too love the skillet in the picture, please share your source!

    • Gillian

      March 26, 2012 at 7:23 pm

      It looks like it may be fancycook

  20. Laura

    March 21, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Just made this today – DELICIOUS!! I used an All Clad skillet though, and my chicken seared and stuck to it when I placed it in the pre-heated pan, I had to really scrape it with a metal spatula in order to flip it. Next time I will lightly grease the pan first. But the finished product tastes perfect!

  21. Catherine

    March 20, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    Were did you get the skillet that is pictured in the photo?
    I love it!

    • catherine

      March 27, 2012 at 12:51 pm

      Isn’t it so pretty?! I got it from Green Cooking Pots, a small business in LA but I haven’t been able to find them in several months. :( I’m still looking, though!

  22. Danielle

    March 20, 2012 at 12:12 am

    Looks deeeeeeeelish.

  23. Britt

    March 19, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    Do you have any issues with it smoking up the kitchen? The last time I roasted without a bag, it did brown and look and taste great, but my kitchen got so smoky- I have no vent hood- so I resigned myself to using roasting bags, but the chicken does not get that wonderful golden brown color to it…

    • catherine

      March 20, 2012 at 10:16 am

      I have never had a problem with the kitchen smoking up. That sounds awful! Maybe remove the bird from the bag for the final 30 minutes of cooking and you’ll get that crispy golden brown skin without the offending smoke!

      • Britt

        March 26, 2012 at 12:22 pm

        Best recipe ever- made it exactly as
        Recipe called in cast iron skillet- juiciest chicken I’ve ever made- and picture perfect too- this recipes a keeper for sure.

  24. HJK

    March 19, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    *”Use the convection setting on your oven if you have one, reducing the cooking time in step 8 to 25 minutes.” Step 8 is only 20 minutes. Do you mean step 7?

    • catherine

      March 20, 2012 at 10:19 am

      Yes, thank you and corrected!

  25. Noble Pig - Cathy

    March 19, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Which chicken was best?

    • catherine

      March 19, 2012 at 7:21 pm

      #1 was definitely the chicken from the Farmer’s Market!
      #2 was the Rosie’s Chicken from my local grocery :)

  26. Sheena

    March 19, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    You say you experimented with several store bough brands as well. Did you find the ones from the Farmer’s Market to be the best quality?

  27. jessie kanelos

    March 19, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Thanks for the great recipe! Sometimes I like to dress up a chicken by stuffing between the breast and skin a mixture of cream cheese, thyme, and lemon zest. The mixture creates an extra fragrant and juicy bird. Give it a try!

    • catherine

      March 19, 2012 at 12:55 pm

      Oh my that sounds delicious!

  28. Caroline

    March 19, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    I don’t buy whole chicken. So wondering what “brand” you used

    • catherine

      March 19, 2012 at 12:54 pm

      It depends where you live. I love Rosie’s chickens sold in California. I would buy an organic chicken, free range, the best you can find and/or afford.

  29. Kate

    March 19, 2012 at 11:29 am

    Would a round Le Creuset dutch oven be ok for this recipe? Would you recommend any changes to the recipe using a dutch oven?


    • catherine

      March 19, 2012 at 12:53 pm

      You could totally use a Le Creuset dutch oven. I would add 5 minutes to the cooking time.

  30. Celena

    March 19, 2012 at 11:25 am

    In curious I why you refrigerate as well

  31. Kristi

    March 19, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Would a cast iron skillet be a good pan for this?

    • catherine

      March 19, 2012 at 11:32 am

      Yes, a cast iron skillet would be great!

  32. CarrieH

    March 19, 2012 at 10:28 am

    Hmmm, very similar to what I season mine with, but I use pepper too. Why do you refrigerate it? and flip it?

    • catherine

      March 19, 2012 at 11:35 am

      I refrigerate the chicken because leaving it out for 3-24 hours is just too long to let chicken be at room temperature! I find the chicken sort of absorbs some of the salt and becomes more flavorful when I let it sit in the salt for a few hours prior to cooking. I flip it to get that beautiful golden brown color all over and to help it cook more evenly!

      • Jenni

        July 30, 2012 at 6:03 pm

        My husband is hispanic and they rub knor suiza (Chicken bullion powder) all over under the skin. The result is AMAZING and was the reason my husband HATED my bland boring American chicken.

      • CCMom

        March 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm

        Oh ok! Thanks

  33. Katherine

    March 19, 2012 at 8:11 am

    It seems so easy!

  34. gail

    March 19, 2012 at 7:52 am

    must try this tonight!