Roast Chicken with Lemon & Garlic


The idea of roasting a whole chicken has always intimidated me. Here’s why:

  1. As a former vegetarian, seeing a chicken whole with just it’s head missing freaks me out a little.
  2. It takes planning.  Who has a whole chicken sitting in their fridge for when they actually decide they’re going to roast a chicken?  Not me.
  3. It’s intimidating.  It’s not just breasts or thighs or wings.  It’s a whole entire chicken.

Unfortunately for me, my little two year old is a roast chicken fiend. She can polish an entire thigh in maybe 15 minutes. Give her some ketchup? She could probably do some decent damage on the other one.

For the sake of my daughter, I got over my fear and roasted my first chicken this past winter. I have been roasting a chicken pretty much every weekend since. I had a couple hiccups with the oven temp and roast times (there’s a lot of different philosophies out there). Sometimes I’ll play around with additional seasoning but otherwise, this is my basic go-to.


  • 4-41/2lb whole chicken, ideally never frozen**
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 lemon, cut into quarters
  • 2tbsp salt, coarse ground
  • 2tsp pepper, coarse ground
  • 1 1/2 heads of garlic, halved and quartered
  • 1/2 head of garlic, sliced***
  • 3tbsp butter
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper, coarse ground
  • butcher’s twine (optional)

I always like prepping everything before I start.  It may seem like extra work, but it does make the process much faster.  Also if I don’t prep, I’m 99.9999% more likely to forget something.



  1. *Preheat oven to 375º
  2. Combine 1tbsp salt and  1tsp pepper and rub inside the cavity.
  3. Loosely fill the cavity with 1 1/2 heads of rough chopped garlic and lemon, alternating between the two.  Do not overstuff.
  4. Combine the remaining ingredients: lemon zest, 1 tbsp salt, 1tsp pepper, sliced garlic, & butter. You’ll want to sort of work it into a buttery paste…
  5. Loosen the skin above the breast and work the buttery paste underneath
  6. Drizzle olive oil onto the the chicken and generously season with more coarse ground salt and pepper.  I don’t have a measurement for this, but be generous.  I think you lose a lot of the salt and pepper while it’s roasting
  7. Tie the legs together with baker’s twine.  This step is completely optional, but I find it helps with a more even roast.  Plus the chicken doesn’t come out lopsided and discombobulated.  It’s just much prettier.
  8. Bake for about an hour or until internal temperature inside the thigh reaches 160º

You’ll end up with something like this…


And if you’re me, a very happy daughter.


*Basic rule of thumb for roasting a chicken at 375º is 20 minutes per pound.  I’ve found the meat around the thighs is still too red and the meat overall, too moist.  So I add another 5 minutes or so per pound.  Since all ovens vary and other factors may impact cooking times, I would recommend playing around with it. Maybe start with 20min per pound and go from there.

**If you are starting with a frozen chicken, pat dry with paper towels and try to pull off all the excess moisture.

***Why sliced garlic?  I think it’s easier to work under the skin vs rough chopped.  The next logical question may be, why not use a garlic press?  Chuck read recently that you end up releasing all the oils on the cutting board when using a press.  I’m not sure I’m entirely convinced, but I’ve stopped using the garlic press for now.  Do what you prefer.