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Martha's Favorite

Perfect Roast Chicken

The almost universal appeal of roasted chicken stems from its power to comfort. The ideal roasted chicken recipe will leave your chicken golden brown and gleaming, tender and juicy. The crackle of chicken as it roasts and the wondrous aroma that perfumes the kitchen provoke a feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment.

  • Servings: 4
Perfect Roast Chicken

Source: Martha Stewart Living, September 1997


  • 1 six-pound roasting chicken
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 cup Homemade Chicken Stock, or canned low-sodium chicken broth, skimmed of fat


  1. Let chicken and 1 tablespoon butter stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove and discard the plastic pop-up timer from chicken if there is one. Remove the giblets and excess fat from the chicken cavity. Rinse chicken inside and out under cold running water. Dry chicken thoroughly with paper towels. Tuck the wing tips under the body. Sprinkle the cavity of the chicken liberally with salt and pepper, and set aside.

  2. In the center of a heavy-duty roasting pan, place onion slices in two rows, touching. Place the palm of your hand on top of lemon and, pressing down, roll lemon back and forth several times. This softens the lemon and allows the juice to flow more freely. Pierce entire surface of lemon with a fork. Using the side of a large knife, gently press on garlic cloves to open slightly. Insert garlic cloves, thyme sprigs, and lemon into cavity. Place chicken in pan, on onion slices. Cut about 18 inches of kitchen twine, bring chicken legs forward, cross them, and tie together.

  3. Spread the softened butter over entire surface of chicken, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Place in the oven, and roast until skin is deep golden brown and crisp and the juices run clear when pierced, about 1 1/2 hours. When chicken seems done, insert an instant-read thermometer into the breast, then the thigh. The breast temperature should read 180 degrees and the thigh 190 degrees.

  4. Remove chicken from oven, and transfer to a cutting board with a well. Let chicken stand 10 to 15 minutes so the juices settle. Meanwhile, pour the pan drippings into a shallow bowl or fat separator, and leave onions in the pan. Leave any brown baked-on bits in the bottom of the roasting pan, and remove and discard any blackened bits. Using a large spoon or fat separator, skim off and discard as much fat as possible. Pour the remaining drippings and the juices that have collected under the resting chicken back into the roasting pan. Place on the stove over medium-high heat to cook, about 1 minute. Add chicken stock, raise heat to high, and, using a wooden spoon, stir up and combine the brown bits with the stock until the liquid is reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Strain the gravy into a small bowl, pressing on onions to extract any liquid. Discard onions, and stir in the remaining tablespoon of cold butter until melted and incorporated. Untie the legs, and remove and discard garlic, thyme, and lemon. Carve, and serve gravy on the side.

Reviews (68)

  • KosmicKitty 8 Mar, 2015

    Teaching my youngest son to cook - he's a teenager. A few weeks ago he made a roast chicken for Sunday dinner accompanied by roast vegetables and homemade cole slaw.

    The next day, he made broth from the carcass and then made a wonderful roast tomato soup and quesadillas made using some of the leftover roast chicken.

    Now I know he will never starve :-)

  • Suzanne Burrows 16 Jan, 2015

    Good recipe but putting your hands into a bowl of salt after having them on a raw chicken is unsafe. You either have to throw out the rest of the salt or just use a shaker or smaller bowl to do it. Remember your audience may not know this.

  • lembest 28 Mar, 2014

    We need to try this in our country with my family. We usually do it with old charcoal style specially with our roasted chicken or lechon business

  • debra12q 25 Nov, 2013

    i love roasted foods! great recipe! thank you!
    top 10 food processors

  • BekaRN 12 Oct, 2013

    The recipe is good and my sons who are picky eaters ate it up! However, the cook to temp of 180 for breast meat is WAY over cooked! I use a thermometer to monitor while cooking, and when the breast meat was 165 degrees, I took it out. The chicken was moist, and no pink meat or juices!

  • Christina Hyke 1 Jun, 2013

    Simply delicious and inspirational. Children and husband were clamoring over this dish, giving rave reviews. Added a slight twist to it by using chicken breast only vs whole chicken and it was quick and rewarding. Thank you for posting this recipe.

  • Tpulice 27 Apr, 2013

    I was always hesitant to try roast chicken, afraid it would be dry. But I tried this recipe exactly as written and it turned out GREAT!!! Juicy and delicious. I will definitely make it again and again!! Thanks Martha!

  • Flowerswife 25 Apr, 2013

    I have made this 3 times now and each and every time I get a perfect flavorful roasted chicken. Everyone in the Family loves it. Thank you!

  • seraphim11 27 Jan, 2013

    Lovely and perfect chicken recipe for a fast dinner. I just made it a few minutes ago and it came out amazing! It was easy to make and I was also able to add a few extra ingredients to give it that personal touch.

  • julesmcc 15 Jan, 2013

    Made it tonight and it turned out really well. It was very easy and I will be making it again. I didn't bother to truss the chick--I've read that it cooks more evenly if you don't. I did make the small addition of some left over champagne to loosen the bits in the pan and I added carrots and potato to the pan. Tasty!

  • Debra Dylan 27 Dec, 2012

    This recipe is perfection! It smelled so good I didn't have time to make the gravy - everyone just dug in. It does bake at a high temp. Clean debris off the bottom of your oven to avoid smoke.

  • MrsBiggs 5 Nov, 2012

    Wow! made it for dinner with a 2 pound chicken it was the bomb! Moist and perfectly roasted the best I have ever made. the gravy was awesome as well I cooked some baby potatoes, baby carrots and baby parsnips so gooooood.

  • JessinWisc 29 Oct, 2012

    Ahhh--I preheated to 425, but did not notice in the recipe that the heat needed to be turned down for roasting. Tried roasting at 425, and filled the kitchen with smoke. What temp should the oven be for the roasting period? The flavor of the chicken was wonderful--will use this recipe again, but will lower the temp next time.

  • MayMay523 27 Oct, 2012

    We concur that this is delicious! I would encourage you not to throw the onions away though, they're so yummy.

  • pattiwh 9 Feb, 2012

    I omitted the garlic and sprinkled lemon pepper in addition to the salt and pepper. I used a 6.12 lb roasting chicken and cooked it in a convection oven on convection roast for 1 hr and 50 min. I used a foil tent after the first 20 minutes. The outcome was impressive. The onions, lemon and thyme gave it a delightful aroma and flavor. It is a great recipe for any size family as it provides an abundance of chicken that if not eaten can be used in soup, a pot pie or casserole for another meal.

  • Lisasaurus 19 Apr, 2011

    This is a staple for our family--we alllove it!
    Question...Can this chicken be made the day before serving it and still maintain it's juiciness and fresh flavor? If so, what is the best way to reheat it? We always eat the entire chicken so I haven't tried this yet and I'm thinking about adding it to our Easter brunch menu. Thank you for any advice anyone may have!

  • KathyG44 20 Dec, 2010

    This truly is the world's best chicken. I put an orange in because we were out of lemons, and the results were spectacular. My husband, the poultry cooking expert of the family, even said this version was better than any we've had!

  • abhlove 10 Jun, 2010

    I made this in a dutch oven along with carrots and potatoes. We loved it. The onions on the bottom of the dish were delicious. The chicken was moist with great flavor. I added an extra clove of garlic and some thyme.

  • Cooploops 16 Sep, 2009

    So could I put potatoes and carrots in the bottom and roast the along with the chicken like I would with a roast?

  • myjs 18 Mar, 2009

    To see the recipe click on PRINT - above

  • Twizz1ler 18 Mar, 2009

    It's so weird - I don't see a recipe here!

  • Mzchio 21 Feb, 2009

    I made this recipe this evening and it was fantastic and a great hit with my family.

  • cheftb 7 Jan, 2009

    My friend made this for us on Thanksgiving. It was amazing then. I just tried it

  • cheftb 7 Jan, 2009

    My friend made this for us on Thanksgiving. It was amazing then. I just tried it

  • HamNCheezNLuv 19 Dec, 2008

    I like that idea, bartenderjohn! I'm from the south, so making milk gravy isn't really very formal, yet no matter what, whenever I add cream to a gravy, it ends up tasting like breakfast food, so a creamy gravy without milk is great for more formal dinners and lunches! :D Thanks!

  • bartenderjohn 5 Dec, 2008

    what a fantastic recipe, however i had a great idea for the gravy. upon finishisng the gravy, i took the all the ingredients, including the onions, and pureed the mixture. the onions provided a creamy texture without adding cream .

  • prev_test541 4 Dec, 2008

    I second that this recipe rocks!

  • Glomom 22 Oct, 2008

    This recipe is delicious!! The whole family enjoyed it, and it was very easy to make. We also enjoyed the onions which were very tasty.

  • Chef_Kingston 8 Oct, 2008

    My husband died a little death when he tasted this. He said it was the best roast chicken he had ever had, and I have to agree. KEEP THE ONIONS! C'mon Martha, I'm surprised at you, asking us to discard these juicy, flavorful little gems.

  • Chef_Kingston 8 Oct, 2008

    My husband died a little death when he tasted this. He said it was the best roast chicken he had ever had, and I have to agree. KEEP THE ONIONS! C'mon Martha, I'm surprised at you, asking us to discard these juicy, flavorful little gems.

  • Chef_Kingston 8 Oct, 2008

    My husband died a little death when he tasted this. He said it was the best roast chicken he had ever had, and I have to agree. KEEP THE ONIONS! C'mon Martha, I'm surprised at you, asking us to discard these juicy, flavorful little gems.

  • Chef_Kingston 8 Oct, 2008

    My husband died a little death when he tasted this. He said it was the best roast chicken he had ever had, and I have to agree. KEEP THE ONIONS! C'mon Martha, I'm surprised at you, asking us to discard these juicy, flavorful little gems.

  • Chef_Kingston 8 Oct, 2008

    My husband died a little death when he tasted this. He said it was the best roast chicken he had ever had, and I have to agree. KEEP THE ONIONS! C'mon Martha, I'm surprised at you, asking us to discard these juicy, flavorful little gems.

  • RENGIN 10 Sep, 2008

    this recipe is really delicious! Bon apetit ! :)

  • tialolo 17 Aug, 2008

    this is the BEST gravy I've ever tasted!!! Chicken was good too....

  • welove2cook 30 Jul, 2008

    We made this recipe for the first time a few months ago. It is so easy and delicious. I agree with Shashi and geekygrandma. Keep the onions. As for us, we just left them in the sauce.

  • blaukehlchen 18 May, 2008

    Used red onions (what I had on hand) and a mixed package of fresh herbs (thyme, marjoram, sage, rosemary). Delicious! Terrifically easy. Used leftover chicken for easy enchiladas the next day. My first roast chicken, and this recipe pumped my confidence in the kitchen. Thanks.

  • gracieb83 1 May, 2008

    Whoa! This is delicious. I added some rosemary and used green garlic. I agree that the onions are great - I'll add more to the pan next time so that I'll have it to smear on crusty bread (mmmm). I also put some purple potatoes and carrots to the pan for the last part of the roasting. Delish sunday dinner

  • shirty 30 Apr, 2008

    Definitely delicious ;and easy!

  • shirty 30 Apr, 2008

    Definitely delicious ;and easy!

  • geekygrandma 11 Apr, 2008

    @Shashi - I totally agree! The onions are the best part! I use a Corning Ware chicken roaster and always add rosemary and more garlic. The roaster has a clear glass lid that seems to let everything in it brown nicely and keeps the mess to a miniumum. Remove the lid the last 20 minutes or so. Adding carrots the last 3/4 hour or so really adds to the flavor. (No, I don't work for Corning Ware, but it seems that a glass lid works better than aluminum foil - less steam and more browning.)

  • Nouvisimo 7 Apr, 2008

    I used to roast my chicken this way, but a few years ago started doing the beer can chicken on the BBQ. It's faster with less mess. No butter, just cajun sesoning and fresh ground pepper rubbed on all sides. Always comes out moist, even when you don't pay very close attention to it. Just turn your grill on med/low.

    Fool proof!

  • soniabeard 4 Apr, 2008

    Normally i cant roast a chicken to save my life but this was so easy and amazingly tasty! It will definatly be a regular dish at home!

  • RNBMW 2 Apr, 2008




  • JaneQ 1 Apr, 2008

    I have roasted my chicken at this temperature but I put it in a roaster pan with a lid to cover until the last 15 minutes or so, it browns nicely and the skin is crusty and is so moist. I usually use fresh parsley chopped to help season, my husband is not to have salt (high blood pressure) and this really seasons good. I love this recipe.

  • sofia100 25 Mar, 2008

    I cook my chicken in a clay pot to eliminate the chore of cleaning mess in oven. the results are much better than an oven roasted chicken in a pan!! It's incredibly moist and flavorful. If you use lemons/garlic/rosemary or what ever you like under the skin the entire chicken and juices have the flavor and aroma! Does solve a lot of problems for a whole chicken.

  • Salemhouse 20 Mar, 2008

    I AGREE with the splattering problem. Also, if you have convection roast setting on newer ovens, the temperature is pre-set at 350. I also have this issue with Martha's roast turkey recipe with the cheesecloth soaked in butter and white wine, makes a mess of my oven every year, and gets very smoky in the kitchen with the high temperature setting for the first half hour. If anyone has a solution, please post.

  • debjoal 20 Mar, 2008

    I tried roasting chicken at this temp once and it splattered grease all over oven. I would like to know how to avoid the splatter without putting foil over chicken. Would cooking on bottom oven rack help?

  • Shashi 10 Mar, 2008

    This is the ideal roast chicken recipe. It's easy and delicious...with one exception: that you NOT throw away the most delicious part of it: the onions! They come out roasted, dark and carmelized and delicious and are ideal for eating alongside the chicken. They absolutely make the dish and it would be tragic to throw them out! I strain them and serve them in a bowl and people gobble them up, usually putting them on top of the chicken with the delicious pan sauce. Enjoy!

  • CHEFCAB 26 Feb, 2008

    I love this recipe. I have been using it for years. It's easy, but looks fancy. Perfect for a Sunday dinner, special occassion, or just weeknight meal. The onions are a key ingredient. My absolute favorite Martha Stewart recipe.

  • mmsrjs 15 Feb, 2008

    I love to try new recipes, and this sounds good. A bird will soon be in my new oven. Have instant read thermonitor so will keep check on the ole bird. thanks martha. I'm getting excited just thinking about it.

  • PineyMamaw17 14 Feb, 2008

    Has anyone tried this with cornish hens? Would the time and temperature need to be reduced?

  • KellyWhalen 12 Feb, 2008

    I use this all the time. It is easy and SO good. I start the oven at 425n n n n and lower it to 350n n n n about 30 minutes in. 425 works fine, but in my particular oven this works better. I never cover with foil, it will get crispy but that's a good thing. I use organic, free-range birds too. Highly recommended!

  • katarinamona 1 Feb, 2008

    I have always roasted my chicken at 325. I'm a bit reticent to try 425. Has anyone else made the switch, and how were the results? I also notice no mention of covering with foil during the first 3/4 cooking time. Does it not crisp too much? I use free range grain fed organic birds, would that also make a difference?

  • evelynkay 23 Jan, 2008

    This is without a doubt my favorite recipe to serve to company. The chicken is unbelievably moist inside, and perfectly crispy on the outisde. The lemon, garlic and fresh herbs create the best aroma, not to mention flavor!! You will absolutley love this and make sure the chicken you buy is labeled 'roaster' or it might be too tough.

  • Patspets 22 Jan, 2008

    That little extra butter makes the gravy special...glossy and appetizing. I add butter to all my finished gravys...the professionals do. Two tablespoons in a bowl of gravy is nothing when you want to serve up something scrumpdiliocious.

  • MissKathy 19 Jan, 2008

    Although I'm sure this will taste good, the extra butter will sure pump up the fat content..and seems unnecessary. i wouldn't want to pour butter (in the gravy) over chicken slices.

  • Blueyonder 6 Jan, 2008

    chicken recipe sounds very delicious,will try it soon.

  • Blueyonder 6 Jan, 2008

    chicken recipe sounds very delicious,will try it soon.

  • Blueyonder 6 Jan, 2008

    chicken recipe sounds very delicious,will try it soon.

  • choula 31 Dec, 2007


  • christucker 31 Dec, 2007

    awaiting the results now from my tiny counter top oven here in Jakarta Indonesia!

    Hopefully will be a good New Years eve dinner, with the Tiny chickens here!

  • Granmommy 28 Dec, 2007

    I have never been able to make a good roasted chicken. I will try this recipe next week. It sounds easy and delicious! Thank you.

    Anna in TN

  • tliloia 28 Dec, 2007

    This chicken was delicious and comforting on a snowy winter night -- and the leftovers made two days worth of soup.

  • krisx2 20 Dec, 2007


  • gisette27 5 Dec, 2007

    dying to try this. this recipe is not too far from my own. a good roasted chicken is an amazing thing.

  • mumy_emu 5 Dec, 2007

    i definitely want to try it. tough im in malaysia..but we enjoy good english dishes to satisfy our tastebuds!

  • ivyleader 26 Nov, 2007

    This was my first Martha recipe and it comes out perfect and delicious every time.

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