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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

Photography: Eric Asimov

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 Add a comment

  • darylmather
    30 APR, 2017
    This was truly outstanding. My boys a fussy eater and he loved it too. One for the meal rotation.
  • brennamaetg
    6 MAR, 2017
    This recipe is the only way to go! I simplify: cold butter cut up and placed on top. No need to tie the legs. I don't even make the gravy - well all just s[filtered] the pan drippings on to the chicken - that fat is good fat!
  • MS10603064
    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!