Perfect Roast Chicken


This is Martha's go-to roast chicken recipe.


The almost universal appeal of roasted chicken stems from its power to comfort. The ideal roasted chicken recipe will leave your bird 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.

perfect roast chicken on platter with vegetables

Eric Asimov


  • 1 6-pound roasting chicken

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 medium onions, peeled and sliced crosswise ½ inch thick

  • 2 lemons

  • 3 large cloves garlic, peeled

  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme

  • 1 cup Homemade Chicken Stock, or canned low-sodium chicken broth, skimmed of fat


  1. Preheat oven and prepare chicken:

    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. Layer onions and lemons in roasting pan:

    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. 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.

    Pressing down on the lemon with your hand and rolling it softens the citrus and allows the juice to flow more freely.

  3. Place chicken in pan and tie legs:

    Place chicken in pan, on onion slices. Cut about 18 inches of kitchen twine, bring chicken legs forward, cross them, and tie together.

  4. Rub chicken with butter and roast:

    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.

  5. Remove chicken and let rest:

    Remove chicken from oven, and transfer to a cutting board with a well. Let chicken stand 10 to 15 minutes so the juices settle.

  6. Make gravy:

    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.

  7. Carve chicken and serve:

    Untie the legs, and remove and discard garlic, thyme, and lemon. Carve the chicken and serve the gravy on the side.

perfect roast chicken on platter with vegetables

Eric Asimov

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