Lemon and Rosemary Roast Chicken Recipe: Blending Umami and Zesty

lemon and rosemary roast chicken display

You may not believe it, but roasting a chicken really might be one of the easiest mealtime centerpieces you can make. They look really fancy—like you put in tons of time—but the truth is, a roast chicken is a cinch. With a few simple tips, you can have dinner on the table in under an hour (really!) and enjoy this classic in all its juicy goodness.

You know those horror stories of people who bake their chicken or turkey with the giblets still inside (aka that mystery bag of things no one wants to look at)? You’re worried about becoming one of them. But don’t be. We’re going to walk our way through this process. Remember that poultry carries a heavy load of salmonella so wash all surfaces that come in to contact with uncooked chicken and its juices with hot soapy water.

Prepping a chicken for the oven takes less than 10 minutes. Here’s how:

  • First, take your chicken out of its wrapping and pull out “the bag” from the cavity. You can just throw that away.
  • Rinse your chicken well inside and out under cold water, then use several paper towels to dry the skin really well. If it’s wet the butter won’t spread when you season it so take the time to dry all the nooks and crannies.
  • Using a sharp knife or a pair of kitchen shears, remove any extra skin that might be around the cavity or between the legs and throw that away.
  • Line a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan with aluminum foil and transfer the chicken on to it.
  • Wash your hands before making the seasoning rub.
  • Make your rub according to the recipe and put the butter and seasonings in one bowl so that once you touch the chicken again and get your hands dirty, you don’t have to touch the cabinets, salt shaker or any other surface except that bowl. Slice the lemons here as well.
  • Loosen the skin over the breasts, thighs and legs by gently running your hand under the skin as far as you can reach. If you accidentally tear some of the skin, it’s okay, but be as gentle as you can.
  • Then using your hands or a spoon (that you already had out) spoon a tablespoon of the butter mixture under the skin of each breast. Rub over the outside of the skin to spread the butter under the skin.
  • Rub any remaining herbs or butter all over the outside of the chicken and place three slices of lemon under the skin on each breast.
  • Turn the chicken breast side down (lots of people roast their chickens upside down unknowingly) so that the juices will drip down and help keep the white meat moist during cooking.
  • Try to tuck the wings under if they are sticking up and if the legs of your chicken are flopping in either directions you can use some kitchen string to tie them together, but it’s fine if they aren’t tied.
  • Then, all that’s left is the roasting. You’ll want to start your chicken on high heat to let the skin start crisping then turn it down slightly to finish cooking.
  • It will be done when a meat thermometer inserted in the thigh (but not touching the bone) reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit, or when the juices of the thigh run clear.
  • When you remove it from the oven, cover it lightly with foil and let it sit there—don’t cut it—for 10 minutes so that the juices can return to the meat where they belong.

That might look like a lot of steps but they go really fast and the results are fabulous. Give it a try and see how easy it really is.

Lemon and Rosemary Roast Chicken

lemon and rosemary roast chicken serving

  • 1 4-5 pound whole roasting chicken
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 whole lemon, zested and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (chopped, then measured)
  • 2 cloves finely chopped garlic


  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Remove the chicken from its wrapping and rinse well under cold water. Discard the giblets and dry the chicken well with paper towels. Transfer to a foil lined rimmed baking sheet.
  • In a small bowl, mix the butter, salt, pepper, lemon zest, rosemary and garlic.
  • Loosen the skin of the chicken and place half the mixture under the skin on each breast, spreading it out by rubbing over the outside of the skin with your hands.
  • Rub any remaining butter and herb mixture on the outside of the skin.
  • Transfer the chicken to the hot oven and bake until the skin begins to crisp—about 20 minutes. Then turn the oven temperature down to 400 and continue to cook until the thigh registers 165 degrees Fahrenheit or the juices run clear with no pink tint—another 30-35 minutes.
  • Cover loosely with foil and allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes before carving. Serve warm.

Written by: Rachel Ballard


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