Roast Chicken

Show your culinary skill with this recipe for savory Roast Chicken. Roasted with lemon, dried rosemary, and seasoned pepper, the taste of this chicken will speak for itself.

Roast Chicken
Photo: Brittany Conerly; Prop Stylist: Christina Brockman; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin
Hands On Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 35 mins
4 to 6 servings

Hey, you—put down that rotisserie chicken! While it's blissfully convenient to pick up a piping-hot, pre-roasted bird at the grocery store, there's more to life than a factory-seasoned, batch-cooked chicken. And while there is absolutely a time and a place for rotisserie chicken, there's also a case to be made for taking the time to roast it yourself.

Why Roast a Chicken Yourself?

There's nothing like coming home to the smell of a chicken in the oven, and it's SO easy to do. You really only need salt and pepper, but you can easily dress it up with anything you love: fresh herbs, smoked paprika, garlic, lemon, orange, onions, shallots—you name it. It doesn't take much to make a roasted chicken taste great, and it leaves you with a profound feeling of accomplishment that no store-bought bird can match.

What's So Bad About Rotisserie Chickens?

Let's talk about the miniature elephant in the room. Store-bought rotisserie chickens seduce you with the savory aromas that seep from their cellophane-windowed sarcophagi, but let's take it to the scales. An average raw chicken weighs in at around 5 pounds, and costs about $10 bucks, which is about $1.89 a pound. That will feed four folks.

At upwards of $9 and weighing in at 3 pounds, rotisserie chickens are about $3 a pound. Nine dollars for basically a hefty Cornish hen that maybe feeds two folks (or serves as an appetizer for your teenage son)? Not today, Deli Department!

But I Hate Touching Raw Chicken!

I get it; raw chicken isn't the most appealing thing. And there's the whole Salmonella thing, which legally we have to tell you to take seriously (and you totally should!).

But if your big hangup with raw chicken is that it just freaks you out, there are several super-simple ways to get past it. The obvious is to wear disposable gloves.

Personally, I manage the ick factor by taking a few preemptive steps before handling the raw chicken to make sure the experience is over as quickly and cleanly as possible. First, I get out my kitchen scissors and the pan I'm going to cook the chicken in. Next, I open the lid of the trash can and the door of the dishwasher. Then, I turn on the hot water.

With everything ready to go, I cut the chicken free from its packaging, and hold the bird over the sink to drain if needed (do NOT wash the bird; more on that later). I put the chicken directly into the pan; I put the Salmonella scissors directly into the open dishwasher.

Next I rinse the chicken packaging and my hands before throwing the packaging away (because you know chicken garbage is the grossest garbage!). Finally, I give my hands a proper wash, rinse out the sink, and close the dishwasher and trash can. Voila—no contamination!

roast chicken on roasting rack
Brittany Conerly; Prop Stylist: Christina Brockman; Food Stylist: Karen Rankin

So Why Can't I Rinse My Chicken?

OK, so you can rinse your chicken, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises against it, because doing so actually increases the chances of splattering Salmonella all over you and your kitchen like a bacterial Jackson Pollock painting. (P.S. They say you shouldn't rinse your turkey, either.)

Before you say, "Hold it right there, Southern Living—your cookbook says on page 57 to 'rinse the bird, and pat dry'..." You got us. It probably does. That was "the thing to do" back in the day. But the feds have a point.

And since you're patting the chicken dry anyway, why not start with a bird that hasn't been bobbing in the bathtub? You'll use fewer paper towels, at least!

What's This Thing About Patting the Chicken Dry?

Moisture is the enemy of crispiness. Makes sense, right? Patting the chicken dry and then coating with the fat of your choice not only helps the skin get golden brown and crispy, but it also allows the seasonings to lock into the bird and give it more flavor.

Why Should I Season My Chicken Ahead of Time?

Salt rubbed on the outside of the chicken, if given enough time, will start to sink into the meat, driving flavor from the outside in. Additionally, when you let the seasoned chicken rest in the fridge overnight, the skin will continue to dry out, resulting in an even crispier roasted chicken.

Just like marinades, when it comes to seasoned chicken, time = flavor. Two days is probably too much. Twenty minutes isn't really enough. Overnight, Goldilocks, is just right.


  • 1 (4- to 5-lb.) whole chicken

  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided

  • 1 lemon half

  • 1 teaspoon seasoned pepper

  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted


  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. If applicable, remove neck and giblets from chicken, and reserve for another use. Pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp. salt inside cavity. Place lemon half inside cavity.

  2. Stir together pepper, rosemary, and remaining 1 tsp. salt. Brush outside of chicken with oil. Rub 2 1/2 tsp. pepper mixture into skin. Sprinkle remaining pepper mixture over both sides of breast. Place chicken, breast side up, on a lightly greased wire rack in a lightly greased shallow roasting pan. Add 3/4 cup water to pan.

  3. Bake at 450°F for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 375°F, and bake 30 minutes. Baste chicken with pan juices; drizzle with melted butter. Bake 15 to 25 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted in thigh registers 165°F, shielding with aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning, if necessary. Remove chicken from oven, and baste with pan juices. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing.

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