Lemon-Roasted Chicken

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Yield: About



Appears in

For maximum flavor, I rub the marinade right into the chicken flesh beneath the skin and then I roast it on a layer of lemons. Butterflying the chicken enables you to spread the marinade on more of the meat under the skin and to remove more of the fat trapped there, especially between the joints. Because so much fat is removed with this method, the skin never becomes soggy and a final sizzle under the broiler crisps it up delectably.


  • One 3½- to 4½-pound frying or roasting chicken (preferably fresh, not previously frozen), butterflied down the backbone and pounded gently so it lies flat easily
  • tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic (4–5 large cloves)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, or 4 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil for the pan
  • 2 lemons
  • ½ teaspoon packed light brown sugar


  1. Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Remove all visible fat. Starting at the neck end, gently loosen the skin by sliding your hand underneath the breast and carefully working your way back to the legs. Remove as much fat as possible beneath the skin, paying particular attention to the fat deposits around the thighs.
  2. In a food processor or blender, puree the garlic, 1 tablespoon fresh or 2 teaspoons dried thyme, the lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Lift up the skin and spread about half the mixture all over the breast and down to the drumsticks. Rub the remaining mixture all over the outside of the chicken. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.
  3. About 30 minutes before you are ready to begin cooking the chicken, remove it from the refrigerator to bring it to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  4. Choose a heavy, ovenproof skillet (12-inch cast iron is ideal) large enough to accommodate the chicken. Rub it lightly with oil. Thinly slice the lemons, discarding the pits, and arrange them evenly over the bottom of the skillet. Sprinkle the lemons with the brown sugar. Turn the heat to moderately high and cook for 5 minutes. Add the chicken, skin side down, and continue cooking for about 10 minutes. Occasionally slide a wooden spoon under the chicken to prevent the skin from sticking to the lemons. Peek underneath—the skin should be coloring a rich gold in spots.
  5. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1 tablespoon fresh or 2 teaspoons dried thyme and salt and pepper to taste, and place the skillet, chicken still skin side down, in the oven. Roast for 30 minutes. Leaving the layer of lemons on the bottom of the pan, turn the chicken on its other side, skin side up. Season it all over with salt and pepper and continue roasting for 30–55 minutes longer, or until the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced with a skewer or a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the leg or thigh reads 170°F.
  6. Give the chicken skin a final crisping by running the chicken under the broiler for a few minutes, moving the pan as necessary so both the front and back are evenly browned and crackly.
  7. Let the chicken rest for about 10 minutes before carving.