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Deb's Favorite Roast Chicken Recipe

A rub of lemon zest, sumac, and thyme dress up a simple, classic roast chicken.

whole roast chicken on platter with greens and lemons
Roast Chicken with sumac, lemon, thyme, and rosemary

Every home cook should have a good roast chicken recipe. It’s a classic dish that I think is best when kept simple. Maybe you like Ina Garten’s recipe or prefer one of the other 300 million takes (No kidding. Google roast chicken recipe and see 312 million results.) on how to bake a chicken in the oven, but I think this one is the best because it’s easy and allows the chicken’s natural flavor to shine. Forget the Peruvian marinade, hot tub chicken, and all the other tricks to dress up the simple whole bird because all you need for this recipe is lemon, sumac, fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, salt and pepper, and a little olive oil. And of course, a quality chicken.

Where I live in Missouri, we’ve recently had our first real taste of cool autumn weather. Fall is the best season for roasts, whether it’s chicken, beef, pork, or vegetables. There’s something about putting dinner in the oven and allowing the aromas to perfume your kitchen. Simple, comforting food at its best. That’s why each recipe this month is a toast to roasts!

By the way, has Costco killed the need to roast our own chickens at home? It is tough to beat their $5 buck clucks, but what if you don’t have a box store membership? Grocery rotisserie chickens are about $8 near my home, and while that’s an economical base for a meal, they don’t compare to a roasted chicken just brought out of your own oven. A home-roasted chicken will be juicier and, maybe more importantly, you can control the ingredients.

Speaking of ingredients, when dealing with a simple, classic recipe, spring for the best. This roast chicken recipe, for example, uses free-range, organic chicken. I’d also recommend organic lemon for this recipe. Although citrus didn’t appear on this year’s “Dirty Dozen” list of fruits and vegetables, you will make a rub using lemon zest, so organic makes more sense to me. Of course, wash the skin before zesting.

To make my Favorite Roast Chicken Recipe, which yields four to six servings, you’ll need these ingredients:

  • 1 whole organic, free-range chicken (about 3- to 4-pounds)

  • 1 lemon, zested

  • 1 tablespoon sumac

  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme

  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

  • Olive oil

If you’ve never cooked with culinary sumac (not to be confused with the poisonous shrub by the same name), you’re in for a lovely surprise. I think most sumac we see is from Turkey, although it’s also grown in parts of the Mediterranean. Don’t let the dark color of the spice fool you; it has a light, lemony flavor that pairs beautifully with chicken, as well as lamb, duck, and some vegetables.

Gonna roast a chicken like my mama taught me

Remove giblet package from cavity and pat chicken dry with paper towel.

To make the rub, combine lemon zest, thyme, rosemary, sumac, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Drizzle just enough oil to make a rub. Using clean hands, rub chicken thoroughly with mixture.

Salt cavity of bird with 1 teaspoon salt. Cut lemon in half and stuff in cavity. Place rubbed chicken in a zip-top bag, close and refrigerate from 1–3 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Remove chicken from bag and place in a roasting pan with wire rack. You can also use a heavy casserole pan and put a cooling rack on the bottom. Fill with about a cup of water. Roast until internal temperature is 160 degrees F. Check the temperature after 70 minutes to gauge how far along is the chicken to desired doneness. Another tip: Juices should be clear.

When the chicken reaches 160 degrees F internal temperature, remove from oven, and let rest for about 15 minutes or until temperature nears 165 degrees.

Don't follow the Golden Girls' lead in this video clip; chicken juice is flying everywhere! Still, it's a catchy tune.

Sanitation station

Let's talk about safely handling raw chicken. Do not rinse raw chicken at your sink! According to a study by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) in 2019, bacteria is likely to be splattered in and around your sink area and sometimes remains, even after cleaning surfaces. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and immediately through the towel in the trash.

Wash your hands after touching raw poultry or a surface that’s touched it. Be sure to clean and sanitize all utensils, boards, and other surfaces that touch raw poultry. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends after cleaning boards in hot, soapy water, disinfect with a spritz of bleach water (1 tablespoon bleach per gallon of water). Plastic boards usually are dishwasher safe, so after cleaning in soapy water, place the plastic board in your dishwasher. It’s also recommended to keep a board for raw meat and one for vegetables and other uses.

Leftover Lovin’

Another plus to roasting a chicken are the great leftover possibilities. Use the chicken in a stir fry. Add to a pot of soup or chicken chili. Shred for chicken tacos or chop up for chicken salad. And remember to freeze the carcass to make homemade chicken stock later!

If you have any questions about safely handling poultry or roasting a chicken, drop a comment below. I'm happy to answer them! Try this Roast Chicken recipe and let me know how it turned out for you.

About the blog

Three Women in the Kitchen is an award-winning food blog offering today’s home cooks comforting, hearty recipes with a personal touch. The website also pays tribute to Deborah’s mother, Katie Reinhardt, and paternal grandmother, Dorothy Reinhardt (the “three women” in the kitchen). Whether you’re an experienced or a novice cook, you’ll find inspiration here to feed your families and warm your heart. Subscribe today so you won’t miss a single delicious detail.


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