Barbara Kafka's Simplest Roast Chicken

By • May 18, 2012 • 65 Comments

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Author Notes: Barbara Kafka's basic formula for roasting chickens in the high-heat method is about ten minutes to the pound for a chicken at room temperature, untrussed. Feel free to adapt this recipe up or down for larger or smaller birds using this rule (up to 7 pounds). Kafka urges us to have fun: "This is not astrophysics." Try stuffing instead with herbs, shallots, a quartered small onion, celery leaves, or juice or blood orange wedges. Recipe adapted from Adapted from Roasting: A Simple Art (William Morrow, 1995)Genius Recipes

Serves 2-4

  • 5- to 6-pound chicken at room temperature, wing tips removed
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 4 whole garlic cloves
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup chicken stock, water, fruit juice, or wine for optional deglazing
  1. Place rack on second level from bottom of oven. Heat oven to 500°F (or for convection, reduce to 450°F).
  2. Remove the fat from the tail and crop end of the chicken. Freeze the neck and giblets for stock. Reserve chicken livers for another use.
  3. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the lemon, garlic, and butter, if using. Season the cavity and skin with salt and pepper.
  4. Place the chicken in a 12 x 8 x 1 1/2-inch roasting pan breast side up. Put in the oven legs first and roast 50 to 60 minutes, or until the juices run clear. After the first 10 minutes, move the chicken with a wooden spoon or spatula to keep it from sticking.
  5. Remove the chicken to a platter by placing a large wooden spoon into the tail end and balancing the chicken with a kitchen spoon pressed against the crop end. As you lift the chicken, carefully tilt it over the roasting pan so that all the juices run out and into the pan.
  6. Optional: Pour off or spoon out excess fat from the roasting pan and put the roasting pan on top of the stove. Add the stock or other liquid and bring the contents of the pan to a boil, while scraping the bottom vigorously with a wooden spoon. Let reduce by half. Serve the sauce over the chicken or, for crisp skin, in a sauceboat.
Jump to Comments (65)

Comments (65) Questions (2)


8 months ago SpaCook

I have to make a very large dinner and ideally need to roast two chickens at once--is this a terrible idea, or should it work provided they don't touch?


8 months ago Trena

SpaCook - I roast 2 chickens a lot and it works perfectly!


9 months ago Ashley Marie

I used a 4.6lb chicken and it needed 75 minutes, not 50-60, but mine wasn't brought to room temp. In addition to the lemon, garlic and butter, I also stuffed the cavity with some thyme and a little onion. Made the pan sauce with the drippings and 1/2 cup homemade chicken stock, 1/2 cup extra dry vermouth. Everything was delicious - But my bird didn't look like the bird in the picture. The skin was crisp, especially on the breast and the upper part of the thighs, but the rest - while brown - wasn't super crisp. Easy, no-fuss recipe.


9 months ago WhatsEating

This was incredibly simple and delicious. The high heat as well as not rubbing butter on the skin are out of my comfort zone but yielded perfectly cooked white and dark meat and golden brown, crisp skin. Next time I'll try it without the optional butter in the cavity, just for experimentation's sake.


9 months ago robin lewis

does this recipe recommend the 2nd lowest rack position because the chicken is supposed to be farther away from or closer to the heat source? (i have a separate broiler oven underneath my regular oven, so the heat source is below the regular oven.)


11 months ago MRubenzahl

This is a good technique but I can't agree with "50 to 60 minutes, or until the juices run clear." Instant read thermometer is a must, in my opinion. Remove from the oven when an instant-read thermometer reads 155 degrees F in the thickest part of the breast. The thickest portion of the thigh should be 10-15 degrees higher. Rest for 10-20 minutes and the temperatures should rise another 10 degrees.


11 months ago pattyrat

I love this recipe, it is now in regular rotation at my house. So easy. I roast it in a cast iron skillet and have added potatoes and carrots to the pan to cook along with the chicken - very good. I have also placed a separate pan of vegetables in the oven along with the chicken to roast - a fantastic, simple, delicious dinner.


11 months ago Don Roszel

I've roasted lots of chickens in my day, usually via the Julia Childs technique of basting every 10 minutes or so. this recipe was as good as hers and a lot easier (no basting). I put a greased cast iron skillet in the oven while it was heating, and then put the chicken in the hot skillet to roast. Used a ThermaPen temperature probe where the thigh and the breast meet. All I can say is, "wow!" Crispy skin, tasty and tender meat.


about 1 year ago Carlynn Houghton

This was delicious, but it did spatter the oven quite a bit. I covered it with tin foil for part of the cooking time because of this, and then needed to cook it for ten minutes longer.


11 months ago MRubenzahl

Might find that reducing oven temperature just 25-50° makes a big difference. In other splattery applications I have found it helps and doesn't hurt the roasting or browning a lot,


about 1 year ago Golab

I've never roasted a chicken before, this recipe was my first time! thank you so much! I do have a question however: the breast was already well cooked and drying but the bottom/drumsticks were still not cooked. How do we make sure that it is cooked evenly?


about 1 year ago Fresh

I did not have this problem. Did you put the chicken on the rack indicatd by the recipe? This ensure the breast is further from the heat than the bottom of the chicken?


about 1 year ago mschrank

I'm guessing you might have taken the chicken straight from the fridge and then put it in the oven? If so, next time try letting it sit at room temp for 30-40 minutes before it goes in the oven.


11 months ago MRubenzahl

Agree with mschrank's suggestion. In addition, make sure the legs are loose (not trussed) so the heat can get into the thigh area. But if the legs are not done, do this: Remove from oven when the breasts are at 155. Remove legs and move the rest to a platter to rest (you want a 10-20 minute rest anyway). Put legs back in pan until they reach temp (another 10 minutes, probably).


about 1 year ago BabyKakes

This chicken was absolutely delicious!!! Fanned and faved!!! Just one NEGATIVE comment, if you (commenters) aren't going to follow the recipe EXACTLY, then why are you posting about the finished product not being like you hoped. If you tried/followed the recipe and it didn't work out, that' what I want to know about. Sharing new recipes, flipping the bird to breast down, adding rosemary are not part of BK's recipe. BK's chicken recipe came out fabulous as is! Will make this at least once a week and then maybe, maybe, maybe for variations try different seasonings.


about 1 year ago Fresh

I've made lots of roast chicken recipes over the last 30 years, and this was a hit at our house. Keep a window or door open if, like us, your kitchen is not adequately ventilated. Wonderfully moist chicken!


about 1 year ago PRST

No need to turn the bird breast down in the roasting pan, the breast meat always comes out juicy. The high heat and fast cooking time is the key.


about 1 year ago Edna Henry Esquivel

This sounds great, but I would still turn the bird on its breast so that gravity can help to keep the breast moist. Please DON'T use canola, the plants that it's made from have been genetically modified.


about 1 year ago mschrank

I agree with PRST above...turning the bird around is unnecessary and a good way to burn yourself and make a mess. Given the short cooking time, the breast doesn't have time to dry out.


8 months ago Jim

All food is and has been genetically modified, it's the timing and techniques. Today's genetically modified are targetted alterations rather than the shot gun and inbredding (and time) of animals and plants needed achieve more milk, more rows of corn per ear, pest resistance, etc. etc. over the last cople of milleniums.


about 1 year ago ehrrin

Fantastic recipe. This is going to be my go-to from now on! (I roasted carrots in the pan, too, and they were amazing.)


about 1 year ago mimin

Delicious, juicy meat, & crispy skin. It did make some smoke, but blasting the vent cleared it right out. I will definitely make it again!


over 1 year ago Chloe8

Thanks for the best roast chicken recipe!


over 1 year ago Trena

I roast chicken a lot and this has become my go-to recipe. It's fast, easy, and delicious!


over 1 year ago PRST

I've been roasting my Thanksgiving turkey this way too, for years, thanks to Barbara and Gourmet Magazine. Simply THE best!!! Smoke has never been a problem but I am diligent about keeping my oven clean. I roast all my vegetables at 500 degrees too- green beans, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, asparagus........a little olive, salt and pepper- simple, unadulterated and oh so yummy.


over 1 year ago Humphrey Pardal

I would urge everyone to try, what I consider the easiest and best, roast chicken and that is Rozanne Gold's Naked Roast Chicken. All she does is place a 4 pound chicken in a small roasting pan, just large enough to hold the chicken. It goes in breast side down in a preheated 475 degree oven. After 30 minutes she turns it over and bastes with the pan juices. Roasts 40 minutes longer, until the chicken is cooked through. She sprinkles it with salt and allows it to rest 5 minutes. The best roast chicken I have ever made - Perfectly juicy every time. Reduce the time if the chicken is less than 4 pounds. My only recommendation would be to lightly spray the pan with canola oil to prevent the skin from sticking. The chicken goes very well with Gourmet's Black Pepper-Maple Sauce.


almost 2 years ago mschrank

Just a follow-up note: I tried the trick I mentioned below and it worked great! No smoke! And a few slices of deliciously flavored potatoes for the cook (the ones around the outside we're black, but the slices under the chicken were decadent). Glad I found a way to enjoy this great method without smoking the family out of the house.